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Safety Modifications for a Senior Friendly Bathroom

We've all heard that most accidents at home occur in the bathroom.

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  

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Elderly loved ones may be frail, weak from a recent illness, or suffer from a debilitating disease causing impaired balance or vision. Therefore, the odds of having an accident are greatly increased. When your elderly parents or loved one is living at home or in your family's home, consider a few basic measures to make the bathroom a safer place. For those who have difficulty walking or balancing, they are likely to have difficulty using a regular home toilet or standard shower tub accommodations. Most of these modifications simply require a little foresight along with minimal to moderate effort and expense to prevent a serious accident in addition to enhancing your loved one's sense of security and comfort. Links are included to photos of equipment described below and are available for purchase in our online e-store or at your local hardware or home medical supply company.

5 Quick Tips for Prepping a Safe Bathroom

  1. Make sure lighting is good especially at night by installing a reliable nightlight.
  2. Remove floor scatter rugs that tend to move around and are likely to slip.
  3. Mark hot and cold handles clearly and make sure temperature setting is not too hot to prevent scalding.
  4. Remove doors from track as can prevent easy entry to tub. Instead substitute plastic curtain if necessary to prevent water leakage.
  5. Install mirror on wall at appropriate height for user or add flexible mirror extenders that come out from wall at level where user can be seated.

Bathroom Safety Products to Consider

Use rubber suction-grip mats, adhesive strips or anti-slip tub surface material to prevent slipping in tub. Keep them free of any soap scum build-up. Bubble Bath Mat

Install grab bars on tub side or shower wall to help with getting in or out of the tub/shower and on wall where extra support around toilet area. Permanently installed ones as well as removable clamp-on models are available. Never allow use of toilet paper holders, towel racks or wall mounted sinks for supporting one's weight. Grab Bars

Consider purchasing a floor-to-ceiling vertical rod sometimes referred to as a safety pole that is easy to remove or relocate for use in strategic locations where extra support is needed. Safety Poles

Purchase a bathtub or shower seat made of sturdy blow molded plastic or padded vinyl for added comfort if preferred for those with poor standing balance or general weakness. They are available with or without backs, height adjustments, and heavy-duty models to accommodate greater weight capacities and slip-resistant rubber feet or foldaway portable models. Shower Tub Seats

Consider purchasing a transfer tub board that attaches to tub to offer comfortable safe seating if less obtrusive device preferred, more portable, or may be a better fit in your existing bathtub. Portable Tub Transfer Board by Rubbermaid

Purchase a transfer tub bench for those who have difficulty entering or exiting the tub. Transfer tub benches extend beyond the edge of the tub for those who have difficulty stepping over the tub wall safely. Models come in blow-molder plastic and padded also. Check weight capacity or additional 6-leg support to accommodate user. Place bench so that 2 of the legs are on outside of tub and other 2 within tub. The user then sits safely on outside of bench and slides to inside tub while remaining seated on bench. Place these seats facing the faucet end of the tub. Transfer Benches

Add hand held shower sprays for the user's convenience to help control water flow when seated on bath chairs and transfer benches. They easily attach to your existing shower arm, or can be attached with a diverter valve and used in conjunction with the existing showerhead for other family members. Bath Accessories

Purchase a raised toilet seat when the standard seat is too low to help those who have difficulty getting up and down from a regular toilet, bending or sitting such as following a hip operation. Look for those with safety features including brackets or locking clamps that stabilize the seat on the toilet rim. If one is prone to slide when standing up be sure to use clamp on style with locking brackets. Remember to help him or her sit on raised toilet seat safely by not allowing them to sit on front edge. Others have open access or a cut out section in the front to assist with personal hygiene efforts. Some have padded armrests for added security and comfort and offer additional help with sitting and standing. Raised Toilet Seats

Consider buying a toilet safety frame or rail with armrests attached to the back of the toilet for those having difficulty transferring to and from toilet but can manage standard toilet seat height. It attaches easily to the toilet and features both height and width adjustments. To use toilet safety frame exert force and weight downward when getting up and down. Toilet Safety Frame by Drive Medical or Toilet Safety Frame by Cardinal Health

Purchase an over toilet adjustable commode for those with need for grab bar or rails as well as a higher toilet. Often referred to as a "3-in-1 commode" or "All in One Commode" it serves three functions as a raised toilet seat and toilet safety frame (without container/pail attached), and freestanding commode for use outside bathroom with pail in place. This portable commode offers a temporary or permanent solution when placed in easy accessible location for one that is confined to bed, unable to get into bathroom safely due to limited door entry size, or lacks speed needed to reach toilet timely. Models come with and without backs, leg height is adjustable and commode arms serve as toilet armrests. Commodes / Frames

Consider investing in a drop-arm model for those who need help transferring from bed, chair or wheelchair on to toilet with arms that drop out of the way on either side. Standard Drop-Arm Commode

Toilet paper holders that attach toilet paper to commode legs are helpful accessory when reaching difficult. Universal Toilet Paper Holder

An extra bucket or pail comes in handy when frequent use required for helping caregiver with efforts to maintain clean environment. Commode Accessories

Clare Absher RN BSN

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with over 37 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.

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