Reduce the risk of accidents and injury in the bathroom
It’s hot and steamy. You’ve taken your glasses off. You’re barefoot, naked, and alone. Everywhere you step, you slip and slide. You’re surrounded by hard, slippery surfaces. It sounds like a scene from some strange, futuristic movie, but it’s actually what many older adults experience every day in their own bathrooms.
Make simple modifications to stay secure
It doesn’t require a lot of imagination to picture the hazards of the tub and shower. The floor is slick to begin with, and once it gets wet and covered with cleansers and conditioner, it can get as slippery as an ice rink. Add in the disorienting potential of heat, steam and reduced vision, and it’s easy to see why this is such a risky place for falls.
An easy first step to making the shower or tub safer is to cut down on the amount of slippery surface exposed. A secure bath mat is inexpensive and easy to use. Suction cups keep it from moving around in the shower, so it provides a secure surface, and also a bit of cushioning.
Grab on and stay steady
A University of Michigan study found that one-third of people aged 60 and older had difficulty getting in and out of the shower or tub. Many of these people tried to steady themselves by holding onto a towel rack or a shower door—neither of which is made to withstand that kind of weight and pressure. Relying on these kinds of makeshift supports day in and day out can weaken those structures and lead to exactly the kind of fall users are trying to avoid.
Installing a simple set of grab bars in the shower or tub is a much better way to help anyone feel more confident moving around the tub or shower area. Drive makes traditionally-mounted grab bars, no-drill-installation grab bars, and even several models of suction cup grab bars that can be moved from one bathroom to another or used while traveling.
The bathtub offers an additional problem—climbing over the edge of the tub itself can be difficult and presents a tripping hazard. A sturdy tub rail installs quickly and provides an easy-to use handle to prevent accidents while getting in or out of the bath.
For people who use wheelchairs, getting in and out of the tub is a challenge, and can be dangerous even with assistance—especially when one is slippery and wet. A transfer bench makes this transition much safer and easier, providing a gradual and secure way to move from wheelchair to tub without having to climb.
Accidents can happen during the simple act of bathing, too. Many people find themselves getting lightheaded or dizzy during a hot shower or bath, which can lead to loss of balance. Falling anywhere is dangerous, but falling in the bathtub is even more so, because of the hard surfaces and the risk of loss of consciousness and drowning. One way to avoid this risk is by using a shower stool or bath bench and a handheld shower head with an extra-long hose. These accessories make it easy to get clean while staying seated and safe.
Make the toilet more user-friendly
Many people with mobility issues have a hard time squatting down and rising off a low toilet, which can be embarrassing at best. But the opportunity for falls resulting in head injuries from hitting counters, tile floors, or even the toilet itself is no laughing matter. Manufacturers have realized this concern and many toilets today are higher off the ground than those of the past. Since installing a new toilet is no small job, Drive makes raised toilet seats that securely increase the effective height of the seat and can be easily removed. Several models even have removable arms for additional security.
Keep your cool at the sink
It only takes a moment of distraction to accidentally turn on the hot water instead of the cold and get scalded. Older adults often do not feel the heat as quickly, so they can be slower to move away from scalding water, and burns can be particularly dangerous to people with diabetes or poor circulation. Make sure the hot and cold taps are clearly marked, and keep the water heater set no higher than 120 degrees. Lever-type controls are easier to operate than round handles, so consider changing yours while you’re doing other bathroom renovations.
Make sure floors and doors are clear
Tile floors can get extremely slippery when wet, and many people use loose cotton bath rugs that can become a trip hazard. When you shop for a bath rug, flip it over and make sure it has a rubber backing to keep it from sliding around. And when you find one you like, buy two, so you can have one in the wash and still have a safe option out on the floor.
One final piece of advice is to leave the door unlocked while you use the bathroom, and if you have a portable or mobile phone, bring it in and leave it in a dry but reachable place. With careful safety planning, you’re much less likely to need assistance, but if you ever do, you’ll be able to call someone and they’ll be able to get in and help more quickly.