According to the Government of Canada, “Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians with 20-30% of seniors experiencing one or more falls each year.
Falls cause 85% of seniors’ injury-related hospitalizations, 95% of all hip fractures, $2 billion a year in direct healthcare costs, and over one-third of seniors are admitted to long-term care following hospitalization for a fall.”
Which is why we’ve put together a checklist of things to think about when it comes to implementing safety measures in one of the most-used places in the home: The bathroom. While it can be a source of rest and relaxation in terms of a soothing soak in the tub, it can also be a house of horrors if not properly set up for seniors! From all the “slippery when wet” surfaces to potential hazards, it’s a veritable minefield. For example, even the steam of a too-hot shower can cause lightheadedness and risk of fainting in those with low blood pressure.
Here are your best bets for senior-proofing your bathroom:
Make it slip-proof!
Bath mats that suction to the tub, as well as rugs with rubbing backing outside of it, add texture to potentially slippery tile and linoleum—as well as a slightly softer cushion in case there is a fall.
Install grab bars next to the toilet, in and out of the shower, and beside the tub. They will help you balance as you sit and stand, as well as give you something to literally grab onto as a source of support in case of slippage.
Good lighting can make a difference. If it’s dark, you increase the chances of walking into something or slipping. Having bright track lighting as well as nightlights for nighttime trips to the bathroom will increase your safety.
Consider a walk-in tub to get in and out with ease. Simply stepping over a tub edge can be treacherous for those who don’t have perfect balance, increasing the risk of a fall. Can’t install a brand-new tub? Consider a transfer bench, that sits half-in, and half-out of the tub.
Handheld shower heads (shower wands) will minimizes moment in the shower, and can even be used while seated. Need further assistance in the shower? Bathroom shower chairs offer respite in the shower that doesn’t have a built-in bench. Be sure to choose one that’s specific to showers, as it’ll be made from water-resistant materials that don’t rust or deteriorate.
OTHER WAYS TO STAY SAFE & KEEP YOU INDEPENDENT IN THE BATHROOM
Raised toilet seats with rails are especially beneficial to those with mobility issues, alleviating those with lower body strength issues.
Adequate storage. This goes for small electrical items such as hair dryers and electric razors away from water, as well as medications and toiletries (along with extra supplies like toilet paper!) clearly labeled and easy to access.
Always have a certified electrician install bathroom outlets, and perform routine safety checks to ensure all grab bars, towel racks, vanities, and mirrors are properly installed and secure.
Pre-set the water heater to avoid scalding-hot showers.
Keep it clear of clutter. Ensure the walking path between the toilet, sink, shower, and tub is free of clutter or extra furniture such as small shelves, etc. This can help prevent middle-of-the-night accidents and trips.
Keep a medical alert button in the bathroom that’s within reach.
Making the bathroom a safer place to be is just one way to give you, and your loved ones, a little bit more peace of mind. All of these are meant to keep you as independent as possible, for as long as possible!