According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there are more than 3 million fall-related accidents among elderly people each year in the U.S.
Bathroom injuries are extremely common, especially among older adults. If you want to reduce the number of accidents seniors suffer at home, improving bathroom safety should be one of your first steps.
Fortunately, you can prevent most falls and significantly reduce the number of hazardous situations by taking some simple precautions.
In this article, I will share with you all the best tips that will help you to prevent accidents and improve bathroom safety for seniors.
Most of them are easy to implement and don’t require too much time or any special skills. With only a few changes you can prevent many falls and injuries and make the bathroom a much safer place for the elderly.
So, how can you improve bathroom safety for seniors? Here are some of the best ways:
- Use non-slip rugs and treads on slippery surfaces
- Install safety grab bars around the tub or shower and the toilet
- Switch to faucet handles that are easy for seniors to turn
- Use an anti-slip solution to make tiles less slippery
- Install medical alert buttons in the bathroom
- Use a toilet seat riser
- Consider getting a bathtub safety chair or a bathtub transfer bench
And now, let’s see the details:
1. Use Simple Bathroom Safety Products to Avoid Falls
Make the Floor Less Slippery
Bathroom floors can often become extremely slippery when wet. Water puddles are usually hard to notice for seniors and can cause unexpected accidents.
Let’s see how you can make the bathroom floor less slippery:
- One option to avoid slips is to replace all your rugs in the bathroom with slip-proof, rubber-backed ones. This simple step can significantly reduce the chance of a sudden fall in most cases.
- Rugs sometimes can be a tripping hazard if they’re not attached properly to the floor. If your rugs are loose and unsecured, it’s better to remove them all from the bathroom. Instead, you can install some anti-slip treads on the floor. Although they’re inexpensive items, anti-slip treads can make your slippery floor much safer.
- Another option is to use an anti-slip solution to make your tiles less slippery. This is a great way to make your tiles much safer without using any rugs or treads. There are many different anti-slip solutions available on the market, Stone Grip is the one I tried and was effective for me. I shared my experiences and some useful tips in this article.
Make the Shower and the Bathtub Non-Slip
It’s also very important to prevent slips inside the bathtub and the shower. For this purpose, I recommend that you use a bathtub or a shower safety mat.
These mats have an adhesive surface and they significantly reduce the risk of slipping inside the tub or shower. It’s important that you place the safety mat on a clean surface otherwise the suction cups won’t attach to the surface of the shower or tub properly.
Make sure you purchase a safety mat that is long enough, as you want it to cover most of the surface of the bathtub or the shower. It’s even better if it’s mold-resistant too.
Always make sure to remove any soap remnant after showering because it can make the mat extremely slippery and increase the risk of an unexpected fall.
If you want to prevent falls at home, don’t forget to check out our article on fall prevention with many helpful tips.
We’ve collected 70+ important home safety rules in this article.
2. Install Sturdy Safety Grab Bars
Older people generally have weaker muscles thus it’s harder for them to maintain their balance during showering or using the toilet without any aid.
Unfortunately, in most bathrooms, there are not many things to grab when a senior is about to fall.
By installing grab bars (or safety handles) around the toilet and the bathtub you’ll get extra support and the bars will also make getting into and out of the bathtub much easier. Grab bars also improve shower safety by providing firm support for seniors when it’s needed. I could mention so many cases when a well-placed grab bar prevented an accident.
After installing a grab bar, always check and test it for stability.
Portable safety handles can be a good solution when you don’t want to drill through tiles. They’re also very useful when you want to make a bathroom safer for just a temporary period.
As an alternative to a grab bar, you can install a floor-to-ceiling security pole beside the bathtub or the toilet. It can be an extremely helpful bathroom aid for seniors with balance issues. Many of the available security poles are easy to assemble and they usually come with additional grab bars to further improve safety. Some of them can be installed and removed without tools, so future relocation is an easy task.
When purchasing, look for models that are adjustable and have a high weight capacity.
Below you can find a video on how you can install a safety grab bar properly:
3. If Standing Is Too Tiring, Use a Bathtub Safety Chair
Besides handles, you can also use a safety chair to provide additional support when it’s needed.
Standing during showering can be exhausting for many elderly people, and they usually prefer sitting as it’s a much more comfortable position.
For them, a bathtub safety seat or chair can be the difference between a delightful shower and an unpleasant experience. For those seniors who are wheelchair-bound, it’s an essential assistive device.
The height of most safety chairs is adjustable, and many of the models also have a back. The chair itself can be made of plastic or metal, however, if you choose one that’s made of metal, make sure it’s corrosion-proof. Anyway, go for a model with a non-slip seat and legs.
Lack of Space? Try a Portable Bathtub Bench
When you have limited space, instead of a bathtub chair you can opt for a small portable bathtub bench. Usually, it’s adjustable according to the width of the tub. It has no back but it can be just as comfortable as a bathtub chair. Some models even come with a built-in soap dish. It’s a reasonable choice for traveling purposes too.
Don’t forget that you’ll need to install a handheld showerhead in order to make showering in a sitting position really comfortable.
4. Place Commonly Used Items Within Reach
This one is a simple yet powerful way to improve bathroom safety and it doesn’t cost a penny. We all know that unnecessary bending and stretching increase the risk of falling.
