Showering is a daily routine we often do without giving it a second thought. However, for the elderly, showering can be a risky activity.
The elderly tend to have poorer balance, and the wet environment increases the risk of slipping and falling. Injuries can include bruises, cuts, fractures, and even more severe injuries that could even require a trip to the emergency room.
Given these risks, it is crucial to consider ways to make the showering environment safer. Fortunately, several solutions below are practical and effective.
Tips for Safer Showering
There are simple things that you can do to improve the safety of the shower environment. Here are several suggestions.
Reduce the Clutter Around the Shower
If the senior has to look for his bath product among bottles of shampoos, soaps, sponges, and other bath accessories laid out around the shower, he might turn his body in such a way that causes him to slip or fall.
He might avoid this fall if you keep the essential products within easy reach. Organize them in a shower caddy for maximum convenience.
Make the Shower Floor Non-Slip
The shower floor can quickly become very slick with soap and shampoo. You can make the shower floor non-slippery by applying bathtub stickers. There are not the kiddie tub stickers that shape like fish, but they are more stylish for grown-ups.
You can also paint a special non-slip coating on the shower floor. If you are open to something more permanent, you can redo the shower floor with non-slip tiles.
Make the Bathroom Floors Non-Slip
The bathroom floor might be slippery from water when you get out of the shower. Place a non-slip mat by the shower door where your wet feet can step without risking a slip and fall.
Install a Medical Alert System Suitable for the Shower Area
This system has to be waterproof and easy to use. It should enable the senior to contact medical emergency personnel with just a touch of a button. The alternative is to keep the wearable medical alert button on the body during a shower.
What Types of Showers Are Safest for Seniors?
Some shower designs are not safe for seniors. These include the standard shower and bathtub combination common in most homes.
The senior has to lift their legs to step over the edge of the tub to stand inside the tub to shower. One misstep can cause a loss of balance, trip, slip, or fall.
A better type of shower is a walk-in shower with no tub, so there is no high tub wall to step over. Ideally, the walk-in shower should not even have a threshold.
This type of shower can accommodate seniors who need to use a walker or a wheelchair or for seniors who have trouble lifting their legs even a few inches.
Choose a shower with a seat, non-slip floor, support rails, and built-in ledges to keep bath accessories off the floor. Sometimes, you can even remodel an old shower/tub combination into a walk-in shower.
Shower Safety Equipment Options
You can increase the safety of the shower environment by adding some of the following features.
Install these in various places in the shower area to provide a secure hand hold. These should be mounted securely on the wall.
Avoid grabbing onto towel bars because these are not securely mounted. However, there are decorative grab bars you can use for both purposes.
Check out our guide to the best grab bars for seniors and the elderly for more options.
Shower chairs should be sturdy enough to support the individual’s weight. They should sit firmly inside the shower with no wobbling or slippage. Also, the best shower chairs for seniors and the elderly have back supports and arm rests for comfort and stability.
Tub Transfer Bench
These helpful pieces of bathroom safety equipment work with combined shower/tubs. These benches look like shower chairs, but they straddle the tub with two legs outside the tub and two inside the tub.
This position allows the senior more support when getting in and out of the tub. If the transfer bench is in place, you should use a split shower curtain to prevent water from splashing onto the bathroom floor.
Handheld Shower Heads
This allows the senior to shower when safely seated in the shower instead of standing up under the mounted shower head. I think they are necessary for seniors with weak legs or balance issues.
Here is my complete guide to the best handheld shower heads for older adults.
Levers Instead of Round Faucets
Because seniors often have problems with their grip, turning on the faucet and adjusting the water with a lever is more manageable than grabbing a round faucet head, especially when it is wet.
Faucets with Anti-Scald Feature
You can install an anti-scald valve in the shower’s plumbing, so the hot water does not get too hot. There are also faucets you can install that have this option too.
Weighted Shower Curtain
These have weights sewn inside the bottom hem of the curtain. In a shower/tub combo, a weighted shower curtain stays against the side of the tub and prevents water from splashing outside onto the floor. Keeping the floor dry prevents slipping.
Non-Slip Bath Mats
As mentioned earlier, shower mats will prevent the senior from slipping on a wet floor. Avoid using decorative rugs because those do not have a non-slip backing.
People usually wear these when they shower in a public shower. However, seniors can wear them when showering at home because the soles are non-slip. If the shower floor is not non-slip, the shower shoes will prevent you from slipping.
Alternatives to Showering
Sometimes a senior cannot shower the traditional way due to their physical condition. In that case, there are alternatives to a traditional shower.
An increasingly popular option these days is converting the shower area into a walk-in tub if there is room for it. This tub with a side door can open up, allowing the user to step in and out of the tub quickly and safely.
The tub has built-in seating so the senior can sit comfortably instead of standing. Less time on their feet means fewer chances of slipping. Features like water jets can provide a water massage and ease stiff joints and tired muscles.
A portable shower is a less expensive way than remodeling the bathroom. You can even install the portable shower in a bedroom if it has enough space.
They are a great choice for older adults who are not very mobile because it allows them to shower inside their room. It is wheelchair accessible. Set-up is not complicated and only requires an attachment to the sink.
If the senior has difficulty getting out of bed, a sponge bath on the bed is an effective alternative. Sponge baths usually require some level of caregiver assistance to be adequate.
Additional Shower Safety Resources for Seniors, Elderly, and Caregivers
- 13 Shower Safety Tips For The Elderly (Increase Safety and Reduce Falls!)
- Learn What To Do After Falling In The Shower [Remain Calm & Assess the Situation]
- Creative Ways to Get Seniors to Shower
As a person gets older, balance and mobility can start to become an issue. Showering and bathing become risker because of the higher potential of slipping and falling in the bathroom.
However, if you implement these safety precautions and bathroom modifications to make it safer, you can reduce the risk of injuries.
A standard shower/tub combination can present many risks to the senior. A walk-in shower or tub offers more safety and comfort. How you remodel will depend on what kind of space you have in the bathroom.
A portable shower installed in any room is also an alternative that is less expensive than a bathroom remodel.
If you or your older loved one are still independent with your daily self-care routines, consider the above suggestions for making the bathroom safer.
Implementing simple changes like making the floor non-slip, adding more grab bars, using a shower chair, and decluttering the shower area can make a big difference in improving safety in the bathroom.