Falls by older adults most commonly occur in the bathroom. The bathroom is one of the most hazardous rooms in the home due to slippery floors and hard surfaces. “Injuries are a leading cause of death among older adults. The magnitude is on par with deaths from Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and influenza.”(1) Falls in older adults may be prevented by eliminating hazards and by installing bathroom safety equipment. Whether you’re a senior who wants to retain your independence, or a caregiver supporting an older adult with mobility problems, you should strive to make the bathroom a safer place to be. From secure floor coverings to dementia-friendly color schemes, here are seventeen bathroom safety tips to make bathrooms safer for persons of all ages, to prevent falls in the elderly, and to support caregivers of those needing care:
1. Eliminate Hazards
Often, bathroom falls are due to unnecessary hazards such as loose rugs, clutter, and wet and slippery floors. To prevent falls, remove rugs, extension cords, and other superfluous items such as tables and decorative pieces.
It’s also a good idea to replace towel racks and soap dishes—which are not designed to support a person’s body weight—with sturdier bars and rails. Additionally, remove locks from the bathroom door so that caregivers can easily access the room in case of emergency.
2. Keep Essentials in Reach
Organize the bathroom to make items easily accessible. Bending over to reach items in low drawers or in cabinets may result in a fall. Attempting to reach items on high shelves poses a similar risk. Consider the placement of towels, washcloths, and toilet paper, and keep them within easy grabbing distance at all times.
Keep all your shower must-haves in this handy caddy. ( See Product on Amazon )
Fit your shower with a shower caddy that holds all bathing necessities. This reduces the need to stretch or bend to reach for shampoo, conditioner, razors, or wash cloths. Mount a soap dispenser in the shower, at tub level, or by the sink. Having frequently used items within reach will prevent slipping while attempting to reach for items or possible falls.
3. Add Nonslip Floor and Bath Coverings
One of the best ways to prevent injury in the shower is to make sure you have enough traction to keep a firm footing. Luckily, there are two ideal products to fit this need.
Nonslip Shower or Bath Mat
Nonslip shower mats can transform any slippery surface into a safe place to walk. ( See Product on Amazon )
Reduce slippery surfaces by investing in nonslip shower mats, a simple and inexpensive action to prevent falls that makes your bathroom safer. Place non-slip mats inside and outside of the tub and shower on any surfaces that might become slippery due to the humidity in the air created by bathing and showering. Secure loose corners of the shower mats to avoid tripping.
Check out our guide to choosing the best nonslip bath mat.
4. Support Yourself with Handles and Bars
For added support and stability when using the toilet, shower, or tub, install grab bars. There are a range of handles and bars available for the bathroom and, unlike regular towel rails, all are designed to support a person’s body weight. Older adults who lose their balance may attempt to grab a towel rack to avoid falling. Towel racks, not made to support body weight, detach from the wall, and the older adult falls resulting in injury.
Suction Grab Bar
Install a sturdy grab bar anywhere and everywhere with this portable product. ( See Product on Amazon )
When fitting grab bars, consider the areas of the bathroom where physical mobility, stepping in and over shower rails, or in and out of the tub, may result in the possibility of a fall or injury. Reducing the possibility of falling and preventing falls in the elderly is important for a variety of reasons.
A serious fall may result in the older adult having extensive physical limitations which necessitate a move to a care community. Prevention of falls and fractures is possible. By reviewing physical abilities and health conditions, actions can be taken to lessen the likelihood of a fall. Medical conditions that result in fainting or dizziness when sitting or standing support the need for suction grab bars for the shower. Older adults who have physical difficulties, weakness or joint pain, from sitting down on and standing up from the toilet seat benefit from grab bars for the toilet. Due to general muscle weakness, mobility issues, and other health issues that affect physical movement, many older adults require a range of supportive handles and bars throughout the bathroom.
5. Use Bathing Aids
Twisting and turning in the shower contributes to falls, while bending and stretching increases the risk of straining a muscle or exacerbating an old injury. Shower with ease by using a variety of bathing aids designed to combat these very issues.
