Experts say nearly three million older adults are treated in a hospital emergency room for fall-related injuries every year. Falls are the leading cause of serious injury among older adults. For many seniors, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. More falls occur in the bathroom than anywhere else.
A solid fall-prevention strategy is vital for keeping senior loved ones safe at home. If you are a family caregiver, bathroom safety should be a high priority. Here are a few safety tips to help you get started.
Elderly Assistance: Step-by-Step Bathroom Safety Checklist
- Step-free shower: Is there a shower the senior can use that doesn’t require them to step over the side of the tub? Family caregivers can lower a loved one’s risk for a fall by modifying the bathroom so there is a barrier-free shower in place.
- Nonskid shower floor: It’s also important to make sure the shower floor has a nonslip surface. If it doesn’t, you can add floor mats or nonskid appliqués to lower the odds of a slip-and-fall accident.
- Shower door: What is the shower door made of? Doors made of safety glass or plastic are best in case the senior falls against it.
- Bath bench: If the senior has difficulty standing very long, is there a bath bench in place? A bath bench, or shower chair, combined with a retractable showerhead attachment can help with fall prevention.
- Bathroom door: Is the doorway wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker? How does the bathroom door open? In the event of an emergency, a wide door that opens outward or a pocket door can make it easier to access the bathroom.
- Bathroom flooring: Bathroom floors often present one of the greatest safety risks. While tile floors are pretty and easy to clean, they can also be slippery. Experts say nonskid vinyl, cork, and bamboo are usually the safest flooring options.
- GFCI outlets: Does the bathroom have grounded (GFCI) outlets? These are important for preventing electrical shock. While most newer homes have them, if the senior has lived in their home for a long period of time, they might not.
- Night light placement: Older adults are often poor sleepers who make a trip or two to the bathroom every night. Make sure there are motion- triggered nightlights in place to illuminate the path the senior takes from their bedroom to the bathroom, as well as one inside the bathroom.
- Knobs and handles: An often-overlooked cause of falls is struggling with knobs and handles. If the senior has arthritis or diminished hand strength, twisting and tugging on shower handles and faucets can put them at risk for a fall. Make sure all of the knobs and handles are easy to turn on and off.
- Water temperature: Older adults frequently have more fragile skin than younger adults. That’s one reason why it’s important to check the temperature on the senior’s water heater. Most experts agree that setting the temperature no higher than 120 degrees may help prevent heat-related injuries.
- Raised toilet seat: If your senior loved one has difficulty rising from or lowering themselves to a seat position, a raised toilet seat with sturdy grab bars attached is an easy and inexpensive safety solution.
- Grab bars: Are grab bars placed in areas of the bathroom where they are most needed? They should be installed near the shower and toilet to aid in balance.
Using this checklist of bathroom safety tips can help family caregivers prevent a senior loved one from experiencing a fall.
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Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash