Dear Donna,

Our mom still lives in her own home and usually does just fine on her own. However, her bathroom has not been updated in years, and we’re worried about her slipping and falling in the shower. She also has arthritis that has made it more difficult to bathe.

Are there other safety issues we should look for in her bathroom? How can we reduce her safety risks and make her more comfortable?

Sincerely,

Janice Bauer, Holland, MI

Keeping Bathrooms Safe for Seniors

Dear Janice,

It’s understandable that you are concerned about your mom’s safety in the bathroom. Hospital emergency departments treat 2.8 million older adults every year for fall injuries. Many of these falls happen in the bathroom and are due to hazards like slippery floors.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to reduce your mom’s risk of falling in the bathroom, as well as other possible safety issues. Do a thorough safety check of her bathroom and determine which precautions are necessary.

Here are some things to look for when you’re checking your mom’s bathroom, including how you can make it safer for her.

Senior Bathroom Safety Issues to Look For

Floors:

  • Tubs or showers should have non-slip surfaces; add floor mats or non-skid appliques to avoid sliding on the tub floor.
  • Bathroom floors should have a textured surface or have non-skid carpet or rugs.
  • A bath bench can reduce the need to stand in the shower and can help with getting in and out of the tub.

Lighting:

  • Does the bathroom have sufficient, even lighting?
  • Light switches should be easily accessible near the door.
  • Make sure burned-out light bulbs are changed.

Doors:

  • Bathroom doors should open outward.
  • Doorways should be wide enough to accommodate any mobility devices, such as walkers.
  • Shower doors should be made of safety glass or plastic.

Fixtures:

  • Consider installing lever handles on sinks and showers, which can help seniors with arthritis and stiff joints.
  • If the shower head is difficult to reach, install a shower head attachment.
  • Consider a walk-in bathtub to make bathing easier.
  • If the toilet is too low, a higher toilet or a seat extender can make use easier.
  • Install grab bars near the shower and toilet; a tension pole is another option.
  • Towel racks and other shelving are not substitutes for grab bars, but they should still be installed sturdily.
  • Consider installing a telephone in the bathroom, reachable from the floor, if your mom falls and must call for help.

Miscellaneous:

  • Toiletries and towels should be easy to reach and should not require seniors to stretch and reach too far; keep items convenient with additional shelves or water-resistant baskets.
  • Do the outlets prevent electric shock?
  • Is there sufficient heat and ventilation?
  • Set hot water heater to 120 degrees F to avoid scalding.
  • Insulate any exposed water pipes or wiring.

I hope these tips help you create a safer bathroom for your mother!

Kind regards,

Donna

Offering Safe Senior Care

Family-owned Heritage Senior Communities focuses on providing quality senior housing and licensed assisted living. Contact us today to ask questions or schedule a tour at one of our locations, such as Appledorn Assisted Living community in Holland.