A nice hot shower or bath can be a long-awaited respite at the end of the day, however, for older adults, especially those with chronic conditions or mobility issues, it can also increase the risk of injury. The right equipment and accessories can play an important role in helping you maintain your independence with a very personal care task like bathing. Check out this essential guide to making your shower safer:
Install Grab Bars and Bath Rails
Don’t wait until you experience a fall! Even if you are more able-bodied now than you were years ago, go ahead and install safety rails that give you extra support to hold on to should you need it when entering or exiting the shower. For bathtub showers, specialty rails are a must. They grip to the side of the tub and offer vertical support for you to lean on when lifting your legs over into and out of the tub area.
Get a Removable Shower Head
Replace your fixed shower nozzle with a removable head with a flexible cord at least 5 feet long. Removable shower heads allow older adults to bathe and rinse off without having to constantly turn or contort the body. Simply grip the shower head and move it around your body while you stand in place.
Be Smart About Mats
Not only do the majority of falls among the seniors in their homes happen in the bathroom, but many happen when a senior transitions from a carpet/rug area to a non-carpet/rug area or slip on a wet rug. Make sure that the mats you buy for your bathroom floor are non-slip (which means they won’t slide around on the floor) and can thoroughly absorb water from your feet before you step out onto the slick tile.
Invest in an Anti-scald Shower Valve
Sudden sprays of extra hot or freezing water can be so startling as to throw a senior off-balance and cause a fall. Prevent this from happening by installing a pressure-balanced thermostatic or anti-scald valve in your shower or bathtub that helps maintain safe temperature levels in the spout.
Upgrade Your Lighting
Is the lighting from your hallway or bedroom to your bathroom consistent? Are windows covered to prevent blinding glares on bathroom mirrors? Lighting provides for crucial visual and spatial recognition that helps keep seniors balanced and oriented. Make sure to use light bulbs with the same wattage from room to room and hang easy-to-use blinds, shades, or drapes over bathroom windows. You may also want to plug-in motion-detecting night lights that don’t even require a switch for those late night bathroom runs.
Open Your Space
Navigating a tricky environment like the bathroom when the mirror is fogged up and you are trying to safely maneuver in a towel is only made harder by clutter. Open up space in your bathroom by removing large objects (like tables) and instead using vertical space for storage, i.e. chest-high wall shelving.
Raise the Toilet Seat
While grab bars and bath rails are exceptionally helpful in the bath/shower, depending on the position of your toilet, you may need some there too. Finding easy wall access for installing safety rails that help with sitting down and rising up from the toilet isn’t always easy though. A raised toilet seat (also called a toilet seat riser) can be fixed to your existing toilet seat and offer both a higher sitting surface as well as sturdy handrails for added safety.
Use a Transfer Shower Chair
If you assist a loved one with bathing, a transfer shower chair that allows you to safely get them in and out of the tub in a seated position can be life-changing. Sliding transfer benches as they are also called require less physical exertion on both yours and your loved one’s part, and feature their own safety handles for improved stability.
Flip the Door
Does your bathroom door swing inward or outward? For older adults with a history of falling or mobility issues, an outward swinging door may be a safer option for the bathroom. Not only does it make exiting the bathroom easier, but it also allows caregivers and potentially emergency personnel to quickly reach you should you fall in the bathroom against the door.
Make Essential Bathing Items Easy to Reach
Ditch the slippery shampoo bottles resting on the edge of the tub and instead organize essential bathing items in a shower caddy or better yet, a toiletry dispenser that stays fixed to the shower wall. Having soap, shampoo, conditioner, and face wash handy and accessible can cut down on shower times as well as simplify the task of bathing altogether.