If your elderly family member lives on their own, no doubt you spend a good amount of time worrying about their safety. For many of us, the prospect of mom or dad suffering a fall is top of our concern list, and with good reason: one in three seniors falls each year, with a whopping 700,000 hospitalized for resulting injuries. Preventive approaches like removing throw rugs and tucking away electrical cords are important – but considering 80% of home falls happen in the bathroom, that’s where your safety-proofing needs to start.
Most bathroom falls happen in one of three ways – getting in and out of the tub or shower, getting on and off the toilet, and attempting to navigate the space without proper support. There are simple steps you can take to make these activities a lot safer for Mom or Dad – here are the ones we think are most important.
For the Bathtub and Shower:
- Install grab bars for climbing in and out of the shower. They should be slip-resistant (as opposed to glossy), color-contrasted with the wall for visibility, and bolted on (no suction cups). Test them out by grabbing them as if you were actually falling – they should not budge. If Mom prefers the tub only, consider either a tub-attached grab bar or a transfer bench that allows her to sit at tub height and then slide safely over into the bath.
- A shower chair can be quite helpful for giving Dad a break from standing for long periods. Make sure to get one with rubber-tipped legs that won’t slide.
- Install rubber non-slip strips/decals along the tub bottom to keep feet from slipping, and give Mom better depth perception when she climbs in (or you can use a rubber bath mat). Place non-slip bath mats on the floor that won’t move when Dad climbs out of the shower with wet feet.
For the Toilet:
- Install a raised toilet seat that allows rising and sitting more safely. A good one will add 3-4” of seat height to a standard fixture. Also, add grab bars to the sides of the toilet or on the surrounding walls. Make sure the toilet paper dispenser is within easy reach.
For General Room Navigation:
- Make sure light fixtures are bright and clean. Install nightlights in the bathroom, and along the pathway from the bedroom to the bathroom if possible.
- Check that faucets are clearly marked “hot” and “cold”.
- De-clutter the space entirely and off-load all non-essential items to a hall closet or other accessible storage area.
- The room should be cleaned regularly to prevent slippery scum and mildew from forming.
To learn more safety ideas for senior living, head to AgingCare.com.