The bathroom is a dangerous place. Over 80% of all falls occur there, and the elderly are most likely to be the victims. Particularly due to the presence of sharp objects (faucets, for example) in the bathroom, these falls can also be very dangerous. While there are standards in place for baby-proofing the home, there aren’t any for making the bathroom safer for the elderly. However, there are several steps you can take to do so. Here are a few of them:
1. Install grab bars
Most Indian bathrooms are fitted with towel bars, but these cannot endure body weight. Instead, install grab bars strategically (the shower area and the toilet seat) to help support balance. Also, avoid the ones with the gloss finish to ensure they’re slip resistant. Bolted on bars are preferred over suction cup bars for durability. A tension pole is a good alternative, in case retailers in your area do not have grab bars.
2. Use a shower chair
For an elder with difficulty in balancing and standing for long periods of time, shower benches are an ultimate stability tool. A quality shower chair comes with rubber tips on the legs to prevent sliding, while others have armrests, suction cups and height adjustment options.
3. Deploy non-slip mats
A bathroom is a slippery area. Stepping on to a towel while heading out of a shower is even worse – the towel can easily slide away, leading to a fall. To avoid this, get non-slip mats and adhesive strips. The mats must be placed at the entrance of bathrooms, in front of toilets and right outside to the shower area. Slip resistant tiles are costlier, but, of course, safer as they are placed across the bathroom floor.
4. Raise the toilet seat
Simple tasks such as getting on and off the toilet seat can be challenging for the aged. Due to lack of strength and balance they may have difficulties lowering themselves down to sit on a low seat and rising up to a standing position. Elevating the height of the toilet seat ensures that their knees remain straight and stable, thereby reducing the risk of falling.
5. Store toiletries within reach
Elders should be able to access all toiletries without having to stretch or bend. Install a cabinet by the shower area and incorporate a soap dispenser on the wall of the shower. This way, you won’t have to worry about shower gel bottles or bar soaps slipping from their hands during use.
6. Improve lighting
Is the pathway from the bed to the bathroom dark? A poorly lit pathway can cause severe accidents. Also, overhead lightings are a bad idea as they cast shadows and do not illuminate certain spaces. A better option is to add multiple lights so that all areas of the bathroom receive light uniformly. Additionally, use contrast colors to demarcate different sections of the bathroom. Instead of high-gloss vanishes, choose matte since former may cause a confusing glare.
7. Outward swinging bathroom doors
Where does your bathroom door swing to open… outward or into the bathroom? Such a minute detail but makes a lot of difference in case of medical emergencies. Doors that swing outwards will always allow caregivers easier access in the event of a serious fall against the door.
8. Install a bathroom phone
A waterproof phone in the bathroom can be considered in case an elder lives alone or is frequently home alone.
9. Consider labelling products
The visual perception of the elderly is often impaired. Labeling bathroom products, particularly medication, can make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for.
10. Eliminate clutter
If you live with an elderly person, you must declutter and place shower gels, drugs, toothpaste, lotions, and other bath items in places where they belong. More importantly, get rid of dirty, unused rugs and any products that are never used, and keep the shower area clean and dry.