Compare the Best Dry Brushes Made Easy to Use Here
Back scrubbers let you clean all those hard to reach place with ease. ( See Product on Amazon )
Cleaning and hydrating the skin is important as we age. As we age our skin becomes thinner and circulation concerns may exist in the body. To clean hard-to-reach areas like the back and lower legs, consider a back scrubber for the shower. Designed to make bathing easy, a brush allows you to clean hard to reach areas like the back, lower legs, and feet. A brush also avoids twisting the body that may result in a fall. Gently brushing body parts while bathing supports circulation, cleans skin pores, and exfoliates dead skin. Back scrubbers, despite their name, can be used to clean the entire body with minimal effort. After bathing, apply lotion to the skin to support hydration.
Try a loofah brush for full exfoliation in seconds. ( See Product at Amazon )
Some individuals prefer a loofah brush for bathing and cleaning the skin. A loofah brush is another great option, which can let you get all those hard to reach places, while still offering the maximum amount of clean. Loofah brushes have a more coarse texture as compared to other shower reaching and cleaning items and are often used to exfoliate the skin. The long handle prevents overreaching and reducing the risk of injury.
Get feet sparkling clean without even bending over, with a foot scrubber. ( See Product on Amazon )
Many older adults have difficulty physically bending to reach feet to place shoes, trim toenails, or to wash. A foot scrubber eliminates the need to bend down, move too much, or balance on one foot—simply place the scrubber on the shower floor and use it to clean and massage your feet. If balance is a concern, using a foot soaking tub along with the foot scrubber supports safety and can create an enjoyable experience. Soaking the feet in warm water with scented soaps or essential oils creates a spa-like activity in the home. Massaging the feet and placing hydrating oil is good for foot circulation and makes the feet feel wonderful.
Long-hose Shower Head
Long-hose shower heads will ensure you get completely clean, without bending or stretching. ( See Product on Amazon )
One of the best inventions to help avoid falls in the shower, to make bathing easier, and to end the question of whether the body was rinsed thoroughly of soap, is the removable shower head with an extension hose. Install a long hose shower head so you can control maneuver the water. Long hose shower heads make bathing easy for those who prefer to sit in the bath or shower on a shower chair to support safety. The detachable handheld feature makes it easy to bathe and rinse hard to reach areas without overstretching. For caregivers assisting a loved one in the shower or bath, using a long hose shower head reduces the likelihood of the caregiver becoming soaked while assisting the older adult.
Click Here to See Top Detachable Shower Head Designs
Using a cast cover post surgery or injury will protect your cast, boot or bandage from damage while you bathe ( See Product on Amazon )
In situations where a fall has already occurred, special bathing techniques to support a cast are necessary. Those recovering from an injury where a hard cast was applied or who have bandages resulting from other treatments can use a special cast cover— keep clean and bathe easily without destroying the cast material or wetting the skin. Slip on the cover and you’re good to shower and bathe without worry.
6. Consider Shower Seats for Sitting While Bathing
Shower seats combined with long hose shower heads are ideal to support safety and prevent falls. Due to balance and health issues, falling in the shower is likely. Older adults with mobility or health issues or those recovering from surgery can use a shower seat with a long hose shower head to bathe. Installing a bath chair or shower stool makes bathing easy. These seats increase user independence and peace of mind while preventing injuries caused by slipping or bending over and experiencing a fall.
Increase safety, comfort, and reduce the likelihood of slipping or falling during shower time with the perfect shower chair. ( See Product on Amazon )
Caregivers will also notice the benefits of using a shower chair as it reduces strain on the back and neck when helping people into and out of the tub. They also allow for someone with limited mobility or poor balance and chance to shower independently. Use our guide here to find your perfect shower chair.
Compare Top Selling Shower Chairs with Arms Here
Take a seat on this lightweight and portable shower stool. ( See Product on Amazon )
Shower stools are typically smaller in size and are convenient for storing away when not in use. The simple stool is designed to provide a sturdy non slip surface for bathing.
