Minimizing Bathroom Hazards for the Elderly
1. Identify potential hazards in the bathroom, such as slippery surfaces, poor lighting, unsafe fixtures, and sanitary issues, and take necessary steps to ensure safety. We have a complete list to review below.
2. Ensure that the elderly can access the bathroom safely and independently, using mobility aids if necessary.
3. Teach your elderly family members how to identify potential hazards on their own and address them.
4. Create an emergency plan for the elderly person in case of a bathroom-related incident or fall. See our tips below.
5. Educate family and caregivers about bathroom safety and the importance of spot checks for hazards to ensure continuous safety.
Common Bathroom Safety Hazards for the Elderly
1. Slippery surfaces, like showers, toilets, and vinyl or tile flooring, increase the risk of bathroom-related injuries.
Wear non-skid shoes and use grab bars and shower chairs to maintain balance. Caregivers should take extra care to ensure that floors are always dry and clean and that non-skid mats are used to minimize the risk of slipping.
2. Wet floors make flooring and other bathroom surfaces slippery, leading to a higher risk of slipping and falling. Dry, clean floors, non-skid bath mats, and non-slip shoes are helpful here too.
3. Loose rugs can trip older adults or slide underneath their feet. Ensure a clear path to the toilet without any rugs or mats.
Any shower or bath mats should have a non-slip backing or be adequately secured to the floor. Make sure the bathroom flooring itself is properly installed and not loose.
4. Poor lighting makes it difficult to see other potential hazards. Use bright white bulbs in all the light fixtures and use nightlights and motion sensor lights at night to provide better visibility. Caregivers should check that the bathroom is well-lit.
5. Inadequate grab bars and improperly installed bathroom safety equipment make maintaining balance in the bathroom more difficult.
Remove portable safety handles with suction cups, towel bars, and towel racks and replace them with more secure options.
Install grab bars securely according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Caregivers should double-check this and educate the elderly about where it is safe to hold on and where it isn’t.
6. Scalding hot water will cause burns and pain for older people with delayed response time.
Ensure the hot water heater thermostat is set at a safe temperature and install special no-scald faucets for older adults. Adjust the bath or shower temperature before getting in.
7. Unnecessary clutter in the bathroom makes mobility equipment challenging to use and is a tripping hazard.
Organize the bathroom by clearing any clutter, toiletry items, hair dryers, or decorative knick-knacks from the toilet tank, sink tops, and bathtub edges, and store personal care items properly in a small cabinet.
The floor is valuable bathroom real estate and should always be clear of trash cans.
8. Mold and mildew can cause respiratory problems for elderly people with various medical conditions.
Avoid mold and mildew by ensuring the bathroom is well-ventilated and water comes from a clean source.
Caregivers should frequently clean and disinfect the entire bathroom to keep it free of mold and mildew.
9. Soap scum makes bathroom surfaces more slippery, potentially causing falls.
Use soaps designed for elderly skin that are less likely to cause soap scum.
Frequent cleaning with an enzymatic cleaner keeps soap scum in check. Areas with hard water will require more frequent cleaning.
10. Non-regulated air fresheners and other aerosol products can be a fire hazard or expose the elderly to harmful chemicals.
Use appropriately labeled air fresheners or natural products like potpourri with a mild scent. Caregivers should ensure plug-in air fresheners aren’t used in unsafe areas.
11. Faulty electrical wiring can lead to shocks or even electrocution in a wet bathroom.
Caregivers should schedule a safety assessment with a licensed electrician. Ensure ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) have been installed in all wet areas.
12. Leaky plumbing causes water damage, and water leaks onto floors.
Have the plumbing checked regularly by a licensed professional. Any leaks should be cleaned up immediately and repaired.
13. Improperly installed shower curtains can obstruct a person’s view, allow water to escape onto the floor, and get wrapped around their feet if the curtain is too long.
Use light-colored or transparent shower curtains that don’t block light, are the proper size, and are installed at the correct height.
A walk-in shower should have an edge on the tub floor that prevents water from running out onto the bathroom floor. If shower doors are used instead, they should be outfitted with safety glass.
14. High thresholds are difficult to step over and maneuver mobility equipment around. Check the threshold height and replace it if it is more than 1 inch high.
15. Loose toilets not adequately secured to the floor can cause seniors to lose their balance.
Tighten or replace loose toilets with a comfort-height toilet (many standard US and Canadian toilet sizes are too low) and install an elevated toilet seat or taller commode and toilet grab bars to improve senior safety when toileting.
Safety Tips to Minimize Bathroom Hazards
1. Installing grab bars in the bathroom is a simple and inexpensive alteration and one of the easiest to implement safety features to make the bathroom a safer place.
Place grab bars at shower entrances, inside the shower unit or bathtub itself, and around the toilet at a minimum. Always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
2. Avoid wet floors by using properly-sized shower curtains, eliminating water leaks, and drying the bathroom floor after each use.
Wear non-skid shower shoes if you can’t avoid wet surfaces.
3. Use non-skid mats in place of bathroom rugs to provide an extra level of grip and stability. Remove all decorative rugs.
