The bathroom is one of the most dangerous areas in your house. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more than 235,000 individuals aged over 15 get sent to the emergency room for bathroom-related injuries. What’s worse is that an accident’s risk starts rising exponentially as one reaches the age of 65 and peaks at 85.
For teens and young adults, this just means they’ll have to be extra careful. However, for seniors and older adults, this risk could spell the difference between life, death, and long-term injuries.
If your aging loved ones plan on spending their days at home, you might want to consider renovating their current bathroom.
Focus on creating an efficient, functional space with as very few hazards as possible. Get rid of anything that might cause one to slip or fall, and install attachments that seniors can use to minimize damages in case of an accident.
7 Fixtures and Attachments to Make Any Residential Bathroom Safer
To start your renovation project, you’ll need to list out which attachments, fixtures, and installations you plan on using.
We highly encourage adding these to your senior relative’s bathroom:
1. Non-Slip Matting
The first issue you need to address is the wet, slippery flooring. Bear in mind that bathrooms can become very dangerous once the excess soap, water, shampoo, and conditioner pool up.
Younger individuals can easily prevent slipping just by walking slowly. However, seniors with poor balance and limited mobility will need some form of assistance.
A simple, efficient approach here is to install nonslip matting. Make sure to choose high-quality rubberized mats capable of supporting seniors that may have to use canes or walkers inside the bathroom.
Pro Tip: Never use non-rubberized mats. These will increase the risk of an accident rather than prevent it.
2. Bathtub Decals
Tub decals are cute little adhesives you attach onto bathtubs to make the surface less slippery. This is especially important since bathtubs tend to become more hazardous than shower areas once soap water pools up.
Make sure there are no gaps in between the decals when installing them. Even the smallest inch-wide spaces can lead to severe accidents for seniors with very limited mobility.
Pro Tip: Tub decals cannot replace non-slip matting. We encourage installing both of these items to ensure the bathtub is absolutely slip-proof.
3. Shower Chair
Grab bars, non-slip mats, and tub decals are great, but these may still not be enough for seniors with very limited mobility. If that’s the case, you can turn to shower chairs.
As the name suggests, these are portable chairs/stools that seniors can sit down on or grab for support while they are taking a shower.
There are dozens of variants on the market. They vary in size, material, durability, function, and physical features, among others, so make sure to explore all your choices.
4. Fixed Shower Tray
A fixed shower tray helps redirect water to the drainage. This prevents excess water from pooling up unnecessarily and spilling all over the bathroom flooring.
There are plenty of options on the market, but two of the most popular ones are stone resin and acrylic.
The prior is often more expensive, but it has a longer lifespan. Meanwhile, acrylic trays tend to be less durable, but they’re more affordable, and they still get the job done.
5. Grab Bars
There are generally two types of grab bars to choose from:
Mounted grab bars are permanently attached to the wall. You can install them in the shower area, near the toilet bowl, or just above the bathtub.
This is a more popular type of grab bar and is preferred for its overall durability and reliability. You’ll see these bars in many—if not all—senior- and PWD-friendly public comfort rooms.
The U-shaped bar is the type of grab bar you attach to the edge of a bathtub. It’s fairly simple to install. Note that while the U-shaped bar is durable, mounted grab bars are still far more reliable in the long run.
We suggest using U-shaped bars merely as additional support for getting in and out of the tub and not as a replacement to mounted grab bars.
6. Raised Toilet Seat
Studies show that conventional toilets can be quite hazardous for seniors with poor mobility. The mere act of standing up and sitting down on such a low fixture leaves plenty of room for accidents, especially if the floors are slippery.
A good, cost-efficient solution here is to install a raised toilet seat. This increases the height of the fixture thus reducing the force needed to stand up/sit down from it.
For maximum efficiency, go for options with pre-installed handles.
7. New Shower Tiles
Go for shower tiles made of bamboo, cork, and vinyl, as these are naturally water-resistant. Meanwhile, avoid options made of natural clay, porcelain, and ceramic. They might look elegant and are quite durable in the long run, but these tiles are incredibly slippery once they get wet.
Extra Tips to Make Bathrooms Safer for the Elderly
Creating a safe, senior-friendly bathroom goes beyond physical renovations. Here are some extra tips on how to ensure the bathroom your aging loved ones use is as safe and hazard-free as possible:
Clear a Path
Ideally, the path leading to the bathroom should be clear of furniture, appliances, or even fixtures that may cause one to lose balance, trip, and fall, among others.
Seniors should be able to get in and out of the bathroom without having to double-check every step they take.
Adjust Door Saddle Height
The door saddle is a very small sill—usually around less than an inch tall—at the bottom of the door.
These sills fill in the gap between the door and floor to prevent water from seeping out, seal in/keep out the heat, and secure the door properly when closing.
For younger adults, this half-an-inch sill on the floor will go unnoticed. However, for elders with mobility issues and use a walker for support, this small sill can trip them over.
Talk to a professional to determine whether there’s a way to get rid of the door saddle or replace it with a safer fixture for seniors with mobility and dexterity limitations. If not, advise your aging loved one to do a side step every time they enter the bathroom.
Widen Bathroom Entryway
Make sure the bathroom entryway is wide and large enough to accommodate seniors who use walkers and wheelchairs. One should be able to maneuver freely.
The elderly’s poor eyesight never goes well with dark bathrooms and pathways.
Just imagine how big of a disaster it’d be if one were to slip and fall down while the room was pitch black. Even if there were railings positioned on the walls, they wouldn’t be of use because the person involved in the accident won’t be able to see where they are.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, set up multiple nightlights along the pathway leading to the bathroom. They should turn on with a single tap on the switches to activate them and should be located somewhere your senior loved one can easily reach.
Position Bathroom on the First Floor
Generally, bedrooms and bathrooms for senior residents should be placed on the first floor. Remember: Even a few flights of stairs can seem like climbing a steep hill for those with mobility issues who rely on walkers and wheelchairs to get around.
Don’t Rely on Towel Racks
It’s very important that your senior loved one understands the dangers of using a towel rack for support.
It’s very fragile and was designed to carry towels, not the human body. Emphasize that grabbing onto these racks, even during emergencies, will only increase one’s risk of getting injured and hurt.
Consider Hiring a Caregiver
Do a full assessment of your senior relative to determine whether they need a caregiver to assist with their bathing or not. No amount of handrails and rubberized mats can beat the personalized care and security that a licensed and trained caregiver can provide.
Renovate the Bathtub
Bathtubs are like sitting death traps for the elderly. They have multiple edges, are difficult to get in/out of, pool soap water up, and are comparatively slippier than shower tiles.
Consider replacing your current tub with a safe, functional, and practical shower area.
However, if your senior loved one insists on having a bathtub in their home, at least opt for the walk-in version. This is an ergonomic tub equipped with swivel doors one can use to easily and safely get in and out of the tub.
Talk to their Doctor
Do not hesitate to consult with a medical professional when doing bathroom renovations. Ask them about the exact condition of your senior loved one, what their specific needs are, and if they are still capable of showering on their own.
How prone are seniors to slipping or falling?
Do not underestimate falls. Surveys show that more than three million seniors are sent to the hospital annually for emergencies related to falling accidents.
Bathroom accidents and seniors
Studies show that seniors are more at risk of bathroom accidents inside their own homes. Injuries sustained from these types of accidents range from minor muscle pains that need no treatment to severe head fractures that required emergency medical intervention.
Have you considered how you’ll get started on renovating your senior loved one’s bathroom? Share your plans with us in the comments section below!