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Bathroom Safety for Elderly Adults

While the bathroom may be some people’s favorite room in the house – think relaxing bath – a refuge from daily pressures – it is also one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. This is especially true for older adults. With a little effort and using a few bathroom safety tips, you can make the bathroom a safe and relaxing place for everyone in the household.

Why should you be concerned? Over four hundred individuals drown in the bathtub each year. In addition, many thousands slip or fall which can lead to serious injuries. Older adults are at greater risk of injury because some medications they take can cause dizziness or hypotension and they have more limited mobility. Also, many of the surfaces in the bathroom (metal, cold tile, and porcelain) can be slippery when wet and have little cushion or give when a person falls. Since many more older adults are staying at home longer as they age, bathroom safety and preventing falls in that particular room of the house should be a concern for everyone.

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Here are six tips for bathroom safety for elderly adults:

  1. Make sure the water heater temperature is at 120 degrees or lower. Older adults may not notice that the water is too hot. Their ability to feel heat may be decreased due to certain medical conditions, medications, or neurological damage. Older adults also have thinner skin. Bath water that is too hot can cause deeper burns with even brief exposure. If the water temperature is too high, it can lead to burns from scalding water.
  2. Try to have someone available for safety supervision. If you or a loved one has balance or mobility issues, it may be a good idea to bathe when someone is available to help if you need them. Another person can prevent you from falling or assist you if you require a help getting into and out of the bath tub.
  3. Have adequate lighting at night. Many people over the age of fifty know that sleeping through the night is a thing of the past. Getting up to go to the bathroom during the night is very common for older adults. Having a light on can help with orientation and prevent falls getting to and from the lavatory.
  4. Add safety fixtures and transfer equipment. A safe bathroom for elderly individuals sometimes requires a little remodeling. Consider removing an old tub that requires stepping over the edge with a new walk-in shower. Add grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower. If the bathtub cannot be removed, adding a transfer seat will prevent falls in older adults who lack muscular strength.
  5. Make sure the surfaces are skidproof. There are a number of skidproof surfaces available for both the bathtub/shower stall and the bathroom floor. Individual decals do not cover the majority of the tub floor so consider using a mat for the entire surface and rugs with rubber backing.
  6. Ensure access to the bathroom. Door locks are an additional concern when it comes to bathroom safety for older people. If someone needs help or a fall occurs, the individual may not be able to unlock the door from the inside. Locks on both sides of the doors can provide privacy while allowing a caretaker to enter the bathroom in case of an emergency.

With people staying in their homes longer, it is everyone’s responsibility to consider bathroom safety and making bathrooms safe for the elderly. Older adults need your assistance to make sure they are safe in all areas of their home, but especially in the bathroom.