Domestic injuries often heal quickly in most young people but they can be very dangerous for the elderly. With relatively lower body balance and slower healing, seniors are more prone to injuring themselves at home. While this fact has been well-recognized and there has been an increased focus on making homes safer for seniors, bathroom safety for seniors has yet not received its due importance. Bathrooms can be modified with additional attachments to ensure that they become safe and convenient for seniors.
Why Bathroom Safety for seniors is important
As the age of an individual increases, the body becomes weak due to wear-and-tear. The ability of the body to produce new cells, muscles, bone cells and tissues to heal injuries also reduces. Growing age also leads to the onset of different health issues which can weaken the body further. At such times, seniors being losing independence and need assistance to carry out their everyday activities.
Bathroom however is a place where everyone, including the elderly, prefer privacy. They visit bathrooms unattended and this increases the risk of bathroom mishaps. Having modifications in place to increase the bathroom safety for seniors can help mitigate these risks. Especially seniors suffering from respiratory disorders, diseases effecting mobility or many other diseases need bathrooms that are convenient and safe.
Common bathroom accidents:
Fitting a bathroom with safety installations can go a long way in avoiding any accidents in the bathroom and at the same time, keep the morale of the elderly high as they are able to independently take care of their personal hygiene needs. Most of the common bathroom accidents occur while –
- Stepping into or stepping out of the bath tub
- Walking around the bath area
- Holding on to the bath towels rod, curtain rod etc. for support while sitting down or standing up in bath tub
- Reaching out to the soap holder or other bathing accessories.
- Sitting down or getting up on the toilet
Some of the key reasons identified as the key causes of these accidents are –
- Slippery floor tiles
- Poor lighting
- Lack of shower chairs
- Poorly secured towel and curtain rods
- Deep bathtubs without a step
- Low height toilets that make it tough to sit down and get up from
Seniors suffering from respiratory diseases need clean and chemical free bathrooms. Presence of cleaning agents, soaps and shampoos that are strong on chemical content can lead to trigger of attacks in those suffering from bronchial asthma and chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). A well-equipped bathroom can save precious time during emergencies.
- Equip with inhalers – Bathrooms should be equipped with inhalers because most often seniors tend to forget carrying their inhalers along when visiting bathroom. These inhalers come handy in case the seniors experience breathing difficulties.
- Means to call for help – Bathrooms can also be equipped with nebulizers and a bell or alarm which can be used to inform other housemates of an emergency.
Diseases impacting mobility
There are different diseases in the elderly that restrict their movement. This can lead to a lot of difficulty in being able to use the bathroom and higher risk of injury in the process.
Elders suffering from Osteopenia experience mild thinning of bones while those suffering from Osteoporosis have weak bones due to severe thinning. This means that even a minor fall can lead to fractures. Bathrooms need to be made as “fall-proof” as possible for such elders. Slippery tiles, extra smooth surfaces should be completely replaced and bathroom floor should be scrubbed to avoid becoming slippery. Some of the most important adjustments that need to be made in the bathroom are –
- Installation of grab bars – These bars provide support to the elderly when they step into or out of the bath tub or move around the bathroom
- Use non-skid mats – Cover the bath floor with mats that have a good grip on the floor and do not skid easily.
- Arrange for seats in showers – A seating arrangement in the shower will provide better stability and avoid risks of loss of balance.
- Good lighting – It is also essential to have good lighting in the bathroom so that the elderly can see well and do not trip in darkness.
Arthritis in elders can cause pain in different joints of their bodies. These could be shoulders, hips, knees or ankles. Hence bathrooms need to be modified in ways that are convenient and prevent exertion. Some adjustments that are a must are –
- High toilet seats – For elderly suffering from arthritis pain in hips and knees, sitting down on a low toilet and getting up can be painful. Having raised toilet seat prevents the exertion on the knees and avoids any falls.
- Movable shower heads – The shower or bath tub needs to have a movable head so that washing oneself can be made pain-free as it minimizes movement in the shower
- Scrubs with long handles – The longer handles help to reach parts of body without having to bend or twist too much.
- Customized fittings – Arthritis can hamper even clamping in certain angles. Hence customization of fittings like grab bar in a way that can be clamped easily by elders is needed.
Heart diseases pose balance issues in the elderly. They can cause pain in chest and dizziness. Apart from these, seniors face fatigue, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath etc. In light of these conditions, some of the modifications that can be made to bathrooms are –
- Easy access to bathroom – the bathroom should be on the floor that the elderly lives in. Having bathroom a floor higher or lower requires them to climb up or down the stairs which can cause fatigue.
- Easy Exit – The doors of the bathroom should be such that can be easily opened to exit in case of any emergency. Any auto-locking doors should be avoided.
- Self-help options – there should be a shower chair and additional seating arrangement if possible so that the senior can sit in case of dizziness. An alarm or bell that can be sounded to call for help is also a must.
Elders who havebeenidentified with cancer and are undergoing treatment need to be taken very special care of. Chemotherapy can leave an individual physically weak and mentally exhausted. The ability to fight infections is greatly reduced making hygiene even more important. The following can help enhance the bathroom safety for seniors-
- Separate toilets – Drugs from chemotherapy remain in body fluids for 72 hours. Hence toilets need to be cleaned well after every use. A separate toilet is the best solution for it.
- Use Bath boards – The disease and the treatment can leave the elderly very weak to climb in and out of a bath tub. Using bath boards provides comfortable seating and easy movement.
- Cushion the edges – Edges of bath tub can be covered with bathtub sidewall cushion. Faucet can be padded with faucet cushion. These measures reduce injuries in case of a fall and also prevent slippages.
Natural health conditions
Bathroom safety is not restricted to seniors who are suffering from any ailments. Anyone over the age of 65 requires safer bathrooms for the simple reason that the aging body needs to be especially cared for. All of the measures mentioned above combine together to create safe bathrooms. Implementing most of them can avoid any bathroom accidents caused by slipping due to wet and smooth surfaces, rugs that are not skid-resistant etc.
As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, it is better to prepare safe bathrooms for seniors than deal with the aftermaths of an accident. Safe bathrooms do not need to be built from scratch. Existing bathrooms can be modified to make them safe for elderly. The extensions and modifications needed are not very expensive and go a long way in keeping our dear ones safe.