7. Fit a Transfer Bench or Bath Lift
A transfer bench straddles the side of the tub. Users sit on the portion that’s outside the tub before gradually sliding themselves across to the inside of the bathtub.
Transfer benches make getting into and out of the shower a breeze. ( See Product on Amazon )
These benches are ideal for people with poor balance, limited mobility, and conditions such as arthritis. They are also great for promoting independence and simply make bathing safe and easy. Transfer benches also provide physical support for caregivers assisting older adults in and out of the bath. All bath safety products support safety of the care recipient and the caregiver. Learn more about the different types and styles of transfer benches here.
For those with mobility issues, this shower lift can make getting into and out of the tub a breeze. ( See Product on Amazon )
For older adults with severe mobility difficulties who desire to take a bath, a bath lift is the perfect alternative.The lift fits in a regular size bathtub. With the assistance of a caregiver, these power-operated devices lift and lower the body into and out of the tub of water. A hand held shower device can be used to assist with the bathing process. A full bathing experience allows skin monitoring, important for older adults with limited mobility. Due to poor circulation, skin wounds occur easily. Skin breakdown requires close monitoring. The bath lift can be operated remotely and require little to no effort on the part of the user.
8. Make Use of Toileting Aids
In addition to grab bars, a toilet safety frame offers comfort and confidence in standing and sitting on on the toilet. The ability to toilet safely is a concern for older adults who live at home who may experience mobility difficulties or physical weakness.
Toilet Safety Frame
Make aching knees a thing of the past with a raised toilet seat. ( See Product on Amazon )
The toilet safety frame fits around most toilet sizes and can be a perfect way to maintain your balance, while also saving your joints unnecessary strain. The arms are similar to grab bars that make it easy to turn and sit, and rise to a standing position.
Raised Toilet Seat
A raised toilet seat can save your joints regular aches and pains. ( See Product on Amazon )
Raised toilet seats are designed to make it easier to sit down and stand back up again by adding height to a low toilet seat. A raised toilet seat is a solution for persons with arthritis, limited mobility, poor balance or muscle weakness or those recovering from surgery. Instantly add support and height to your toilet seat. They're quick and easy to install and most come with supportive handles that help with balance and maneuvering. Click Here to View Raised Toilet Seat by Vive (sold on Amazon).
Toilet Seat Riser
A toilet seat riser will give you a firm grip when getting on and off the toilet. ( See Product on Amazon )
A toilet seat riser combines the idea of a toilet safety frame with a raised toilet seat. A wider set of arms extends from the seat offering stability when sitting and standing. These seats may be used as a stand-alone item or placed under the existing seat. Some—like this toilet seat riser (found on Amazon) — include attached handles for extra stability, while others offer padding for greater luxury. They often include attached handles and padding for greater luxury and stability.
Discover how to choose and use a raised toilet seat here.
Other devices that come in useful include a bottom buddy—a long-handled grip that allows you to grab and use toilet paper without undue reaching and stretching, and a splash guard to stop urine spilling on to the floor or toilet seat.
9. Choose a Commode
Incontinence, bladder leakage, and concerns about making it to the bathroom at night are sometimes a concern. During the day, limited mobility or poor balance may be a concern in walking to the bathroom without the availability of a caregiver. After surgery a commode provides the ability to toilet without the concern of walking to the bathroom. A portable toilet, or commode, is a convenient alternative to using the conventional toilet every time. A beside commode is also a good way to limit trips into the bathroom.
Portable commodes can be brought anywhere they're needed, making them the most versatile way to use the toilet. ( See Product on Amazon )
Commodes are comfortable, affordable, and easy to use and provide independence and dignity to older adults with mobility issues and weak pelvic muscles. Find out more about portable toilets here.
10. Use Bath Steps for Assistance
Bathroom step stools provide extra height and stability when navigating the bathroom. Use them to climb in and out of the tub or to reach the top shelf of the bathroom cabinet.
