One in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the bathroom is a likely place to suffer a spill due to the slippery surfaces. If you are advancing in age, or have older relatives and guests who visit you at your home, you might want to consider adding safety features to your bathroom. Follow these tips to upgrade your bathroom's accessibility and help prevent accidents:
Install Hand Rails or Grab Bars: This is an easy-to-install and low-tech solution that could save a life. Installing grab bars in the tub, shower, and toilet area makes it easier for older people to raise and lower their bodies, and having something to hang onto significantly reduces the chances of a fall.
Modify or Replace the Bathtub: Tubs can be difficult for seniors to use, not only because they are slippery inside, but because you have to step over the wall to get in and out. To make things easier on people with limited mobility, try replacing your traditional bathtub with a walk-in tub that has a door in the wall. If no one in the home takes baths, it might be worthwhile to take out the tub entirely and replace it with a walk-in shower, complete with a seat so you and your guests can bathe with a minimum of stress and exertion.
Add an Adjustable Showerhead: If you put a seat in the shower or tub, this will require an easy-to-reach showerhead. Our sister brand, Homewatch Caregivers, recommends adding an adjustable shower head that allows the individual to clean themselves while remaining safely seated.
Look for ADA-Compliant Faucets: Knob-style faucets can be difficult for some to reach and turn. Fortunately, it's simple to replace the faucet with one that has a long lever to make it easier to move and adjust. If you get a fixture that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it might have other features like a hot water safety stop so no one accidentally burns themselves.
Add Anti-Slipping Features: Slick bathroom floors are extremely dangerous for the elderly, so make sure you have non-slip mats down on the floor itself as well as inside the tub or shower. Use mats with rubber backing so they don't get bunched up and trip unsuspecting bathers.
Raise the Toilet: Even with handrails to help, the toilet can be a long way down for people in their golden years. If yours is still situated relatively low to the ground, consider replacing it with a taller model or adding a seat extender, which can make it a lot easier for a person to get up and down.
Keep the Water at 120 Degrees: You should be doing this anyway to save energy, but the stakes are higher with an elderly person in the home. Most water heaters have settings as high as 140 degrees, but that’s hotter than most people can handle. For those who already have difficulty maintaining balance, an unexpected scalding can lead to accidents like a fall.
Install Adequate Lighting: Homewatch Caregivers points out that it's common for people age 65 or older, or those living with certain conditions or taking specific medications, to need to use the restroom in the middle of the night. But if you're already only half-awake, you have an increased chance of tripping or slipping and possibly falling in the bathroom. The solution is to install a simple night light that can at the very least make it clear where the light switch is in the dark.
For help following any of these tips, or for more ideas to make your bathroom more accessible for those with limited mobility, call up your local plumber today. Contact us at 1-888-BEN-1776!