According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the U.S., roughly 80% of slip and fall accidents occur in the bathtub and shower. Because many seniors contend with reduced mobility and agility, they may be more vulnerable to these types of accidents, making the bathroom an especially potentially hazardous space for them. The best way to deal with slips and fall injuries is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. With attention to bathroom safety features, you may be able to reduce the risk for accidents in your bathrooms.
Slippery surfaces like tubs and floors leave people at increased risk of falling. Add soap and other toiletries to these surfaces, and the danger only heightens. Use the following guide to help you achieve some senior safety bathroom modifications that can help you enhance the safety of your home.
Retrofits to Help Prevent Injuries for Seniors
Use the following tips to retrofit and modify your existing home, since there are a few things you should know before renovating your bathroom.
Bathroom floors can become dangerously slick because of humidity or water pooling. While many people place rugs or mats on bathroom floors to help reduce the risk of slipping, even rugs can slip around on wet flooring. First, be sure to install a mat outside of the tub or shower. Keep in mind that flatter-style rugs are better. Shaggy rugs may be more inherently risky as people can more easily trip on these styles.
Once you have your mat, secure it to the floor using non-skid tape. This way, you can more easily ensure that your mat or rug will remain in place. Non-skid tape is typically available at home improvement or local hardware stores.
If you’re still concerned about your flooring and are considering replacing your bathroom floor, you might opt for a flooring style that is designed with slip reduction in mind. There are some flooring tiles now designed to be 50% less slippery than other tile floorings.
It’s not uncommon for seniors to find it challenging to sit down on toilets or stand back up. A handicap-accessible toilet may be the best option for seniors who struggle with bending and standing. Toilets with raised-height seating are easier for seniors to manage. Less bending of the knees and legs is required.
However, a raised seat alone may not be enough to improve bathroom safety for many seniors. Consider installing a safety frame with arms around the toilet. This frame provides support for seniors who may lose their balance while sitting or standing up. There are different frame styles available today. Some may attach to the walls. Others may loop beneath the toilet itself to provide a framing function. These frames also come in different finishes, so you can choose a model that’s best for your bathroom.
Additionally, it’s a helpful idea to install a medical alert button near the toilet. If seniors can’t get up or need emergency assistance, this button can be a tremendous safety measure. Since this button is located in the bathroom, be sure to install a waterproof model. Some alert systems are set up to contact private senior assistance companies. Before choosing a button, you may want to take time to choose between home-based and mobile-based medical alert systems. Some systems are designed to contact family members before calling emergency services.
You can also retrofit elements of sinks to improve senior bathroom safety. For instance, consider installing an ADA-compliant faucet. Many home improvement centers sell ADA-compliant sinks that are ideal for seniors. These sinks should stand no higher than 48 inches from the floor. Some seniors prefer hands-free faucets that are ADA-compliant. Many style faucets meet ADA regulations for safety. You can purchase these at most major stores that sell bathroom fittings or online.
When modifying your sink for senior safety, be sure to consider water temperature too. Hot water above 120 degrees F can be dangerous. You can install a temperature faucet in order to prevent accidental scalding.
The shower is one of the more hazardous areas of the bathroom. To begin your shower modification plan, start with a non-slip mat for the shower floor. These mats are largely inexpensive and will help reduce the risk for slips. Like rugs, these mats come in many different styles and colors.
Grab bars are another crucial modification that will improve shower safety. The grab bars can enhance seniors’ safety as they shower and exit or enter the bathing area. Unless you’re handy, it’s advisable to hire a contractor to correctly position and install your grab bars. For instance, these features should be anchored in wall studs to provide the most reliable support.
Next, you may want to add a shower chair to the bathing area. There are also sliding bench-shower chairs better suited for seniors with mobility issues or who may sometimes shower and sometimes use the tub for bathing. Many seniors find it more convenient to sit on a shower seat or bench rather than standing. Seniors who have mobility or balance issues may find this feature to be a must. To assist with showering in a seat position, a handheld showerhead is another retrofit you can install.
Like the sink, be sure to install a faucet with a hot temperature limit to prevent scalding. You may also want to include an additional waterproof medical alert button that’s easily accessible for showering seniors just in case they need help or fall while bathing.
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A conventional bathtub can be a challenging obstacle for many seniors. They may need assistance lifting their legs over the side of the tub to enter it. When retrofitting your bathroom, consider the advantages of a walk-in tub. These tubs feature a watertight side door that can be easily opened and closed. Seniors can easily walk in and out without the need to overcome any obstacles.
When modifying the bathtub, again, install grab bars with the help of a professional contractor to ensure they’re positioned correctly and are properly installed to provide maximum support. To reduce the slippery surface of the tub, consider applying anti-slip bathtub coating. A floor-to-ceiling grab bar can be a helpful safety feature for seniors who choose to switch from baths to showers. Seniors can grab this bar when standing up or sitting down for added support.
When considering your senior safety retrofit plan, remember to consider storage accessibility as well. High cabinets or clutter shelving can heighten risks for seniors as they try to access the supplies they need. To reduce the risks of a slip, trip, or fall, be sure to keep items handy and easily accessible. Avoid clutter as items may fall from shelves more easily. Retrieving these items can be a risk for seniors.
Also, try to avoid cabinetry with glass-front panels. Either replace the glass with tempered glass or choose different cabinet fronts. Leaning on glass can prove a bathroom hazard for seniors who may inadvertently lean on cabinets or use them for support.
Additional Senior Bathroom Safety Suggestions
Not all of your bathroom updates may require professional installation or substantial expense. Some additional safety measures, for example, you can accomplish easily without spending much more or, in some cases, spending any money.
Wrap Grab Bars
To make your grab bars safer, wrap them with Scotch gripping tape. The texture of the tape will help prevent seniors’ hands from slipping along the bar.
Dimly lit bathrooms can be hazardous for seniors. Install bright lighting in your bathrooms so that seniors don’t have to strain to see where they’re moving or what obstacles may be in their path.
Be sure that your bathroom is as clutter-free as possible. Also, remove any items that block or nearly block pathways. For instance, keep waste bins away from tub or shower entrances.
If you’re installing new tile in your bathroom, you may be tempted to choose glossy, which is easy to clean and common for bathrooms, but glossy tiles are slippery. Mat tiles offer more slip resistance.
Remove Step Stools
While many bathroom steps and stools are designed with traction, it’s best to remove them to promote your safe bathroom setting. When stepping on these steps, seniors can lose their balance. It’s better to change the bathroom so that no steps are necessary.
These ideas will help you make your bathrooms safer and more accessible for seniors who already live in the home, or if your elderly loved ones are planning to move with you or visit you for a period of time, it is always a good idea to be ready and avoid a bad experience for your relatives while staying with you.
You can make your bathrooms safer for seniors by using these tips and ideas. If you do choose to hire a contractor to perform your bathroom renovation, be sure they are versed in ADA compliance for bathrooms so you can reduce your bathroom safety risks as much as possible.
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