According to the National Institute on Aging, as many as 80% of all senior accidents occur in the bathroom. It’s the most dangerous room in the home and it’s not difficult to see why.
Every day, you need to make multiple trips to the toilet, some of which may occur in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning when you’re tired and more prone to stumbling. The risk increases every time tip you step into the shower or clamber over the side of the bathtub.
Surfaces are slippery, floors are hard, and risks are great. If you’re going to age in place, you need to make a few changes to your bathroom and/or your daily routine.
How to Make Showering and Bathing a Safe Experience
Numerous safety features can be added to your bathroom, all geared toward making it safe and reducing the risk of harm when you perform your daily rituals. These include:
Install Walk-in Showers and Baths
A walk-in bathtub, as the name suggests, is a tub that you can walk straight into. It’s large, deep, and fitted with a secure door that you can walk through and then shut behind you. There is a chair in the tub, and you can sit here while it fills up and submerges you.
Walk-in tubs offer much more than easy access. They also provide features such as:
- Non-Slip Surfaces: There’s no slipping and sliding as you get in or out of the tub.
- Deep Submergence: Walk-in tubs are much deeper than traditional tubs, providing a feeling of weightlessness and helping to ease muscle tension and soothe pain.
- Water Jets: Hydrotherapy jets are used to add some extra benefits to these tubs, blasting water and air onto target areas to soothe joint and muscle pain.
- Grab Bars: Carefully placed bars make it easy to get in and out of the tub and to support yourself while you’re inside.
Whether you live alone or get assistance from a caregiver, a walk-in tub is a perfect solution for problem-free daily bathing. If you’re more of a shower person, take a look at walk-in showers instead.
The same principles apply here, but the changes are not as significant. With a walk-in shower, the step is lowered for easy access, the surface is non-slip, and you can have chairs fitted if you struggle to stand for long periods of time. Showers don’t provide the same submersion as a bathtub and are not ideal if you’re looking to heal, but for a quick daily clean, you can’t go wrong.
Accessorize Your Shower
If you don’t have any issues climbing into the shower but are concerned about its safety, there are a few simple changes you can make without getting a new shower fitted:
- Stools or Benches: You can purchase plastic stools and benches to install in the shower, allowing you to sit down while you wash. Any stool won’t do, however. You need a specialized shower stool, as they are strong, sturdy, and fitted with rubber surfaces to prevent slipping.
- Detachable Shower Heads: It doesn’t matter who you are and how able you are, detachable shower heads are simply easier to use! However, many modern showers have fixed heads, and these can be difficult to use when you’re sitting on a stool or bench.
- Grab Bars: These cheap but necessary safety features make it easy to get in and out of the shower and are useful whether you have a caregiver or not. These bars can be horizontal and vertical, and consideration needs to be paid to non-flip surfaces and/or covers.
Secure the Bathroom
The shower and bathtub are the main two considerations when making your bathroom safer and more accessible, but don’t overlook everything else. Remember to:
- Place Non-Slip Mats: Bathroom floors can get very slippery. If you fall, it’s a long way down and a longer trip to the hospital. Add some non-slip mats to the floor to prevent those problems.
- Grab Bars: Install these simple but effective safety bars around the toilet, bath, shower, and/or anywhere else you need a little extra support. They can help to ease you down and pull you up, while also giving you a little extra support as you make your way around the bathroom.
- Don’t Lock the Door: As tempting as it is to turn the lock and give yourself some privacy, if you have mobility issues you’ll only be putting yourself at risk. What happens if you trip, fall, and knock yourself unconscious, or if you slip and can’t get to the door to unlock it? Your loved ones need to be able to enter the bathroom so they can provide the assistance you require.
- Carry Emergency Alarms: If you live alone, there’s no one to come to your aid when you fall. It doesn’t matter if the door is locked or not. In such cases, consider buying a medical alarm that you can activate during a fall or another emergency.
- Rubber Faucets: For just a few bucks, you can install rubber caps on all faucets in your bathroom. It’s a small touch, but a potentially lifesaving one, as those metal edges can cause serious harm if you trip and stumble into them.
Future Proof Everything
Just because you don’t need to renovate your bathroom now doesn’t mean you won’t need it a year, 5 years, or even 10 years from now. If you’re over the age of 70 and suffering from some mobility issues, or you have a rapidly deteriorating condition like Alzheimer’s disease, you should make those changes sooner rather than later.
Make changes that will secure your bathroom for several years to come, and not just for the next few months. Think about how you will get around in the next couple of years. Will you need a new bath, will grab rails suffice, can you afford to take a risk by adding a grab rail to an existing bathtub, or should you save for a walk-in tub?
The right choices made early will prevent a lot of stress in the future. It will also save you a lot of money in out-of-pocket medical expenses.