If you guessed the bathroom is the most dangerous place in an older adult’s home, you would be right. Think of the potential hazards lurking there. Slippery, wet surfaces combined with very few, if any, secure places to grab if you’re unsteady, and sharp vanity countertop corners make negotiating even a quick hand-washing a potentially unsafe action. Because falls have one of the highest rates of non-lethal injuries in the elderly, the bathroom multiplies the risks.
A recent article on EldercareABCblog cited a 2011 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study that found almost 200,000 people in the U.S. receive ER treatment each year due to a bathroom-related injury. But with safety and aging in place in mind, there are many easy fixes that will make the bathroom safer for seniors. Most changes are DIY projects that can be accomplished without hiring a professional or taking much time.
- Remove fall hazards – Remove small area rugs which are easy to trip over or slip on, causing a fall. Grab bars for walls beside the toilet and inside the shower are easy to install and very secure. Make sure they are positioned correctly so the senior is able to reach them.
- Improve lighting – Our vision dims as we age and night vision can worsen. Without adequate light, an older adult won’t see potential hazards. Although it may just take the installation of brighter bulbs, different fixtures might also be helpful. Be sure to have a nightlight in the bathroom and also in the hallway.
- Toiletries should be easily accessible – Keep shampoo and other bathroom items at eye level and within easy reach.
- Readjust hot water – Older skin can burn easily. Set the hot water temperature lower on the hot water heater gauge.
- Remove clutter – Take any non-essentials out of the bathroom. It’s a tight space and clutter makes an accident more likely.
- Install a walk-in shower – While not an inexpensive fix, a walk-in shower or bathtub that can accommodate a shower chair is a good safety measure. If not possible, removal of the shower doors allows better access.