Bath steps are perfect for a little extra boost when entering or exiting the tub. ( See Product on Amazon )
Every household should have safety bath step but they are particularly beneficial for older adults, people with mobility issues, and those recovering from surgery. A non slip step makes it easier to get in and out of tub or shower safely and in some cases independently.
Bath Step Stool
Getting into and out of the tub can be a struggle, so make it easy on yourself with a sturdy bath step stool. ( See Product on Amazon )
A variety of products exist to support access to the bathtub. Because individual needs and preferences exist, this bath step with a handle may be for adults requiring less assistance due to physical or balance concerns. An occupational therapy assessment, ordered by a physician, may be the best way to assess the perfect product to meet your needs. While bath steps with handles provide the most stability and reassurance, giving the user more support, you may find it more convenient or prefer those without handles for easy storage.
11. Set the Water Temperature
A warm shower is great for aching muscles and joints, but water that is too hot can be harmful. Older adults, sensitive to heat, can be scalded by hot water and experience severe skin burns. Hot water can cause dry and itchy skin, while also damaging the hair and causing hair color to fade. Water that is too hot for an extended period of time can result in more serious concerns like a sudden change in blood pressure, lightheadedness, or fainting.
Ideally, shower temperatures should be no more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If your skin turns red or you begin to feel dizzy while washing, dial the temperature gauge down a few notches or turn off the water and take a seat until you feel stable.
12. Install Proper Lighting
Using the bathroom can be difficult at the best of times, but especially so when it’s dark. Keeping the bathroom, and the route to it, well-lit is an essential step in bathroom safety.
Always step confidently with an automatic nightlight that senses your presence. ( See Product on Amazon )
Install automatic nightlights that flicker on with motion. This helps to light up and guide your way to and from the bathroom, safely, in the dark. These should be installed both inside and outside the bathroom. You may also want to consider using an illuminated light switch or toilet light.
13. Alert Others
Bathrooms are a common room in the home for experiencing a fall or related injury. If you experience physical weakness or frequent dizziness upon sitting or standing a bathroom telephone may be a lifesaving option. In the unfortunate event of an accident or emergency, you will be able to call family or emergency services. Luckily, specialized telephones have been developed for use in the bathroom, giving you the option to call others if assistance is needed.
Bathroom telephones are the ideal way to stay in touch with caregivers, every minute of the day. ( See Product on Amazon )
A bathroom telephone allows you to contact a friend, family member, or the emergency services. As an added precaution, consider wearing a waterproof medical alert system. These devices may prove to be life saving.
14. Stay Up to Electrical Code
All wet or damp locations, including the bathroom, must be fitted with a GFCI outlet in order to meet the National Electrical Code. A GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) shuts off the electric power when necessary to protect people from electric shock. An inspection by a reliable electrician will let you know if your bathroom outlets are up to code. Ensure your home is fitted with GFCIs and test them monthly to ensure they are in working order.
15. Clean your Bathroom Daily
Built-up soap scum, pools of water, or mold and mildew all contribute to the risk of slipping on a hard surface. To combat this, give your bathroom a quick clean each day by wiping down wet surfaces and mopping up spills. After showering, open a window or turn on a fan to increase ventilation, remove condensation, and reduce mold and mildew growth.
Once or twice a week, give your bathroom a more thorough clean to remove soap scum and treat any areas of mildew. There are plenty of cleaning products on the market for this purpose, but natural substances can work just as well. To cut through soap scum or mold, use:
- A solution of one part vinegar and one part water
- A paste of baking soda and water (combined with some elbow grease)
- A blend of fifteen drops of tea tree oil in a half cup of water
Don’t forget to regularly wash your nonslip bath mats according to the manufacturer instructions.
If you are an older adult who receives support from a caregiver, ask your caregiver to clean the bathroom daily. The bathroom is a high use room that benefits from frequent cleaning.
16. Design with Safety in Mind
When designing from scratch or remodeling, keep bathroom safety at the forefront of your plans. Contact a home remodeling specialist that is familiar with creating aging designs and accessible bathrooms. Common topics for discussion include:
- Ensuring adequate door width and turn-a-round space for wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.
