Money and Time Saving Strategies for Caregivers - Part II ©
By: Clare Absher RN, BSN
Part II: Enhancing Bathroom Safety is second area of focus of a sequence of articles aimed at saving time and money, easing busy caregiver workloads, and providing better patient care at the same time.
Bathroom equipment is expensive and home safety modifications or repairs are often challenging to configure. Therefore focus on identifying products that improve safety and are adaptable to your situation without breaking the piggy bank. Initially you will likely need to purchase a few suction grab bars or portable clamp-on bars that attach to tub or shower wall easily. These grab bars can be positioned for ideal support based on specific needs of user plus are great for travel. Another relatively new portable and not permanent option growing in popularity are safety or super poles which can be strategically placed in bathroom or elsewhere in home where needed. These simple solutions are inexpensive in contrast to professional installed grab rails and avoid permanent bathroom reconstruction that may inhibit resale later.
Some safety equipment will depend on whether you have a shower enclosure or bath tub shower. If fortunate to have access to shower enclosed stall you can place a simple molded plastic shower seat inside in addition to suction wall grab bars. Buy shower chair with non slip rubber feet and attached back if require support to use in combination with a handheld shower sprayer. Most shower seats may also be used in tubs however next best alternate option when space limited is a transfer tub board, a flat surface that extends across width of tub. Shower seats are a key priority for safety to prevent falls and allow for comfortable unhurried bathing at the same. Standing and holding on to rails in showers creates a higher risk for slipping or collapsing from dizziness and weakness. Moreover a transfer bench will be needed when only have tub access for showering and cannot safely enter or exit due to inability to lift legs over tub wall. This is an effective means to adapt a tub for showering for those with limited ability to transfer and the arm on bench attaches to needed side to serve as a grab rail.
Toileting safety needs can be managed often with a raised or elevated toilet seat with preferable consideration given to models with attached arms. A raised seat without arms offers similar elevation benefit however does not provide needed support when lowering to sitting position on commode or rising to standing position. Often these arms can serve as grab rails or a safety frame eliminating the need for purchasing this additional equipment. The extra height gained will not only allow the user to get on and off commode with less difficulty but also enable safer more independent transfers. If you already own a raised toilet seat that has no arms then a compromise might be to attach a toilet safety frame to existing commode for additional support. Furthermore consider a portable commode when still more assistance is required due to severe weakness and frailty. This commode frame with permanent side arms attached fits over the existing toilet for extra stability and weight support. An advantage of these versatile commodes is that they serve as a stand alone commode at bedside, safety toilet frame and raised seat. This all-in-one product adapts to one's changing needs making it cost effective by avoiding purchase of multiple items.
A few more practical tips to think about ...
Should the need for a bedside commode arise then you will be glad to learn about a new sensible product designed for easier cleaning of pails. The liners fit into commode pails to spare caregivers the unpleasant cleaning job and also protects from splashing and possible pathogens exposure.
Wear reusable non slip socks when moving about in bathroom especially when floors are moist to avoid falls. Buy a few pairs as they are cheap, washable and often safer then slippers or your bare feet. Remove floor mats that move around.
Apply anti-slip treatments to shower and tub surfaces to avoid need for obtrusive shower mats and easily dislodged tub strips that may become slippery from mildew buildup. Do it yourself treatments lasting up to 3 years are cost effective in contrast to multiple purchases of rubber shower mats and treads over this period of time.
Purchase a simple inexpensive handheld sprayer to use in conjunction with a bath seat as allows for effective and comfortable bathing. It also reduces risks of falling due to additional moving about in shower attempting to make water adjustments. Be sure to connect an anti-scald device as is highly recommended.
Long handled back scrubbers, combs, hair brushes, stocking aides and shoe horns eliminate need for unnecessary reaching and sometimes pain. Furthermore assistive devices for bathing, grooming and dressing improve safety plus encourage independence and make a considerate gift.
Lastly remember a few basic bathroom safety tips ... no scatter rugs that move, a nightlight that really works and hot and cold water faucets clearly marked.