A fall can happen anywhere, and those in the bathroom are the most frequent. The extent of injury can vary based on how hard the fall was, but the ones in the bathrooms are riskier. It helps to take extra care when you have a senior at home, particularly those with balance issues. The most common falls amidst seniors are caused by slippery floors, the absence of grab/support bars, low toilet seats and slippery bathtubs or shower chairs. Options are many these days; you just need to make a few simple changes and make the bathroom a safer place, reducing the risk of injury.
Simple Tips for Bathroom Safety
Make sure you do not use high-gloss tiles on either the walls or the floors as they can produce an uncomfortable glare when they reflect light. Matte finishes always give better visibility.
Similarly, keep wall/floor colours and patterns simple and plain. Too many colours and patterns might prove a strain on the senior’s eyes.
Grab bars are the most important when you have a senior living with you and should also be installed near the toilet to provide further balance assistance and reduce the risk of a fall. Many seniors rely on towel bars to keep themselves steady and balanced, but these bars are not designed to support body weight. Many raised toilet seats also come equipped with grip bars, but additional bars on the wall will give seniors something to grab onto if they are to slip. Make sure the bars are slip-resistant and are easy to see in a contrasting colour. Install grab bars in places that are easy to reach. You might also like to stick glow stickers on them to make them more visible in the dark.
Most slips occur because of the flooring. It is safer to fix non-skid tiles, preferably matt tiles on the floor and walls too. If you use mats in or outside the bathroom, use non-skid mats or mats that are slip-proof. Make sure the mats do not fold and cause tripping. If necessary fasten the mats to the floor using grips or tapes.
Even the faucet in the sink and height should be kept in mind. Certain faucet handles are difficult for arthritic hands to grip and turn. Keep this in mind if you have a senior at home. The same applies to all the faucets in the bathroom. Make sure all faucets are heat controlled to prevent scalding. Simple faucets would be better than complicated ones.
Try to keep toiletries and stuff within easy reach to avoid stepping on a tool to retrieve them or reaching big. Make sure they are stacked neatly and are easily accessible. Keep them off lower levels especially floors to avoid leakage of soap/shampoo and slips. Keep accessibility and functionality in mind when planning for storage options in the bathroom.
The height of the toilet seat also needs to be considered. If the seat is too low, it can make sitting down and getting up can be stressful on the body. If possible fix a medical alert button near the toilet seat or in an easily accessible area in the bathroom. It is a smart idea when the senior needs to summon help right away.
If you have a bathtub, it might not be safe for seniors to use them, as they are more likely to cause slips. Install a shower instead, and that too a flexible easy to use shower rather than a fancy one. Flexible handheld shower wands with an on/off button might be easier to use than a traditional shower head. For seniors who face a challenge to balance, using a shower chair with handles might be a good idea to help prevent falls.
Make sure the floor is on one straight level, and lighting is also sufficient. Poor lighting can increase the risk of falls due to poor visibility. If possible try to keep the path to the bathroom well lighted. Sticker sensor lights are available that can be used to light the path to the bathroom as the senior walks to the bathroom. Also, try to keep the bathroom door opening outwards when you have a senior at home. This can enable easy access to opening the door in case of emergency.
Installing a telephone in the bathroom, so seniors can call for help if needed is also a good idea if it is possible. Taking steps to increase bathroom safety is essential for seniors who want to lead independent lives. Many of these changes are simple and affordable and are also easily available online. Most importantly make sure you or someone is always around if your elder might need help!
Do check our Samarth Shop for handy items to keep your bathroom elder safe and friendly.