Hearing about an elderly person falling in the bathroom is unnerving, especially if showering or bathing had a major role in the story.
Bathtub safety should be a daily priority as we age, especially as our stamina, balance, endurance, and overall health change our once agile mobility.
In this article, we will discuss how elderly individuals and their caregivers can assist with entering and exiting the bathtub safely. Plus, we will provide helpful equipment options you can use to make bathtub use and transfers safer for older adults.
Entering Your Tub More Safely
Before entering the tub, think about your goal: Are you bathing lying down or bathing from a seated position on a bath bench?
This will impact the way you prepare for your transfer and the way your family member or caregiver assists you.
Let’s get started:
- Remove all throw rugs and loose towels: As aesthetically pleasing as some throw rugs are, they do not belong in a bathroom because they are a significant tripping hazard. Do not substitute bath mats with towels because there’s no traction, and this will also cause trips and falls.
- Ensure you have good lighting in the bathroom to see what you are doing at all times.
- Go ahead and start the water to fill the tub. However, dry your hands before transferring into the tub, and make sure you have a non-slip surface to work with inside the tub.
- Make sure all of your towels and soaps are within reach.
- Undress and prepare for your bath transfer.
- Keep your knees bent and place both hands on the tub’s ledge. Start one leg at a time, leading with the good foot first. If you have a grab bar in the tub, reach for the grab bar to steady yourself once you have one foot in.
- Once you have both feet in the tub, carefully lower yourself into a lying down position using the grab bar and the tub ledge. Keep your spine straight and avoid plopping to the floor.
- Do not lie down in the tub for a bath if your doctor orders against it, if you’ve had a recent surgery, or if you can’t get in or out without two-person or mechanical assistance.
Exiting Your Tub More Safely
Now that you’ve completed your bathing tasks, it’s time to get out. Here’s what we’re going to do:
- Drain the tub entirely before exiting the tub.
- Grab that towel nearby and dry your hands, feet, and limbs. Use another towel to dry the tub ledge and lightly dry as much of the tub floor as possible. Grab the tub grab bar and the tub ledge for support while pushing up to a semi-squatting position onto your feet. Recruit most of your strength from your legs.
- Don’t come to a full standing position until you are out of the tub. Lift one leg out at a time while still supporting yourself on the grab bar and tub ledge. Never grab door knobs or towel racks for extra support. Once you are out, continue with your additional hygiene tasks.
Caregivers: A Few Body Mechanic Tips
Suppose you are an elderly individual who feels more comfortable having a loved one or a personal aide assist you with bathing tasks in the tub.
In that case, these folks need to consider a few body mechanic tips to protect their muscles and joints from injury:
- Anytime you help with a transfer (for any occasion), bend the knees and keep the back straight. You should use muscles in your legs, not your back, to provide support.
- If the elderly individual is forgetful or has limited cognitive capacity, don’t forget to give them reminders to grab the grab bars, bend the legs, dry off, etc.
- Be available in the home if the elderly individual has an emergency in the bathroom. Check on them every few minutes during their bath, but remember to give them their privacy as much as possible.
- If you find yourself providing support to the point where you need a second person, it may be time to consider some modifications to the bath routine.
Helpful Equipment Options
If you or your loved ones are considering making modifications to your bathroom to enhance safety during transfers, here are a few popular options depending on your goals and level of independence:
Ergonomic grab bars can be placed directly on the tub ledge to make transfers in and out of the tub easier.
These handy devices are elevated seats with backs that you sit on from the tub’s edge. It then lowers you into the tub at the touch of a button. Once you have bathed, the chair lifts you back up to the tub edge so you can exit the tub safely. See our list of the best bathtub lifts for seniors and the elderly here.
Grab bars can be professionally installed inside and outside of the tub.
Soap dispensers can be suction cupped or screwed into the bathtub wall at your desired height for easy access and to prevent dropping bottles into the tub.
Bathtub transfer benches are draped over the tub ledge as an alternative to lying in the tub. This is especially helpful for folks with limited leg mobility but with decent torso strength.
In combination with the bath bench, you can replace permanent shower head fixtures with removable handheld showerheads to give users more control over water flow.
Elderly folks with great use of their upper body but limited function of their lower body and who wish to bathe lying down can still get transferred into the tub via the Hoyer lift.
However, these lifts are relatively large, and you need quite a bit of bathroom space and a dedicated personal aide to pull this off.
Summary And Final Recommendations
Getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up your bathtub time, especially bathing in a lying-down position. In cases of poor health and mobility, there are alternatives to maintaining a safe and independent bathroom experience.
Just remember the importance of practicing safe transfers and protecting your body from unnecessary harm, whether you’re an elderly individual or a helpful caregiver.