4. Replace existing low-light bulbs with bright bulbs in clear fixtures to provide adequate lighting even during the daytime.
Use nightlights and motion-activated lights that come on automatically to ensure older adults can see their surroundings well at night.
5. Provide a shower chair for extra support and stability while in the shower. Ensure it is appropriately used and the user can safely get up and down from it. Replace the traditional shower head with a flexible handheld shower head for easier bathing while sitting.
6. Install handrails on the wall as safety bars to assist with balance and mobility problems when walking around the bathroom.
7. Wearing non-skid shoes avoids countless slips and falls by providing additional traction when walking in the bathroom or the shower.
8. Use a simple shower caddy to keep hygiene and bath products close by and reduce the risk of slipping or tripping due to stretching and turning in the bath.
9. Check that the water temperature is set to a comfortable level to prevent scalding and that the user knows how to adjust it properly.
Replace all faucets with ones that have an adjustable hot limit safety stop so that you can set the proper temperature for each outlet independently.
10. Store bathroom accessories securely out of the way in medicine cabinets and off the floor to avoid tripping hazards. Note that toilet paper should be kept within easy reach of the toilet for easy access.
Tips for Dealing With A Bathroom Emergency
1. Miminize risk first. Be aware of your surroundings in the bathroom, identify potential hazards, and watch for slippery surfaces.
2. Don’t risk it. Let someone know if you need help. If you’re in a public restroom, ask someone nearby for assistance. If you’re in your own bathroom, call out for help from family members or roommates.
3. Remain calm. If you experience a fall in the bathroom, try to assess the situation calmly. Check yourself for any injuries and evaluate your condition and situation.
4. Call for help. If you’re injured or feel too weak to move, call for help.
Call 911 if you are alone, or ask someone nearby to call 911 if you’re in a public restroom. Call a family member or roommate to come to your aid if you’re in your own bathroom.
5. Seek medical attention. Even if you don’t think you’re injured, see your doctor as soon as possible. If you suspect any injury at all, go to the emergency room.
What Is the Importance of Safe Bathrooms for Seniors?
A bathroom is a dangerous room for older adults because of the combination of slippery floors, hard surfaces, and increased fall risks.
Making our elderly loved ones’ bathrooms a safe environment is essential to their safety and well-being. And, it’s the right thing to do – even before trouble starts.
Here are some bathroom safety statistics to illustrate how real this problem is:
- According to AgeSafeAmerica.com, bathroom falls and injuries are among the most common accidents for senior citizens. Approximately 80% of all falls that result in injury for older adults occurs in the bathroom.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among older adults, accounting for an estimated 29,668 deaths in 2017.
After identifying and correcting potential hazards, lend your support by teaching your elderly loved one how to identify and respond to risks.
Help them create an emergency plan, so they know how to respond to a fall or injury while in the bathroom. These steps provide a safe solution and give them the independence they need to access the bathroom safely.
Evaluating an elderly person’s bathroom for hazards – and addressing them – will work towards preventing falls, slips, and other potential injuries. Installing grab bars, slip-proof mats, bath chairs, and proper lighting are excellent places to start.
The additional safety measures listed here will make the bathroom much safer for an older adult you love.
Infographic: Identifying Bathroom Hazards for the Elderly
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Is an unclean bathroom really hazardous for the elderly?
Yes, an unclean bathroom can be hazardous for the elderly. Dirty, cluttered bathrooms make it difficult for the elderly to navigate. Dirty bathroom surfaces with mold, mildew, and soap scum make these surfaces more slippery.
Additionally, many older people have weaker immune systems and other medical conditions that make bacteria, mold, and other germs dangerous.
What is the main danger in the bathroom for my elderly parents?
The main danger in the bathroom for seniors and the elderly is falls, as the statistics above show. Other dangers in the bathroom include slipping and tripping hazards, which can lead to serious injury.
Additionally, bathrooms can be breeding grounds for bacteria and mold, which can be dangerous for people with weaker immune systems.
What are the most common injuries to an elderly person in a bathroom?
The most common injuries to an elderly person in a bathroom are falls, slips, and fractures. Other common injuries are bruises, head trauma, and dislocations.
Because the bathroom combines slick surfaces with hard objects, bathroom safety is one of the most important things you can do to protect senior health.
Why are bathroom falls so common for the elderly?
Bathroom falls are common for the elderly because they are more likely to slip, trip, or fall due to their age, physical condition, and the wet environment of the bathroom.
Plus, mixing slippery floors with hard surfaces and the potential for harsh falls in the smallest room of the house make the bathroom an especially dangerous place.
Evaluate the bathroom for hazards and address them appropriately by installing grab bars, non-slip mats, bath benches, and proper lighting to reduce this risk.
What are the main bathroom hazard prevention strategies?
The main bathroom hazard prevention strategies include evaluating the bathroom for potential hazards, such as slippery floors and hard surfaces, and addressing them appropriately.
This can include installing grab bars, non-slip mats, raised toilet seats, shower chairs, and proper lighting.
Additionally, teaching elderly people how to identify and respond to hazards and creating an emergency response plan can help keep them safe and give them the independence they need to access the bathroom safely.