Bathrooms are the most common places in the house where slips and accidents happen. They're also one of the rooms that we use the most on a day-to-day basis.
If you have a mobility disability, going to the bathroom may seem like a scary task, but trust me - there's nothing to worry about. You can modify your bathroom to make it safe and enjoyable, and in doing so, you'll maintain control of your independent lifestyle.
In this guide, we'll discuss several mobility aids that can be used to transform your bathroom. By the end of it, you'll have a better understanding of bathroom safety practices that can also be implemented in other areas of your house as well.
Bathroom Safety for Seniors – Common Problems Encountered by Seniors
As people age, everyday tasks such as grooming, bathing, and toileting may become tiring and more difficult to manage for many different reasons, including mobility issues or conditions such as arthritis, dementia, or muscle weakness.
Dimming eyesight may also be a reason to misjudge a dangerous wet floor, and some medications or low blood pressure can cause dizziness, making some seniors more prone to falls. Here are some of the most common bathroom safety issues for older people:
Bathroom Fall Prevention – Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors
The best thing about preventing falls in the bathroom for seniors is that a few simple pieces of safety equipment in any bathroom can make a huge difference.
Thinking about each section of the restroom the older person will use and how to make that safer can make it easier not to miss needed safety equipment to include. Ensure that grab bars or grip handles are positioned where the older adult needs them most.
Bathroom Safety Equipment for the Elderly
Here, we’ve grouped the necessary bathroom safety items you’ll need into tub, shower, and toilet sections for easy reference.
Bathtub Safety Equipment
If you’re able to do a senior bathroom remodel, the safest bathtub is a walk-in tub since it’s made to be easily accessible. If you have only a standard bathtub, there are still many equipment options to make it much safer for seniors to use.
Bathtub Handles/Grab Bars
The best grab bars for bathtubs don’t have to be expensive to create safer bathing. They start at just $15. You can choose between vertical, horizontal, or combo grab bars for wall options, and if drilling is an issue, there are suitable suction varieties. The important thing with the suction grab bars for walls is that you must have a smooth, not textured, wall surface.
Along with wall-mounted grab bars around the tub, a sturdy handle grip that fits securely on the tub rim or rail is a must for bathroom safety for seniors who use a bathtub. These clamp onto the tub rail and must be placed tightly for safety. Priced at around $33, a good metal bathtub rail grab bar may help seniors get in and out of the tub more safely.
Bathtub Lift Chair
Bathtub lift chairs are battery-powered seats with a backrest. They gently raise the bather into and out of the tub with the hand control and have a price range between $375-$1000.
Bath stairs refer to a safety step product. Typically, there is just one step with an extended handle on one side that serves as a sturdy grab bar. The step is covered in non-skid material and is of a height to shorten the distance needed to step over a bathtub edge.
Bath pillows that support the head, neck, and upper back and stay securely in place can help seniors enjoy a safer and more comfortable bath. They range in cost from $13-$46 depending on whether their design is basic or more luxurious.
A walk-in tub is a bathtub that is easily accessible thanks to a door type of entry and exit. These tubs also have higher seats that allow the bather to enjoy a deep soak. Typical safety features include grip handles and an extra-wide door. The price depends on whether there are extra features such as hydrotherapy jets, but an average range for these tubs is between $4,700-$11,000+. (Medicaid or Medicare Part C Advantage plans may help pay for senior walk-in tubs.) Link to internal articles.
While a non-skid mat outside the bathtub is necessary, one or two inside the tub can provide extra fall prevention. As an easier-clean option to the suction-cup tub mats, loofah type PVC textured mats allow water to drain right through while offering a non-skid texture.
Shower Safety Equipment
A shower level with the bathroom floor is the best for accessibility, but if that isn’t possible, there are ways to make a standard threshold or low threshold shower safer for seniors. All shower areas for older adults should include easy-to-use equipment with safety in mind.
As with the bathtub, non-skid mats can be added to the inside of the shower, not just on the outside. The best options are padded or textured mat types that prevent slipping, add comfort to the feet, and let water drain.
