Has your loved one had a fall in the shower?
Or are you afraid each morning when your parent uses their bathroom that you anxiously anticipate a call that they’ve had a fall?
Keep reading and let’s get some answers to help you.
Through my years as an aged care case manager, I have coordinated with a range of health professionals. Most commonly occupational therapists (OTs) and physiotherapists (PTs) identify ways that make changes to a bathroom that address these concerns.
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The Two Most Common Methods To Address Bathroom Safety For Elderly:
- Remove hazards that are impeding their safety or,
- Implementing bathroom safety equipment or bathroom safety products.
Either method can be very effective in improving safety and maintaining independence and dignity. And of course, this supports the main goal, of age at home.
In this post, I’ll share my professional experience and explore some of the practical ways in which I have implemented these changes. These ways have also been recommended by OTs and PTs.
Understanding The Challenges:
Before we dive into the solutions and talk about bathroom safety including various bathroom aids, let’s take a moment to understand the challenges seniors may face in the bathroom.
As we age, the bathroom, which is often taken for granted, can become a space filled with potential hazards for seniors. Here are some common hurdles seniors encounter in the bathroom:
- Aging can bring a gradual decline in mobility, making it difficult for seniors to move freely and comfortably. Tasks that once seemed effortless, such as getting in and out of the bathtub or stepping over the edge of a shower, can become daunting challenges.
- Balance tends to diminish with age, increasing the risk of falls. The bathroom, with its slippery surfaces, becomes a particularly treacherous zone. Seniors may struggle to maintain balance while standing in the shower, stepping onto wet tiles, or transitioning from sitting to standing on the toilet.
- Aging muscles often lose strength, affecting a person’s ability to perform routine activities with ease. Lifting oneself off a toilet seat, pushing open heavy doors, or even turning faucet handles can become physically demanding tasks for seniors.
- For those dealing with cognitive issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the bathroom can be a confusing and disorienting space. The potential for forgetting routine steps, like turning off the water or locking the door, poses additional safety concerns. Even the color of the bathroom could be causing issues around fear.
Fear of Slips and Falls:
- The fear of slipping and falling in the bathroom is a common worry for seniors. This fear can lead to heightened anxiety, affecting their confidence and willingness to independently navigate the space. The anxiety, in turn, might result in seniors avoiding essential tasks, such as bathing or using the toilet.
Difficulty in Bending and Reaching:
- Simple activities like bending down to pick up dropped items or reaching for essentials on high shelves can become challenging for seniors. Limited flexibility may lead to awkward and potentially risky maneuvers in an attempt to perform these tasks.
Understanding these challenges provides a foundation for crafting effective solutions. By addressing these issues head-on, caregivers can take proactive steps to enhance bathroom safety for their elderly loved ones, promoting a sense of independence and reducing the risk of accidents.
Solutions To Improving Bathroom Safety:
- OTs recommend using non-slip mats both inside and outside the shower or bath to prevent slips and falls.
- Physiotherapists emphasize the importance of stable flooring to reduce the risk of accidents.
- PTs also look at personal ways to recondition the body to reduce falls caused by frailty.
- Install bathroom safety bars or bathroom safety rails strategically around the toilet and in the shower area for added support.
- OTs highlight that these bars provide a stable surface for seniors to hold onto while maneuvering in the bathroom.
- Always to choose the best grab bars that can withhold maximum weight and it should be sturdy, stable and safe to use.
Raised Toilet Seats:
- Consider adding a raised toilet seat to make it easier for seniors to sit and stand. This is an important bathroom safety tip for seniors.
- Physiotherapists often suggest this simple modification to enhance independence in the bathroom.
- Ensure adequate lighting in the bathroom to minimize the risk of tripping.
- OTs stress the importance of good visibility, especially during nighttime bathroom visits.
- Keep essential items within easy reach, avoiding the need to stretch or bend.
- Physiotherapists recommend organizing storage in a way that promotes independence and reduces strain.
Practical Tips for Bathroom Safety:
Now that we’ve identified the challenges and potential solutions let’s delve into some practical bathroom safety tips that will make a real difference in ensuring a safe bathroom environment for your elderly loved ones.
Consult with Professionals:
- Schedule an assessment with an Occupational Therapist or physiotherapist to get personalized recommendations based on your loved one’s unique needs.
Invest in Quality Bath Mats:
- Choose non-slip, absorbent bath mats with a rubber backing to prevent accidents.
- OTs often recommend mats that are easy to clean and maintain.
Install Adequate Lighting:
- Use motion-sensor lights to ensure the bathroom is well-lit during nighttime visits.
- Physiotherapists suggest soft, ambient lighting to reduce glare and improve visibility.
Consider a Walk-In Shower:
- If possible, replace a traditional bathtub with a walk-in shower to eliminate the need for stepping over high edges.
- OTs advocate for barrier-free design to accommodate varying mobility levels.
Choose Easy-to-Use Faucets:
- Opt for lever-style faucets that are easy to grip and control.
- Physiotherapists often recommend accessible fixtures to make daily routines more manageable.
Caring for elderly family members requires thoughtful consideration of their unique needs, and the bathroom is a critical area to address. By incorporating these practical tips, based on the advice of Occupational Therapists and physiotherapists, you can create a safer and more comfortable space for your loved ones. Remember, small changes can make a big difference in promoting independence and ensuring their well-being. Good luck!