How to make bathrooms safe for the elderly

It is widely recognised that elderly live-in care at home gives elderly people the best quality of life they can have, but the home can sometimes be a hazardous place, and bathrooms present particular risks. If your loved one needs dementia care or if they have problems with their mobility, they can have a higher risk of falls than average. Here are some of the ways you can make your loved one’s bathroom safer for them.

Regulate water temperature

Scalding can be a hazard for elderly people, who may have sensory impairments, reduced mobility or be unable to react quickly and appropriately to high water temperatures. You should ensure that bath and shower water does not exceed a temperature of 44°C if your loved one is vulnerable in this way.

Install grab rails

If your loved one has poor balance, they may have problems getting in and out of the bath. A common cause of accidents in the bathroom are caused by attempting to use a towel rail as a support when getting out of the tub, but considering towel rails are not designed for this use, they may collapse.

If your relative has sufficient upper body strength to use them, installing easily visible grab rails in a position where they need support can enable older people to maintain their own personal hygiene in the bathroom. Rails that are bolted to the wall are safer than those that rely on suction to keep them in position.

Consider a shower chair

If your loved one enjoys a shower but has balance problems, a shower chair can give them stability and make showering much more manageable. The shower chair you choose should have non slip rubber tips on its legs so that it cannot slide around. You can choose from a simple stool that can also be used in the bath or various designs of chair suitable for people with a range of mobility and health issues.

Install a walk-in bath

If your elderly relative enjoys relaxing in a warm bath but has problems getting in and out of it, a walk-in bath could be the answer. These baths have a door that opens and allows the user to walk in and sit down, rather than having to climb over the side as they would with a traditional tub. This can significantly reduce the risk of falls. Even if your loved one has 24-hour care, they will probably prefer to bath independently, and a walk-in bath can make this possible.

Guard against slips

Ideally, your loved one’s bathroom will have non-slip flooring, but if it does not, and you do not wish to replace the existing flooring, you can reduce the risk of falls on slippery tiles by having non-slip mats in areas that are likely to get wet. These include in front of the sink, toilet, bath and shower.

You should also ensure that there are non-slip mats on the base of the bath and shower, as falls here can cause serious injuries and are easily preventable with suitable non-slip mats.

Install a raised toilet seat

In elderly care facilities, toilet seats are often raised because so many older people have difficulty in lowering themselves down to sit on a toilet seat at the traditional height. If your loved one would find it easier to use a toilet with a seat three or four inches higher, you can easily install one of these for them.

Raised toilet seats are available at different heights, and if you are unsure which you need, a community nurse or occupational therapist may be able to advise you which would best suit your elderly relative.

Some seats have arms attached which help the person to lower themselves to a seated position, but it is also advisable to install a grab rail close to the toilet for additional support.

Rethink storage

Moving essential items to within easy reach when your loved one is in the shower or the bath will mean that they do not have to bend down or stretch to reach items such as soap or shampoo. You could mount a shower caddy on the wall to hold all the toiletries and accessories your loved one needs at an appropriate height for them.

Alternatively, dispensers for products such as soap and shampoo could be mounted on the wall to reduce clutter in the shower. These can easily be refilled when empty, either by your loved one or by their caregiver.

Change doors and lighting

Lighting and doors can also have an impact on bathroom safety. Inadequate lighting can contribute to falls if visibility is poor, so make sure that the bathroom is well lit. Halls may also need night lights for early morning loo trips.

Keep in mind that it may be possible to rehang the bathroom door so that it opens outwards. This would mean that caregivers would have easier access to the bathroom if your loved one did slip and fall against the door.

Consider a bath lift

If your loved one enjoys a bath but is unable to get in and out safely, you could install a bath lift to help them access the tub without risk of falling. Lifts can also help a carer to assist your loved one in the bath if they are unable to support their own weight. Various designs are available and they may be mechanical or electric.

There are many steps you can take to improve safety in your loved one’s bathroom and to enable them to retain their mobility and independence as much as possible. You could also consider installing a phone in the bathroom, so that your loved one could summon help in an emergency, or provide them with a waterproof call system that could also be used in other areas of the home.


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