Most of us don’t think twice about sitting on the toilet, climbing in and out of the tub, or walking through the bathroom, even in the dark. We don’t worry about the water getting too hot – we just turn the tap to a cooler setting.
Unfortunately, seniors may not navigate the bathroom with the same ease they once did. With aging comes a slew of issues that could lead to safety concerns in the bathroom.
Muscle weakness and slowing reflexes could be to blame for slips, trips, and falls, as well as trouble stepping over the threshold to the tub or shower. Waning senses of sight and touch could require additional illumination or extra caution when setting the water temperature.
If you need to make your bathrooms safe for seniors in your home or elderly relatives that visit frequently, here are a few ways to reduce risk factors.
Hard flooring often found in bathrooms can be slippery in and of itself, but when you add rugs, the potential for slips and trips could become even more pronounced. If you insist on rugs and bath mats, at least choose options with a rubber backing that are less likely to slip under a misstep. In truth, you may be better off simply removing rugs and even installing non-slip tread to ensure the greatest possible safety.
Your walls are unlikely to pose a safety risk to seniors, but you could use them to make your space safer by adding handrails for extra support. These can be added around the toilet to assist seniors that have trouble sitting and standing.
They can also be placed around tubs or in shower stalls to minimize the risk of slipping and falling. You needn’t necessarily add railing all the way around the bathroom, but it is an option for seniors that have trouble walking on their own.
As discussed, railings could make a huge difference for tub/shower safety, and you could also place rubber tread in the bottom for added grip. You can go a step further, though, by doing away with tall thresholds that are difficult for some seniors to maneuver.
If you have a tub that is hard to get in and out of, there are a couple of options. One is to simply pull the tub and add a shower stall that’s easier to get in and out of. You could still keep a tub, however, by upgrading to a walk-in model. Don’t forget to add a sturdy shower stool or bench for extra support as needed.
Illumination is essential for seniors to safely use the bathroom, so make sure to install high-wattage light bulbs or even add lighting, especially in the tub/shower area. You could also use nightlights to ensure safe trips to and from the bathroom during the night.
Just because tactile sensation can begin to wane with age doesn’t mean seniors aren’t just as susceptible to scalding from hot water, even if they can’t necessarily feel it at the time. For this reason, it’s important to set your water heater temperature no higher than 120 degrees (F) to avoid burns.