As we grow older, our once safe home environments often begin to create safety risks. Many of us have read the frightening statistics that reinforce the importance of bathroom safety. A large number of falls that happen to senior citizens take place in their own bathroom. Falls can be more dangerous in the bathroom because floors are typically tile and not carpet that may help to cushion the impact. There are also more objects in closer proximity for older adults to hit their head on if they go down including the toilet, the side of the tub and the bathroom vanity. For the 1,361,530 Michiganders who are age 65 or older, we offer the following tips to create a safer bathroom:

  • Consider adding a panic button with a long cord to the wall of your senior loved one’s bathroom. That will allow them to call for help if they fall or otherwise run in to trouble while they are in there. If that isn’t feasible, make sure they have a waterproof medical alert pendant they can wear in the shower.
  • Take a close look at how their bathroom is set up. Are items they use most frequently within easy reach? If not, try to re-arrange the room. The goal should be to keep them from having to climb on a step ladder or reach too far over their head to retrieve an item. Either situation could cause them to lose their balance and fall.
  • Try to renovate their bathroom to create a walk-in shower that doesn’t require them to step over the side of the tub. For less than steady older adults, that can cause a fall.
  • Remove older sliding glass doors. For someone with a physical impairment or poor balance the doors often become something to grab on to for support getting in and out of the tub. Most sliding doors were not made for that kind of use and may break.
  • Raise the height of their toilet seat if necessary. A raised toilet seats is inexpensive and easy to install. You can even find them at your local pharmacy.
  • Install sturdy grab bars in place of towel bars. Another common source of bathroom falls for seniors is when they try to use the towel bar to leverage themselves with and it pulls out of the wall.
  • Be sure they have good lighting in the bathroom and nightlights that illuminate their path to it after dark.

If you are concerned that your loved one’s home needs to be evaluated for safety by a professional, talk with their primary care physician. They can probably help you find a physical therapy company in your area that offers that service.

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