Bathroom Safety for the Elderly
Studies have shown that nearly one in every three seniors over the age of 65 experience at least one fall each year. Some of these falls may be relatively minor, resulting only in a scrape or injured pride, but many can be much more serious, causing broken bones or even life-threatening medical consequences. Next to the kitchen, the bathroom is the most likely spot in your home where accidents can occur. Senior citizens are at an increased risk of suffering an accident in the bathroom; however by taking a few fairly simple safety precautions you can ensure the elderly are fully protected against bathroom accidents. Some of the safety precautions can be attended to in short order by anyone with a bit of handyman experience, while others may require the services of a contractor.
Simple Safety Fixes
Slip and falls are the most common accidents in the bathroom as the elderly can be a bit unsteady on their feet. Install slip-resistant mats or strips on the bathroom floor in areas that get wet as well as in the bathtub and shower. If you have a tile floor, make sure your bath mats have non-slip backs so they won't skid if an elderly person slips. Install night lights both in the bathroom and in the hall leading to the bathroom, making it easier for the elderly to navigate when they get up in the middle of the night. To prevent burns or scalds from hot water, make sure your hot water heater is set to a fairly low temperature, or install faucets which are set to stop water from heating above a pre-set temperature. Placing a stool or shower chair in the shower stall for an elderly parent who is fearful of slipping can be quite helpful.
Grab bars, strategically placed, can be an invaluable safety asset for the elderly. Grab bars can be placed in and around the bathtub, shower and toilet. Many grab bars are stainless steel, which can become slippery when wet, so you may want to put rubber grip pads on the grab bars as well. The bars you choose should be institutional grade stainless steel and installed according to the manufacturer's directions for the best, most solid support and safety. Grab bars can be relatively expensive, but you should never, ever, use a regular towel bar in place of a true grab bar as they will not support a person who has lost their balance. . Depending on the agility of the elderly person in question, you may need one grab bar used for getting in and out of the tub from a standing position, another for lowering or raising the body from a seated position in the tub.
Safety Installations Which May Require a Contractor or Plumber
If the elderly person has trouble rising from the toilet, you may consider installing a toilet specifically for the elderly; they are a few inches taller, making it considerably easier for a frailer person to rise. You can also purchase a raised toilet seat--a good compromise if you cannot afford the plumber's fees for an entirely new toilet. You should also ensure that GFCI's (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) are installed in your bathrooms by a licensed electrician. GFCI's prevent electrocution by shutting down the source of power to the outlet should water come in contact with it and should actually be a safety feature in any home regardless of whether there is an elderly person living there. You could also consider upgrading your traditional bath tub to a walk-in bath, which is both safer and easier to access.