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Bathroom Safety for the Elderly

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

When you’re young and healthy, you can pop into the bathroom and come back out without incident. However, that can change when people grow older. Balance issues, aches, pains, and cognitive issues take their toll, turning the bathroom into a fall hazard. Find out what steps you, as a CDPAP caregiver, need to take to protect your elderly family member in the bathroom. 

Let’s begin with the things you need to consider when setting up a bathroom for an older adult.

Things to Take Into Account When Setting up a Safe Bathroom for an Elderly Person

Before you set up a bathroom for your loved one, you need to think about the problems you’ll face. First, you need to consider the possibility of slippery floors.

Slippery Floor

Bathroom floors can get slippery, especially when wet. This creates a fall risk for seniors and might lead to a trip to the emergency room.

Wheelchair Size

If your loved one uses a wheelchair, you need to keep that in mind when setting up the bathroom. The size of the wheelchair will impact your design decisions.

With that in mind, let’s look at bathroom access.

Bathroom Access

You need your loved one to get in and out of the bathroom easily. First, that means addressing any barriers or dangers.

Remove Barriers and Dangers

You need to ensure that your loved one has a clear path to the bathroom. Review the space, looking for obstacles and barriers. Also, check for shoes and loose rugs. If you notice anything in the way, remove it so your family member doesn’t trip and fall.

Install Good Lighting

Proper lighting is also necessary for your loved one. Install non-glare lights throughout the bathroom, including over the bathtub. If your loved one can turn the light off and on, place the switch by the door. However, if your family member has trouble using light switches, install automatic lighting that comes on when it detects motion.

You also need to consider the bathroom doors when setting up the bathroom.

Bathroom Doors

You likely don’t give much thought to the bathroom doors, but they can create a challenge for your loved one. Let’s go over some ways you can make things easier with the right bathroom doors.  

Wheelchair Accessible Bathroom Doors

First, your bathroom door should be wheelchair accessible. Even if your loved one isn’t currently in a wheelchair, this is a must since mobility issues could happen at any time. The doorway should be at least 34 inches wide, so your family member can slide through the door without any problem.

Choose a Sliding Door

Sliding doors are more accessible, making it easier for seniors to get in and out of the bathroom. However, you need to make sure you clean the tracks regularly so the door doesn’t jam.

Install a Lever Knob

Twisting knobs are hard for seniors to open, especially for those who have arthritis. Install a lever knob on the bathroom door instead so they can open it without pain or discomfort.

Once your door is installed, you’ll be ready to move on to the bathroom floor.

Bathroom Floors

Choosing the right bathroom flooring is one of the most critical components of creating a safe space for your loved one. You need to consider the:

·        Material

·        Color

·        Use of rugs

Let’s start with the material.

Non-slip Material

First, you need to make sure that you choose a non-slip material for the floors. You can choose from:

·        Non-slip vinyl flooring

·        Epoxy flooring

·        Rubber flooring

Non-stick vinyl and epoxy floors provide good traction. However, they don’t have extra padding, so your loved one could get injured during a fall. With that in mind, consider rubber flooring. It’s non-slip, durable, and relatively soft, so it reduces the impact of falls.

Choose Contrasting Colors

As your loved one ages, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell where the walls end and the floors begin. Use contrasting colors for the floors and walls to make this easier to tell the difference. Then, your loved one will be more sure-footed in the bathroom.  

If Rugs Are Necessary, Choose Rubber Bottoms

Bathroom rugs are a fall hazard, so if possible, remove them all. However, choose something with a rubber bottom if you need a rug to soak up water after showers. Then, it won’t slip and slide when your loved one steps out of the shower. Also, choose a contrasting color so your family member won’t have trouble identifying the rug.

Now, let’s look at setting up the toilet.

Toilets for the Elderly

The toilet is yet another hazard in the bathroom. You can make it much safer by following a couple of tips. First, make sure the toilet is the right height.

Choose a Tall Toilet

At 15-16 inches in height, standard toilets can be challenging for seniors. It’s hard to get on and off the toilet when dealing with joint issues, pain, and balance problems. Instead of going with a standard toilet, choose one that is at least 17 inches tall. You can even go up to 19 inches.

Make Sure the Toilet Is Tightly Attached to the Floor and Wall

A loose, wobbly toilet is dangerous for seniors. They can lose their balance and fall off the toilet, so make sure it’s tightly attached to the floor and wall. After attaching it, try to move it. If it still wobbles, it’s not tight enough.

Now, let’s look at the importance of grab bars.

Grab Bars

Grab bars make it much easier to balance, reducing the risk of falls. You need to put grab bars in high-movement areas. Some areas include the:

·        Toilet

·        Bathtub and shower

·        Entrance

These are just some ideas. Consider your loved one’s needs when choosing where to install grab bars.

You also need to make sure your loved one’s bathroom has the proper faucets.

Faucets

You want to limit movement as much as possible in the bathroom. Each time your loved one moves, he or she faces the risk of falling. Since turning the faucet on and off requires reaching, twisting, and turning, handwashing can be dangerous. Fortunately, you can make it much safer by installing an electronic faucet.

Shower Box

Bathtubs aren’t recommended for elderly patients. They can fall getting in and out of the tub. Also, getting up from the bathing position is quite dangerous. You can solve this problem by installing a shower box instead.

A walk-in shower is easy to get in and out of, so bathing your loved one will be much easier. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing and setting up the shower box.

Install a Curbless Shower Box

You might think that as long as you get a walk-in shower, your loved one won’t face any obstacles when entering and exiting. However, some walk-in showers have curbs, meaning people have to step up and down to get in and out.

Choose a curbless shower, so there aren’t any obstacles. When installing this, make sure that the shower has proper drainage. Without a curb in place, the water can run out of the shower if you don’t take the right precautions. With the right drain system in place, the water will stay in the shower, so you won’t have to worry about wet floors that increase the risk of falls.

Ensure It Has Enough Room for a Second Person

Your loved one needs enough room to move in the shower. If the space is too tight, you’ll have trouble bathing your family member. Also, the shower needs to be large enough to accommodate a second person. Depending on your family member’s needs, you might need to get inside the shower when bathing your loved one.

Install Additional Showerheads

If you only have a single showerhead, you’ll have to move your loved one multiple times when showering. This is more difficult for you, and it’s challenging for your family member. Installing multiple showerheads will make it easier for both of you.

Also, consider installing a handheld showerhead. Make sure the handheld showerhead:

·        Has a long, kink-free hose

·        Is easy to operate

·        Is lightweight for easy maneuvering

Include a Collapsible Stool

Balance issues and fatigue are both concerns for elderly people. These issues become quite dangerous when showering, so install a collapsible stool. You can fold the stool when it isn’t in use and unfold it when your loved one needs a seat.

While you can place a foldable stool in the shower, install one instead. That way, it will provide additional stability when your loved one showers.

Finally, you need to install emergency buttons.

Emergency Buttons

Unless your loved one requires help with all activities, he or she will likely want some privacy in the bathroom. While the idea of giving that privacy can be a bit frightening, you can improve safety by installing emergency buttons. Set up a buzzer or alarm system that your loved one can easily reach in case of an accident. The system will alert you that you need to go to the bathroom quickly.

If your loved one is still living alone, he or she will need an alarm system that alerts medical personnel. A waterproof pendant alarm such as the system available from Telecare 24 can come in handy. Your loved one will need to press a button, and then the staff can send help if needed.

Keep Your Loved One Safe With These Tips

It takes some work to prepare the bathroom for an elderly family member, but the time and effort are well worth it. Follow these steps to prevent falls and keep your loved one safe while under your care or alone.