The bathroom is a place for privacy, but it’s also one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. For seniors with mobility or balance issues, it can be a challenge to allow seniors to maintain dignity while keeping them safe.
These ten tips can help make the bathroom safer and allow your loved one to enjoy greater independence.
1. Install Grab Bars for Extra Support
Grab bars are essential when seniors have difficulty standing, sitting or getting in and out of the tub. Some people assume the towel racks that hang on the wall will suffice, but they won’t. Towel racks are not designed to hold the weight of a human.
These bars help seniors stay balanced and offer support as they sit or stand off the toilet or enter or exit the shower.
Install grab bars near toilets and near bath entrances for added safety. Typically, grab bars are permanent fixtures that are attached to the wall, but you can also purchase bars with strong suction cups that affix to shower walls.
2. Make Sure the Room is Well-Lit
A well-lit room is easier to navigate. Many seniors also get up several times each night to use the restroom. Nightlights will ensure that seniors can see any obstacles that may be in their way. It also helps with orientation and can prevent falls.
Automatic lights are ideal. Many have sensors that will turn on automatically when the sun goes down.
3. Install a Raised Toilet Seat with Arms
Seniors who have difficulty sitting down and standing up can benefit from a raised toilet seat with arms. These seats attach to the toilet’s normal seat, and have arms that make it easier to sit down and stand up.
If a raised seat is unnecessary, you can choose to purchase grab bars for the toilet. These “armrests” provide support, making it easier for seniors to stand up and regain balance.
The great thing about these grab bars is that they’re easy to install and affordable. They’re easy to remove, too, so you can take them with you while traveling or visiting loved ones.
4. Install a Walk-in Tub and Seated Shower
For seniors who have difficulty getting in and out of the shower, a walk-in tub is ideal. These tubs come equipped with doors that allow you walk inside. There’s no need to worry about losing your balance or slipping on the floor as you hop over the edge of the tub.
Once inside, the tub fills up like normal, and you can enjoy a bath. These baths also have built-in seats for a comfortable bathing experience.
If a walk-in tub is not in the budget, you might consider installing a seated shower. Like with a walk-in tub, these showers give seniors a place to sit down while bathing. They’re ideal for those with balance issues or those who cannot confidently stand for long periods of time.
5. Add Non-Slip Mats
Tub and shower floors can get very slippery. Between soaps, shampoos and soap scum, it’s easy to lose your balance and slip. For seniors with balance and mobility issues, one minor slip can turn into a serious accident.
Some tubs have built-in non-slip surfaces, but even these can get slippery.
For added safety, add non-slip mats to tub and shower floors.
6. Widen Doorways
If you plan to remodel the bathroom with accessibility in mind – for now or in the future – consider widening the doorway. A conventional doorway, especially in an older home, is not wide enough for a wheelchair or walker to fit through.
When you widen the doorway, you’ll need to install a new door. Consider installing a pocket door, which slides in and out of the wall. These doors ensure that there are no obstacles getting into or out of the bathroom.
7. Install a Hand-Held Shower Head
Hand-held shower heads are ideal for seniors who use bath chairs. They give you more control over the water and allow seniors to bathe comfortably without having to stand up and adjust the direction of the shower head.
Many hand-held shower heads also have adjustable settings that allow for a spa-like experience while showering.
In many cases, these shower heads can be installed without having to do any serious remodeling.
8. Ditch the Clutter
A cluttered floor is a recipe for disaster. Make sure that the bathroom floors are clear of any clutter that might cause trips or falls – this includes rugs.
Throw rugs may look pretty, but they make the bathroom less safe.
Make sure that hampers, trash cans and other items are out of the way. The goal is to ensure that you have a clear walking path to the toilet and shower. Otherwise, those late-night bathroom trips can easily turn into a disaster.
9. Install Transfer Equipment
If grab bars aren’t enough to help with getting in and out of the shower, transfer equipment may be the best option.
Transfer benches or chairs have elongated seats that reach out over the edge. This allows senior to sit down and comfortably swing their legs into the bathtub to shower or bathe.
For seniors in wheelchairs, transfer equipment allows for more independence while improving bath safety.
10. Make Doors Easily Accessible
Doors should be easily accessible for the safety of seniors and to ensure access if a fall occurs. Pocket doors, as mentioned earlier, are a great option. But if these doors aren’t in the budget, there are a few things you can do to make the bathroom door more accessible.
- Install locks on both sides, so the door can be unlocked from the inside or outside if a fall occurs.
- Install doors that swing outward instead of inward. If someone falls against or near the door, an outward-swinging door makes it easy for rescue personnel to get inside and provide help.
Having an accessible door is important, so this is one renovation that’s worth the investment.
Bathroom safety is important, especially for seniors with mobility and balance issues. These tips can help make the bathroom safer while allowing seniors to maintain some of their independence.
11. Use a Bath Lift
If you enjoy taking baths, but have trouble getting in and out of a tub, then a bath lift is must. Bathtub lifts have seats that raise and lower your into and out of the tub so you don’t have to struggle pulling yourself up. These are stand-alone products so there is no need for costly renovations or installations. This is a simple solution that isn’t very expensive, but can make bath time enjoyable again. You can read our bathtub lift reviews here.
Allie has worked in care facilities for the last 15 years providing mobility and health care to seniors of all skill levels. She is passionate about senior advocacy and is and loves to spend her free time in the outdoors.