7 Bathroom Areas to Improve Safety & Reduce Falls for Older Adults
It is never too soon to improve the bathroom safety for seniors or an aging loved one. Even if you are not aware that they have had an issue with balance or have had a fall, taking early steps can prevent this dangerous, and all too common, hazard from happening to your elderly family member or friend.
Every year, millions of elderly adults suffer a fall. More than one out of four people fall each year, but according to the CDC less than half will inform their doctor of the fall, even though they are now at greater risk of falling again.
How can you prevent falls?
As our parents and loved ones get older, there are many new issues they face in maintaining their ability to function with daily routines. Being able to use their bathroom is one issue that can be greatly impacted by new physical difficulties an older person may start to be having. In addition to that, the bathrooms they have used without problem for decades may now no longer be safe for them.
At Mount Hope Nursing Center, safety is our first priority for all our residents. We take all necessary measures and precautions to avoid risks to their health and safety. There are many steps you can take to ensure the older adults in your life continue to have a safe home even as their own physical condition changes.
Bathroom Safety Checklist for Older Adults
- The path to the bathroom
- Is it properly lit? If not, are there outlets where you can plug in night lights? Other options to consider are replacing existing low-light bulbs with brighter lightbulbs or have extra lighting installed in these areas.
- Is the doorway wide enough? You may find you need to retrofit the doorway to accommodate a person who is struggling to get through or who may now have to use a walker.
- The shower
- Do they have to step over a tub to get into the shower? This is a big cause for falls in the shower. Help minimize this risk by installing handrails for them to hold while getting into the bathtub.
- Are there safety bars inside the shower or bath to help them stand and maneuver around?
- Are the doors made of breakable glass? If so, consider replacing it with safety glass or plastic? In the case of a fall in the shower, a door made of glass may cause additional serious injuries of them being cut by glass in the fall.
- Is there a non-slip mat in the bath or shower? Purchasing even a cheap non-stick bathmat will greatly improve shower safety for an elderly person who may be experiencing issues with strength or balance.
- Do they have a place to sit in the shower? Simply adding a bath bench or chair inside the shower will greatly reduce their likelihood of falling in the bathroom by decreasing how much time they must stand. Make sure when adding a seated spot in the shower that they can reach the showerhead. This can be handled by purchasing a showerhead attachment so that they do not have to reach or twist.
- The floors
- Are the bathroom floors a slippery tile? Consider having the floor replaced with a material that is less slippery such as vinyl, cork or bamboo. A quicker and cheaper alternative would be to purchase non-slip mats to cover the floor.
- Are there floor rugs used for comfort or decoration? These can lead to trips or falls and should be removed.
- Is the bathroom well lit? Just as you want to make sure there’s enough light on the way to the bathroom, you want to ensure there is plenty of light in the bathroom.
- The toilet
- Have they needed assistance getting on or off the toilet? If they are having difficulties using the toilet, you may find a raised toilet seat with grab bars can greatly improve their ability to use the bathroom independently.
- Towels, toilet paper, extra toilet paper, washcloths, toothbrush and toothpaste: Do they have everything they need within reach? If anything requires the use of a step stool or straining to grab, find a new place for it within easier reach.
- Do they have a place to sit while at the sink? From brushing their teeth to putting on makeup and fixing their hair, allowing them to sit while handling these tasks will eliminate how long they are standing and thereby reducing the risk for a fall. However, you will need to ensure the bathroom is large enough to accommodate a seating space for this. Adding a chair to an already small area may create a tripping hazard.
Putting the 7-Step Bathroom Safety Checklist to Work
Let’s take a look at this safety assessment in action. With the example below of an older, modest-sized bathroom, you can spot several areas to address to great reduce risks of trips and falls. While a couple items require tools and skills to install safety bars, several steps are simple, quick and easy for just about anyone to do. Simply moving toiletries to more assessable areas and purchasing items such as non-slip mats and a raised toilet seat will immediately improve the safety of this bathroom.
Additional Safety Measure
If they are having issues with their balance, an emergency alert device will give them quick way to easily call for emergency help if they fall.
Medications Can Increase a Fall Risk
Check their medications. Even if your loved one hasn’t had balance issues, they may be prescribed medicines that cause imbalance issues as a side effect. Medicines such as tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants and even some over-the-counter medicines can affect how steady a person is on their feet.
When Bathroom Safety Measures Are Not Enough
If your loved one is suffering with greater issues of balance and safety than these measures can adequately address, you may want to consider a new level of care for them. There are many more care options than just moving into a nursing home, and many of those options allow them to remain in their own home. You will find information about the various levels of elderly care as well as assessment checklists to help you determine what specific care your loved one needs in our Elderly Care Guide.
Help for Caretakers
Often family members and loved ones are relied upon to care for the special needs of aging adults. Being able to provide this caretaker support, your loved one may have the opportunity to remain in their home despite growing issues that affect their daily life. If you are caring for a loved one, have you found that you need assistance at times? Mount Hope Nursing Center provides support for caregivers with Adult Day Care, Adult Night Care, as well as Respite Care.
We understand that this can be a difficult time for all people involved, and we are here to help. Many of our staff members have gone through the process of transitioning a loved one to a nursing home, independent living or coordinating home health care. Please feel free to give us a call at (316) 667-2431 or contact us online. Having cared for senior citizens in central Kansas for nearly half a century, we have worked with thousands of people with different abilities, and so we can help you find out what care is needed in your situation. We are happy to answer any questions you might have or support you in any way we can.