If there is one thing family members are most concerned about when they call me to discuss in-home care for seniors they love, it is their fear of fall risks. It is a very rational concern, because statistics indicate seniors are at greater risk of falling for many reasons.
According to an Aging.com fact sheet, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury among seniors, and the most frequent reason for non-fatal trauma, as well, (and) a full 80% of falls happen in the bathroom.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], issued a report in 2011, that stated as many as 200,000 seniors were treated in emergency rooms due to falls in the bathroom.
Slippery wet floors, bathtubs and shower tiles, poorly secured grab bars and towel racks, low toilet seats, and shower benches and chairs without appropriate grips, are all contributing factors to falling accidents in the bathroom.
As a Senior Home Safety Specialist, I understand how important it is to observe National Bath Safety Month to focus on and promote bathroom safety for seniors to minimize fall risks and help prevent avoidable accidents in the bathroom.
Here are nine divine suggestions to improve bathroom safety for seniors:
- Add grab bars. If there are no secure grab bars built-in to the bathroom, and specifically, the tub and shower design, you can find sturdy suction-style grab bars at your local home store. They are easy to install and they do not damage existing surfaces, but they are not designed to support a lot of weight. Bolt-on grab bars and towel racks are better suited to support heavier adults. If suction-style grab bars are your only option, remember to follow all directions carefully to ensure they are completely secure when installed in areas where seniors with balance issues can reach them easily.
- Use a slip-resistant shower chair or sliding transfer bench. When chronic pain or balance issues are a concern, it makes sense to invest in a shower chair or bathtub transfer bench with rubber slip-resistant tips to prevent sliding on wet surfaces. These provide an easier transition to the shower or tub and a place to sit and rest while bathing or showering. There are various styles available, depending upon the tub or shower design and the physical constraints of the user.
- Apply shower mats, tub appliqués or an anti-slip tub coating. Newer tubs and showers may include a non-slip floor surface, but older tubs and showers do not. Provide a safe surface by applying non-slip appliqués or bathtub/shower mats to reduce fall risks. Better still, an anti-slip tub coating will prevent mold and mildew that can occur with plastic mats and appliqués.
- Invest in a walk-in tub. When seniors experience difficulties getting in and out of the bathtub, a walk-in tub may be a wise investment. It is much easier for seniors to remain independent and stay consistent with healthy hygiene habits when they do not struggle to bathe. Being able to walk into the tub, which also includes a bench, makes the bathing process much safer.
- Keep bathing items within reach. Soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner are toiletries seniors use when bathing. If they have to reach or bend too far to retrieve them when bathing, this can create a falling hazard. Use a shower caddy to keep toiletries within reach. Refillable dispensers for body wash and hair products are also an option to prevent individual bottles from slipping from narrow tub edges and corners which can be problematic.
- Install a higher toilet seat. Seniors that experience difficulties sitting on lower seats due to back, knee or hip issues can benefit from a raised toilet seat. They increase the height by as much as four inches, which can make a big difference for seniors. Most raised toilet seats come equipped with grip bars.
- Examine lighting and doors. Proper lighting is always important, especially for seniors with vision impairments, balance and ambulatory issues. Make sure lights are bright enough along the path to the bathroom, as well as in the bathroom. Nightlights in the bedroom, corridor and bathroom will help illuminate the way after dark.
- Subscribe to a monitoring service. Home Helpers® utilizes Direct Link, because they offer an exclusive line of monitoring systems that allow seniors to live independently and securely in their own homes longer than they might otherwise. Direct Link systems are always monitored 24/7 by a CSAA 5-Diamond Certified Care Center, allowing you or your loved ones a way to reach out to a live person with the simple touch of a button, anytime, day or night. This adds an extra level of security when seniors are at risk of falling in the bathroom or elsewhere in the home.
- Hire an In-Home Caregiver. If you know a senior who is a fall risk, struggles with activities of daily living, and who desperately wants to remain independent in their own home, Home Helpers® can help! An experienced, compassionate caregiver is trained to assist with personal care, like bathing, toileting and dressing, which will help keep your loved one safe and steady on their feet in the bathroom and throughout their home.
I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to assess bathroom and other safety needs. If it is determined that in-home care or our Direct Link monitoring services would be beneficial, I will offer my professional recommendations.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