Staying at home longer often requires some home safety modifications as we age. Hannah Smit, Envigor’s Occupational Therapist at Seasons Aged Care Mango Hill takes us through the steps you can take to make your bathroom safer.
When people choose to age at home, reducing falls becomes of great importance and according to Hannah, the bathroom is an ideal place to start.
“The bathroom is the area of the house that people often fall in, and there are plenty of simple modifications you can do to make it a safer environment,” says Hannah.
Here Hannah talks us through what to look for, so you can check how fall-friendly your bathroom is and decide what modifications might be necessary.
Slick, glossy tiles are a no-no, while slip-resistant tiles (with a rough surface) are better. If you do have glossy tiles, slip-resistant tape can be laid down onto existing tiles if they get too slippery.
If any water after a shower or bath does tend to pool on your bathroom floor, make sure it’s mopped up so that when you walk in later to use the toilet, you don’t slip over. Bath mats and mats around toilets can become a trip hazard so should really only be used after showering and then lifted up and out of the way afterwards.
Stepping in and out of baths is often when falls occur in the bathroom, with getting in and out of a bath safely can become difficult as we age.
A seat across the top of the bath enables the user to sit down safely and then swing their legs into the bath, rather than standing and stepping in, balancing on one foot. They can then lower themselves into the bath safely. Another option is a bathlift which is battery powered. Again, the user sits on the seat and swings their legs into the bath. The bathlift then lowers them into the bath water. Once finished, it can raise them back up to the height of the side of the bath. The user then swings their legs out of the bath, before standing up.
A grab rail on the side of the bath can also assist in transferring in and out safely. A non-slip mat or slip-resistant adhesive tape on the bottom of the bath will also reduce the falls risk.
The shower can also become a danger zone. A seat in the shower can be helpful for safety when showering. It is safer to wash our legs and feet while sitting down than to bend over or lift a foot while standing. Combined with water and slippery soaps this is often when falls happen.
As with bathing, grab rails in the shower can assist with stepping safely in and out of the shower, and for stability when washing. A non-slip mat, or slip-resistant adhesive tape on the floor of the shower will also reduce the falls risk.
Often standing up from a low toilet can be difficult. A grab rail on the wall can assist the user, to pull up on, when standing up.
It can also be helpful for men to have a rail to hold onto when standing at the toilet, for stability. A raised toilet seat or over toilet frame can also make the toilet seat easier to stand from by raising the height of the seat. The over toilet frame also has arms on both sides (like on an armchair) which the user can push up on to assist them to stand.
Ensure the pathway to the bathroom is well-lit. A poorly lit pathway can lead to falls. A nightlight between the bedroom and bathroom can be very helpful as well as one in the bathroom.
Does the door swing out or into the bathroom to open? If a person falls against the door, outward swinging doors will allow a caregiver and emergency services access, in the event of a serious fall.
If standing tolerance or balance are an issue, then it can be helpful to have a seat in the bathroom. The user can sit to dry themselves and dress while sitting down. They can also position the chair or stool in front of the basin and mirror and sit while brushing teeth, shaving and grooming.
Difficulty reaching or bending down
Put toiletries within easy reach. Make sure shampoo, soaps, toothbrushes and other toiletries are within waist to shoulder height and arms reach so to avoid over-reaching or bending which can affect balance and lead to falls.
Help available when needed
Either having a carer available in the bathroom or simply nearby, to call on if required can be very reassuring. Or having a waterproof, medical alert bracelet or necklace on, to use in an emergency.