Shower Handles/Grab Bars
Where to position grab bars and handles in the shower can be confusing. This video by Kohler includes some excellent tips for locations. The bars should be installed appropriately where the senior will naturally reach out to hold onto, whether vertically or horizontally.
Shower Transfer Benches
As the name suggests, shower transfer benches help bathers move in and out of the shower. These benches range in price from $125-$225 and provide bathroom safety for seniors in various ways.
First, these are long, sturdy, and adjustable benches suitable for stretching the legs out if needed. Second, part of the bench length typically includes a supportive backrest. Third, they have at least one grab bar.
Shower chairs fit in a bathtub or shower for seated bathing, along with a showerhead. Some are simple in design and don’t have armrests, while other models have armrests, extra back support, and a larger seat with grab handles. The price range for these chairs is about $40-$150.
A showerhead works with a shower chair for senior showers. Prices vary widely, but it’s best to focus on the details before choosing one since the showerhead’s weight can make a difference in comfort for an older person. Also, a long or cheap cord that becomes crimped or twisted may block water flow and make trying to shower very frustratingly and tiring.
An accessible shower is as level with the bathroom floor as possible to allow water drainage. It also contains grab bars and allows for transition from a wheelchair, walker, or shower transfer bench. Like walk-in-tubs, prices are in the thousands, and Medicaid or Medicare Part C Advantage plans may help with the cost.
Toilet Safety Equipment
The toilet area for a senior to use should be easily accessible and have safety grab bars and toilet rails. Toilet paper should be within convenient reach.
Toilet Handles/Grab Bars
A toilet paper holder with a grab bar is an excellent space-saver in even the tiniest bathroom. There should always be some type of grab handle situated for the senior to use when sitting down on and getting up from the toilet as this can prevent falls.
Toilet Safety Rails
Toilet safety rails consist of a sturdy metal frame with handles. These items fit around the toilet, so there is a grab handle on either side. They range in price from about $30.00-$140.00
Much like a power lift recliner chair works, toilet lifts incline and lower to gently get a person down to the toilet seat, then back up again. Many of these are under $1000 and may be called toilet risers, but they are powered and not the same as a regular raised toilet seat.
Raised Toilet Seats
Raised toilet seats are regular toilet seats except they are several inches larger in height to make it easier for seniors and others with mobility problems to sit on and get up from. They typically fit onto the existing toilet seat although some attach to the top of the bowl. The average price for a raised toilet seat without handles is $25 and the varieties with a handle on each side run about $40.
Toilet stools or chairs are portable commodes with a sturdy metal frame that holds a removable container in the center. The cost varies for these portable toilets depending on whether there are arms, a backrest, or other features. Toilet stools are used bedside by bedridden seniors when they can’t access a bathroom.
Wipe Assist Tools
Designed for use while seated on a toilet or commode, wipe assist tools hold disposable wipes on one end of a long plastic handle that has a grip for holding onto on the other side. Once the wipe is used, a release button pushed at the top of the grip releases the used wipe into the toilet. These toilet personal hygiene tools start at about $8.
7 Tips for Making a Seniors’ Bathroom Safe & Accessible
Shower chairs are ideal for seniors who have difficulty standing for a long time. They provide balance and stability, and they also give you the chance to rest while you’re taking a shower. The best shower chairs come with rubber tips that prevent the chair from sliding around. This can reduce your risk of injury and create a safe showering experience. There are several types of shower chairs available. They include:
Safety rails/safety frame
Toilet Safety Rails - Courtesy of Medical Products Direct/Yahoo Images
Toilet safety rails provide superior support to make it easier to get on and off the toilet. These rails can either be installed free-standing around the toilet, or they can be mounted to it. Toilet rails come in a vast number of styles and designs, and they are a very helpful mobility tool add to your renovated senior-safe bathroom.
In addition to toilet rails, you can also install grab bars around the toilet. Setting up guard rails can compensate for having a toilet that’s too low to the ground. Plus, they ensure a safe and secure way to comfortably get on and off the toilet.