You can prevent many hazardous situations and make seniors’ life so much easier by keeping the shower gel, soap, shampoo, toilet paper, and other commonly used items in an easily accessible place.
It’s a good idea to have the bathroom items always at the same place because for elderly people it’s more difficult to adapt to a changing environment.
5. Make Getting in and out of the Bathtub Safer
Bathtub Transfer Bench
For older people, it can be considerably harder to get in and out of the bathtub by themselves. Transfer benches can be especially helpful if somebody can’t lift the leg up over the edge of the bathtub.
It’s an essential item for wheelchair-bound people. A bathtub transfer bench has four legs, two of them have to be placed inside the tub, and the other two legs rest outside. It allows the user to get into and out of the tub in a sitting position.
Before buying, make sure that all four legs of the chosen model are adjustable. This feature will allow you to set the height of the transfer bench according to your needs. Also, don’t forget to check the load capacity of the bench.
U-shaped Safety Rail
It’s similar to a grab bar, but it has a U shape and it’s installed on the side of the tub. Both removable and permanent U-shapes safety rails exist. They’re especially useful when some help is needed to stand up after bathing or to get out of the bathtub. Make sure you choose a model with adjustable height.
Portable Bath Step
This safety tool helps seniors feel secure when getting in and out of the bathtub and prevents losing their balance. Some models come with a handrail to further enhance safety.
If you struggle to get out of the bathtub, read our article on how you can do that safely and easily.
6. Using a Toilet Seat Riser Can Really Make a Difference for Seniors
If a toilet bowl is too low, it can be difficult for older people to sit down and get up from it.
Toilet seat risers usually provide a 3-4 inch rise. It may not sound a lot but it’s just enough to make the toilet much more comfortable and safer for seniors.
You can choose from different types of toilet seat risers: some models can be attached underneath the original toilet seat, others should be attached on the top of it. Many of them are height adjustable and are available with or without arm supports.
Transferring on and off a traditional toilet is especially difficult for wheelchair-bound older people, so for them, toilet seat risers are essential.
7. Switch to Faucet Handles That Are Easy for Seniors to Turn
Trying to turn a stuck faucet handle can easily result in losing balance, especially in the case of older people who have weaker muscles. That’s why it’s so important to have handles that are easy to turn without any straining.
It doesn’t always require a plumber to fix your faucet handles. If you like DIY and have the necessary tools at home, you can easily fix stuck handles in under an hour. However, it’s a good idea to collect some information before you begin to disassemble the faucet. On this page, you can find some simple, straightforward instructions.
8. Install Medical Alert Buttons
If your elderly loved ones have a portable medical alert button, make them remember to always bring it with them to the bathroom. There are some models that are waterproof, in which case they don’t have to worry that the alert button gets wet.
If your loved ones don’t have any portable medical alert button, consider installing a fixed one in the bathroom so that in case of emergency they can ask for help immediately.
We have a whole article on medical alert watches with many useful tips. Make sure you check it out before buying.
More Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors
- Older people often have some kind of vision impairment, so make sure lighting is adequate in the bathroom and around the bathtub or shower. It’s a good idea to install automatic night lights along the way to the bathroom.
- Make it very clear and visible which handle is for the cold and which one is for the hot water. By keeping hot water temperature lower you can reduce the risk of burning.
- If you have the budget, consider replacing the bathtub with a walk-in shower or a walk-in tub. Getting into them is considerably easier, even without any additional help.
- For further safety, you can purchase non-slip socks for your elderly loved ones.
- Never use towels instead of non-slip rugs. They can easily slide on the tile and can be a tripping hazard.
- Always keep the floor dry. A wet floor is dangerous for everyone but especially for people with balance issues. Always make sure to wipe the water off the floor if it gets wet.
- Unplug all electric devices when not in use.
- If your shower door is made of glass, consider replacing it with a plastic door or a shower curtain which are much safer choices.
- Always keep chemical products in their original containers.
Where should I install safety grab bars, what are the best places?
The best places would be in and around the shower/bathtub and next to the toilet. If it’s necessary, you can also install one beside the bathroom door.
What temperature should I set the thermostat on the hot water heater to prevent burns?
According to experts if you set it to 115-120°F you can avoid severe burns. However, you should know that when using a heater tank, setting the temperature below 135-140°F can lead to bacteria growth (e.g. Legionella pneumophila that could cause severe pneumonia) inside the tank.
The solution could be a tempering valve that mixes hot water with cold water right at the outlet of the tank so you can set high temperatures without the risk of burning.
Can a sturdy towel bar be used instead of a grab bar?
The answer is a big no. Do not even think about it! Towel bars are not designed to hold a person’s weight, even the sturdiest ones will most likely break. It’s just not worth the risk.
The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in your home concerning falls and injuries. However, by taking some precautions and using a few bathroom safety products you can make any bathroom a considerably safer place.
Before you make any changes, always share your ideas with your elderly loved ones and take their suggestions and needs into consideration. Asking about their problems and wishes will lead to better solutions.
Many seniors prefer staying in their homes and aging in place. By providing them with a safe environment they can live more independently which is one of the most important goals.