Toilet Safety for Seniors & Elderly (Ultimate Resource Guide)

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Falls while getting on and off the toilet can be devastating for seniors and their loved ones. Protect the seniors and elderly people you love with my guide to toilet safety.

Toilet Safety for Seniors
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Income Disclosure: Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. Learn More.

To most people, getting up and down from the toilet is simple. But, for many older adults, this becomes an opportunity for falls and injuries. 

Think about it. Using the toilet is a time when these folks are usually alone because of the privacy involved. They are sitting on a hard seat surrounded by hard floors and walls. Then, they have to stand by themselves in this dangerous environment. 

Fortunately for you and your loved one, there are many options and products to help improve toileting safety while maintaining privacy, dignity, and a safe bathroom for senior and elderly loved ones.

Bathroom Products for Safer Toileting

Here is a rundown of the most popular and practical pieces of bathroom safety equipment. Generally, each of these products increases the seat height and provides a stable base to push up from or support seniors while sitting.

The following products help you answer and address the following questions:


Padded Toilet Seats

Padded toilet seats are often just considered comfort accessories rather than toileting safety equipment. But, many padded seats are thicker than a standard toilet seat which can raise the toilet seat higher – even if it’s just a little.

But even this slight increase may be enough to help someone who is just beginning to have problems. Plus, they are much more comfortable to sit on!

Learn more about padded toilet seats in the following resources:


Raised Toilet Seats

The next option is to install a raised toilet seat onto your existing toilet or toilet seat. These accessories increase the seat of the toilet height from 2 to 6 inches, so the user has less distance to travel when sitting and standing from the toilet.

Several different configurations are available, from blow-molded plastic snap-on seats to seats that attach to the toilet. You even get them with or without arms for additional help.

I always recommend choosing one that either attaches directly to your toilet through the seat attachment holes or has a reliable clamp connection.

Learn more about raised toilet seats in the following resources:

Toilet Safety for Seniors toilet grab bars
Toilet grab bars provide stability in the bathroom.

Toilet Grab Bars

Toilet grab bars can be helpful for people who need a handhold to steady themselves while squatting or rising. These should be installed right next to the toilet, ideally into a wall stud, to provide the most secure holding place.

Some models attach with anchors info drywall too that are secure and stable. Do not use suction cup grab bars near a toilet. They won’t hold onto drywall and cannot bear the total weight of the user.

Read more about using toilet grab bars in the following guides:


Tall Toilets

Another standard option for addressing a toilet that is too low is to install a new taller toilet. Of course, this does require more work because you have to remove and install a new one. Installing a completely new toilet might be more than some people want to tackle.

But, it has an advantage. If the toilet is shared with multiple people in the home, simply having a taller toilet won’t interfere with other people as much as a piece of equipment attached to the toilet will. 

Learn more about buying and installing taller toilets for seniors in these resources:


Toilet Safety Rails

Toilet safety rails, aka toilet safety frames, are an attachment for the toilet that provides handrails on each side of the toilet to ease toileting for older adults. They provide a stable and secure place for people to push up from – especially the models attached to the toilet.

However, they are a bit more intrusive and take up more space because there is more hardware and parts to them. There are also freestanding options. 

Learn more about using toilet safety rails and frames in the following resources:


Bedside Commodes

Bedside commodes were initially created for people who could not make it to the bathroom on a timely basis. They can be placed anywhere in the home but are generally kept in the bedroom for use at night.

They have a commode bucket underneath a toilet seat that you empty after use. 

These helpful devices, also called 3-in-1 commodes, have multiple uses. In addition to providing a toilet in other places in the home, they can double as a raised toilet seat and a toilet seat frame.

To use them this way, you remove the bucket underneath and place the commode over your existing toilet. You may have to adjust the height of the legs to make them fit. 

Learn more about the many uses of bedside commodes in the following resources:

Toilet Safety for Seniors bidets
There is no movement needed when cleaning up using a bidet.

Bidets

Bidets? A bathroom safety product? Really?

Yes! Here’s why. If you think about the act of cleaning up, especially after a bowel movement, there are usually twists, contortions, and squatting movements involved.

These movements may be difficult – if not possible – for some elderly people. And, if they lose their balance, a fall could easily result.

Bidets provide a way to clean up without any movement needed. And, no, you don’t need to install a new fixture in the bathroom for this.

There are several good bidet attachments on the market that attach to your existing seat and options you can install that replace your current seat. One of my favorites includes a raised toilet seat and a bidet.

Learn more about the surprising benefits of bidets in these resources:


Toilet Safety Tips for Seniors and the Elderly

In addition to considering the above bathroom safety equipment, here are several easy ways to make sure toileting is as safe as possible for older loved ones:

  1. Make sure any safety equipment is secure and properly installed. If it is loose or unsteady, tighten or replace it to prevent an accident. 
  2. Remove all bathroom rugs, including decorative toilet rugs and covers. These obstacles are a trip hazard and could cause a fall.
  3. Ensure the toilet paper is accessible without stretching or reaching to prevent accidents caused by a loss of balance.
  4. Remove any accessories from the back of the toilet or near the toilet like decorative items, toilet paper holders, etc. Things may fall, and the older adult might feel compelled to pick them up, which might require bending over.
  5. Ensure the bathroom is well lit and adequate lighting so that the elderly person can easily see the path in front of them.
  6. Install an automatic night light and toilet lights for nighttime bathroom visits, especially for older adults who refuse or may forget to turn on the lights.
  7. Use a colored toilet seat for people with vision problems so they can easily see it contrasted against the floor or wall.

Important Elderly Toileting Fall Statistics

Here are some helpful statistics about falls while toileting to illustrate the need for caution and assistance in the bathroom. 

  • 14.1% of bathroom injuries occur when standing up from, sitting on, or using the toilet. (source)
  • The chance of an injury while toileting increases with age. (source)
  • Of injuries that occur when using the toilet:
    • 19.3% were aged 65 to 74 years,
    • 26.9% were aged 75 to 84 years,
    • 36.9% were older than 85 years. (source)
  • More than 60% of nursing home residents have a toileting disability. (source)
  • More than 35% of residential care facility residents have a toileting disability. (source)
  • In 2015, 26.5% of community-dwelling older adults had clutter or tripping hazards in the home. (source)
  • In 2015, 69.3% of community-dwelling older adults had at least one bathroom modification. (source)
  • In the home, falls in the bathroom are more than twice as likely to result in an injury. (source)
  • In a cross-sectional study on falls resulting in emergency room treatment, those aged 65 years or older had the highest injury rate and were most frequently injured getting in and out of the tub or shower or when using the toilet. (source)

If you have any questions or see something I missed, please let me know in the comments below. If you have a personal question, please email me directly. 

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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