Raised toilet seat
Elevated Toilet Seat With Legs - Courtesy of Medical Supply Depot
Raised toilet seats make it easier for seniors who have very little arm and leg strength to sit down on the toilet. A raised toilet seat will give you about 3 to 4 extra inches of height to keep you from squatting and putting too much strain on your legs. They can also prevent you from having a bad fall. Having a raised toilet seat can greatly help people who have a mobility disability and keep them living an independent lifestyle.
Also, by reducing the distance to the seat, raised toilets can assist caregivers in helping you sit on the toilet. If they come with arm guards, that’s even better! Arms guard add an extra layer of safety and stability when getting up and sitting down, and they help you maintain your balance.
A toilet stool is designed to prop up your feet while you’re having a bowel movement to promote good posture while you’re using the bathroom. The point of this is to replication the position of an actual squat. Using a toilet stool boosts your knees above your hips, and this allows your colon to extend fully and creates a natural-feeling bowel movement.
For people who are short, toilet stools can serve as a stepping stool to help you safely sit on the seat. They come in different heights, so they’re suitable for people and toilets of different sizes.
Wipe assist tools
As we get older, everyday tasks become more challenging - even simple activities like using the bathroom. Wiping tools are revolutionary personal hygiene devices that making wiping yourself easier and time-efficient. They provide independence, comfort, and confidence to people who, otherwise, dread going to the bathroom. There are several types of wiping aids available. They include:
A commode chair is a portable toilet that can sit at your bedside if you have difficulty making it to the bathroom. Speaking from personal experience, I believe that commode chairs are a must-have mobility aid if you have a mobility disability. After I had surgery, I was prescribed a commode chair because my bathroom was too small for me to comfortably use it without being in pain. Also, before I got the chair, I needed assistance going to the bathroom. Once I had my commode, life was so much easier.
Commode chairs can help you regain your confidence and independence. Additionally, having a commode chair can lower your risk of falls. For caregivers, commode chairs can make it easier to help your patient use the bathroom. Keep in mind that if you have a commode chair, you will have to clean it after every use. There are several types of commode chairs available. They include:
As it was previously mentioned, transfer benches make it easy to get in and out of the tub without the risk of hurting yourself. Most transfer benches have a non-slip surface with rubber padding on the feet to keep you from slipping and sliding. Additionally, there should be drainage holes in the surface of the seat to prevent dirt-buildup and help the chair dry. Also, transfer benches typically have an armrest as an added measure of safety.
There are also sliding transfer benches that are designed for seniors with very limited mobility or sensitive skin. These devices make it even easier to get in and out of the tub. The seat slides so that you don’t have to work as hard to get out of the tub, and it eliminates the risk of you tearing skin while you move.
Bath lift aids
Bath lifts are remote-operated seats that you lower you into the bathtub, and once you’re done bathing, they easily lift you out of the tub. They’re perfect for seniors with limited mobility and people who have an injury that prevents them from moving freely. Bath lifts come in a wide assortment of styles and designs, but there are only four types to choose from. They include:
Bath steps are a secure platform that helps you get into the tub. You can use them as a stand-alone mobility aid, or you can use them in combination with other helpful tools. Effectively, bath steps lessen the distance between the floor and your tub, thus minimizing the effort it takes to get inside the bath.
Grab bars are useful if you have an injury, limited mobility, poor balance, or a toilet that’s too low to the ground. When I had my surgery, I would rely on the towel rack to help me out of the shower, and I learned the hard way that towel racks are not meant to support your body weight.
Grab bars are, and they can be mounted anywhere in your bathroom. Also, if you have quick reflexes, grab bars can be used as something sturdy to grab onto if you’re falling. This does require that you have a decent amount of arm and shoulder strength.
We hope this guide inspires you with ideas for bathroom safety for seniors to prevent falls and make daily living easier for the elderly. Preventing falls and using the bathroom safely can bring seniors peace of mind and greater independence.