In the United States, one in every four senior citizens reports experiencing a fall each year. In 2019 alone, US emergency departments (EDs) treated 3.1 million seniors for fall injuries. Worse, such incidents claimed the lives of thousands of other older adults.
Bathrooms, in turn, are the primary locations for falls. Statistics point out that up to 80% of such unfortunate events occur in these rooms.
That’s a good enough reason to improve bathroom safety for your senior loved ones. That way, you can help reduce their risks of falling and sustaining severe injuries.
This guide list some of the top strategies for preventing falls and injuries in the bathroom, so be sure to read on.
1. Ensure Adequate Lighting
Vision impairment affects an estimated 12 million people at least 40 years of age in the US. Such eyesight problems become even more prevalent with increasing age.
Worse, poor vision often results in difficulties seeing in low-light conditions. For that reason, it’s a must to fit the bathrooms used by seniors with better lighting.
Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are excellent choices, as they’re the most energy-efficient. That’s because they use much less energy than comparable incandescent lights. They also last longer than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.
However, it’s important to note that LED lights emit directional light. As a result, their light doesn’t spread in the same way that incandescent and fluorescent bulbs do. For that reason, you’d need multiple LED bulbs to ensure even lighting throughout the room.
2. Go for Non-Slip Flooring
If you have the budget, you might want to install textured flooring in the bathroom, such as natural stone. However, note that the least slippery stone floors are often those with more quartz. An example is flooring made of Micha schist stones.
If you need a more affordable method for preventing slips in the bathroom, you can go with non-slip mats. These usually come with slip-resistant backing, anti-skid underlays, or numerous under-side suction cups. Their upper layer, in turn, has a textured surface to provide traction and support.
3. Install Grab Bars
Grab bars, also known as safety handrails, are rods that help users maintain their balance. Moreover, they can aid in reducing fatigue while standing or lowering oneself.
All that makes grab bars a must in bathrooms, considering how slippery their floors can get. Plus, handrails can make it safer for an elderly citizen to sit and stand from the toilet and get in and out of the tub.
As for placement, consider installing safety handrails beside the toilet and sink. It’s also wise to place one on the bath or shower wall.
Just make sure to select grab bars based on your senior loved ones’ weight and height. That way, you can ensure the handrails can withstand the added load when in use. At the same time, have them placed at a level that makes it easy for your elderly family members to reach them.
4. Add a Bath Transfer Bench or Safety Steps
A transfer bench is a safety mobility device that a user can sit on to get into a bathtub. Its stability comes from its four legs that straddle the bath. Two legs bestride the exterior side of the tub, while the other two stand next to the interior side across the tub.
The wide, flat-surfaced seat of the bench then spans over and across the tub’s edge. Thanks to this design, users can ease their way into the bath enclosure by slowly moving while seated. They can also use the device’s handles to support them as they swing their legs over the bath’s edge.
Once inside the bath enclosure, users can sit on the bench while washing themselves up. Alternatively, they can grasp the handles to help lower themselves into the tub. They can then do the same after bathing to help them get out of the tub safely.
Conversely, you can use safety bathtub steps if your loved one doesn’t need to sit while bathing. Be sure they consist of industry-grade steel, though, and that they have a wide-landing base. They should also feature non-slip materials and padded handrails for extra support.
5. Invest in a Walk-in Tub
An estimated 32.5 million US adults have osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis. People 65 years and older, in turn, account for 43% of all patients diagnosed with OA.
Note that osteoarthritis is a painful, debilitating condition that affects the joints. It can damage any joint, but it most often afflicts those in the hands, knees, and hips. Thus, having OA can make it even more challenging for seniors to get in and out of a traditional tub.
That’s where a walk-in tub comes into play.
A walk-in tub is a bathtub featuring a doored section that you can open and close to get in and out. So, users only need to walk into the tub instead of lifting their legs.
That design can help reduce the risk of accidents that may result from a sudden loss of balance. Moreover, it lowers the odds of a person catching their foot on the side of the tub.
Many walk-in bathtubs also have interior seating and bubble jets. The latter’s addition can be a great perk, as it can provide a form of hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy, in turn, has shown that it can help improve OA symptoms.
All that can make a walk-in tub perfect for seniors, especially those with OA or mobility issues.
6. Give the Toilet Seat a Raise
Having arthritis can result in pain whenever one assumes a sitting position. From there, it can cause even more suffering when one has to stand. That’s especially true for low seats; the lower it is, the more strain placed on arthritic joints.
So, if your elderly loved one has arthritis or joint pain, sitting on the toilet can be a challenge. That’s why raising the toilet seat with a toilet seat riser can benefit them.
A toilet seat riser is a platform placed on the toilet seat. It connects to the toilet bowl, raising the toilet seat by several inches. So, it trims the distance a user needs to transition from a standing to a sitting position and vice versa.
7. Organize Toiletries in Wall-Mounted Shower Caddies
Clutter is an accident waiting to happen. For one, it can obstruct walkways, which can then lead to a slip, trip, and ultimately, a fall accident. What’s more, it can create fire hazards, especially if it’s a pile of combustibles, such as paper.
In the bathroom, toiletries can be a source of clutter and disorganization. However, it may not be a good idea to place them on shelves or cabinets if older people have to use them later. That’s because such storage locations can be inaccessible to folks with mobility issues.
What you can do instead is to install nailed or screwed shower caddies on the wall. That design makes them sturdy and stable storage solutions with higher load capacities. In contrast, caddies that use suction cups are quick to loosen and fall.
In addition, wall-mounted caddies allow for better accessibility since they have open tops. Just make sure to install them at a height accessible to your elderly loved one.
Speaking of wall-mounted tools, you might as well get wall-mounted dispensers, too. These include small dispensing machines for liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner.
Since wall-mounted dispensers are permanent fixtures, there’s no risk of them getting dropped.
You can’t say the same for soap bars, which can slip from the hands and fall on the floor. They can then turn into a slip, trip, and fall hazard when that happens.
8. Replace Dead GFCIs
Up to 30,000 shock incidents occur in the United States each year. Some result in injuries, including electrical burns.
Bathrooms, in turn, can pose electrical hazards, seeing as it’s a direct source of water. Remember: water and electricity never mix.
Fortunately, ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) help reduce such risks. These devices protect against potential electrocutions. They do so by cutting the power as soon as they detect current abnormalities.
So, it’s no wonder GFCIs are mandatory in areas where there’s a risk of water mixing with electricity. That includes bathrooms, garages, kitchens, and laundry rooms, to name a few.
However, GFCIs don’t last forever; their maximum lifespan is only about 30 years. Moreover, their service lives shorten the more often they get tripped.
As such, it’s vital to perform regular checks on the GFCIs in your elderly loved one’s bathroom. Replace them as soon as they fail their self-tests or if the LED light on them no longer turns on.
Use These Tips to Help Keep Your Beloved Senior Citizens Safe
Always remember that many accidents, including falls, are 100% preventable. Unfortunately, aging makes it harder for senior citizens to avoid such hazards.
For that reason, consider investing in the safety additions listed in this guide. The sooner you do, the sooner you can create a safer bathroom for your elderly loved ones.
Are you looking for other ways to enhance the safety and livability of your home? If so, then please feel free to check out our recent blog posts on these topics!