- Designing a walk-in or roll-in shower with a gentle slope that drains effectively.
- Choosing bathtubs with cut-out areas for easy access. You may also choose to have a walk-in bathtubs installed.
- Using a weighted shower curtain instead of taking up space to install shower doors with an access lip that may prove difficult to step over. Shower doors should also not be used as support devices for standing or to maintain balance.
- Designing the bathroom door to swing outward, so others can easily access the room if someone falls against the door while inside.
- Reviewing floor surfaces to be non-skid or non-slip.
- Reviewing ventilation including windows and fans to allow steam and humidity to be removed.
Surprisingly, your choice of color can also affect the safety of your bathroom. Although brilliant whites and soothing neutrals may be pleasant to look at, they’re not the safest for people with dementia or visual impairments. Instead, choose bright colors for visual contrast.
A walk-in bathtub is the ultimate in convenience, for those who struggle with mobility. ( See Product on Amazon )
17. Ask for Help
Even if you use every safety aid on the market, you may still be uneasy when using the bathroom. If you are concerned about falling, ask a family member to visit and provide standby support. In home caregivers may also be hired to provide support with bathing and other household tasks that include meal preparation, laundry, and light housekeeping.
There is little education to prepare us for the role of a caregiver or a care receiver. Check out a caregiving expert’s Top 10 tips to help you avoid the pitfalls common in caregiving and care receiving situations.
Caregivers who are concerned about looking after an older relative in the home should check out these top tips from the experts.
Stay on Top of Bathroom Safety
Improving bathroom safety is important. For many, the bathroom is a room where accidents occur. Four out of every five home falls occur in this room, mainly due to:
- Wet surfaces that make it easy to slip and fall
- Slippery chairs, floor tiles, and shower floor surfaces
- Rugs and other tripping hazards
- Inadequate lighting
- Lack of support for standby assistance while bathing by a family member or a hired caregiver
- Using inappropriate objects for support, such as towel racks and sink tops
- Poorly designed bathtubs that are prone to falls
- Low toilet heights that make it difficult to stand safely
- Moving shower doors used as grab bars that result in falls
Luckily, we’re here to help you address all these problems, and more!
Using the Bathroom with Confidence
The impact of a fall or fracture on quality of life and independence is significant. Falls and fractures make walking around the home and completing daily activities more difficult. The mental effect of falls and fractures are fear of falling again and limiting activity that results in a greater degree of physical weakness.
Preventing falls in the elderly is possible. The body’s nervous system uses input from the brain, eyes, skin, and other body systems to support muscle strength, walking, and balance. Improper posture affects walking, bending, stretching, and reaching and effects how we feel every day.
Limited mobility resulting from a diagnosis of arthritis or prior injuries results in poor balance and greater physical weakness. Poor eyesight due to common diagnosis of macular degeneration and glaucoma make it more difficult to navigate doorway thresholds. This includes seeing the height of entrances into showers and bathtubs.
Take steps to improve the safety of your bathroom with bathing and toilet aids, bars and handles, non-slip floor coverings, and seats and benches. You should also ensure that help is never too far away by installing a phone or other alert system and asking others for help. As your home becomes safer, your confidence will grow, and you’ll suddenly find your bathroom is a more enjoyable place to be.
Addressing Physical Concerns
Bathroom safety is also supported by awareness of physical concerns and limitations. For older adults or persons who have caregivers, the importance of standing, a steady walking gait, and balance is important to remaining independent. Building confidence in physical abilities builds confidence and self-esteem. Click here for access to an article about care receiving and caregiving called Caregiving: Self-Esteem and the Importance of Standing Up for Yourself.
Dellinger, A.M., & Stevens, J.A. (2006) The injury problem amont older adults: mortality, morbidity and costs. Journal of Safety Research, 37, 519-522. Doi: 10/1016/j.jst.2006.10.001.