Bathrooms are one of the most dangerous places for seniors. If you serve senior patients in their home or in a facility, use these tips to make it safer.
Serving senior patients well means understanding their world and its dangers. Whether you help a senior in their own home or work in a senior care facility, you need to consider what they want and what prevents them from having what they want.
Bathrooms are common roadblocks to senior safety and independence. Bathrooms are dangerous places where seniors can easily slip on water or fall bending over for a necessity. Knowing how to make bathrooms safer for senior patients is necessary if you want to eliminate these dangers so they can live fuller lives.
Bathrooms are often small spaces, which means it’s difficult to light them correctly. Most bathrooms either have too little light, creating confusing shadows and making it hard to see, or too much light, nearly blinding people. Improving the lighting so that the bathroom has no shadows, but no glare is necessary when caring for seniors.
Part of improving lighting is also considering how that lighting functions at night. Lighting that looks fine during the day may overwhelm a senior when they need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Placing several nightlights in the bathroom around necessary spots, such as the toilet and sink, can gently guide the senior where they need to go.
Use Non-Slip Mats
Improved lighting helps your senior patients see everything in their bathroom, including mats and rugs. Rugs are a major tripping hazard for seniors, but they’re often a necessity in the bathroom since bathrooms have tile floors. While rugs can prevent seniors from slipping and falling on those tile floors, they’re not helpful if they make them fall for a different reason.
Non-slip mats offer the cushion of rugs and can prevent slips without acting as a tripping hazard. These mats are thin and have non-slip backs, so seniors can’t catch their feet on them and go tumbling down. However, for additional safety, you should choose a non-slip mat color that contrasts with the floor color and stays visible through lighting changes. For example, a black non-slip mat will stand out against a white floor, but seniors may struggle to see it in the dark. A bright blue mat is a much better alternative.
Raise or Lower Storage
There are many necessary products within a bathroom other than the appliances. People need soap, toothpaste, towels, and toilet paper, among other toiletries. Storing these items in the bathrooms keeps them easily accessible for everyone, including seniors—unless they’re stored up high or down low. Reaching up high or bending down low can cause anyone, especially seniors, to lose their balance and fall. Falling is the worst fear of many seniors who fear that they’ll never recover if they break a bone.
Raising or lowering storage can prevent this fear from cropping up. If there’s lots of storage space available at shoulder height for the senior, place all their items on those levels. You can store additional items in those high or low spots if you trust the senior to leave them alone, or store those items elsewhere to remove temptation.
Install Extra Seating
One of the most important parts of a bathroom is the tub or shower. Since many seniors experience mobility issues, they can no longer get in and out of a tub alone or stand long enough for a shower. Installing extra seating can help them maintain a level of independence while staying safe while they bathe.
Bath and shower chairs allow seniors to sit while taking a bath or shower. If the senior is already sitting in a wheelchair or needs constant support from a walker, they may want to use a transfer chair. With a transfer chair, the senior sits on one side outside of the bath or shower and can then slide themselves into the bath or shower if they’re strong enough to do so. Weaker seniors may need assistance with transfer chairs, but they still provide independence and safety.
Switch to Handheld Showerheads
Once in the shower on a chair or on their feet, you don’t want seniors straining to reach the showerhead. This creates another slip-and-fall hazard that the new storage and extra seating aim to eliminate. Handheld showerheads are easy to disconnect, and seniors can easily place them exactly where they need them or simply hold them while they shower.
Seniors prefer handheld showerheads not only because they’re safer but also because they provide additional water settings. Since many of them experience some kind of pain from a health issue or simply due to aging, warm water can help alleviate that pain. Switching settings on their showerhead to better control that warm water and alleviate pain is an added bonus to the safety of these showerheads.
Add Grab Bars and Rails
For seniors who can stand in the shower and bath, grab bars can help provide extra safety and assistance. The floors of showers, tubs, and even bathrooms get slick after running hot water. Even if there’s a non-slip mat waiting on the bathroom floors, seniors don’t want to risk falling while stepping out of the shower or bath. Adding grab bars around the shower and tub area gives more mobile seniors who don’t need transfer chairs the safety and independence they need.
Grab bars and rails can help seniors get on and off the toilet with similar ease and safety. If they experience balance or mobility issues and can’t lower themselves onto or lift themselves off of the toilet on their own, then grab bars and rails can provide additional support.
Although bathrooms are often dangerous for senior patients, you can make them safer and help maintain patient independence and confidence. Many of these updates and changes are easy to do on your own or with assistance.
If your patient or the facility you work in needs supplies to make these changes, Rice Village Medical Supply is happy to help. We can provide toilet safety rails, as well as other medical equipment that allows your patients to live full, happy lives.
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