Falls can be particularly dangerous for seniors, often resulting in severe injuries like hip fractures and head trauma. These injuries can significantly affect a senior’s quality of life, independence, and overall health.

Safety in the bathroom is essential for seniors because it is a common location for falls and injuries. Slippery surfaces, wet floors, and cramped spaces can make it difficult for seniors to move around safely and increase the risk of falls. As people age, their balance and mobility may decline, making them more susceptible to accidents in the bathroom.

Falls are a Significant Health Concern for Aging Adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give some sobering statistics regarding seniors and falls, including the following:

  • One in five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients are hospitalized yearly because of a fall injury, most often a head injury or hip fracture.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in older adults.

Experts estimate an older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes. Even if a fall is not fatal, it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and independence, leading to a fear of falling and a decreased ability to perform daily activities.

Falls Often Occur in the Bathroom

A full 80 percent of falls happen in the bathroom, according to the National Institute on Aging. Bathroom-related falls among seniors are typically linked to wet and slippery floors caused by bathing or difficulty getting on or off the toilet. Frail muscles can make rising from the toilet seat challenging, often resulting in balance loss. Older adults with low blood pressure, heart disease, or dementia may be particularly susceptible to falling in the bathroom.

Simple modifications to the bathroom can significantly reduce a senior’s risk of falling. Ensuring a safe bathroom environment for older adults can promote their independence, improve their confidence, and reduce the likelihood of injuries and hospitalizations, resulting in a better overall quality of life.

Steps to Improve Bathroom Safety

It is essential to address bathroom safety for seniors to reduce the risk of falls and injuries. Safety features can include grab bars, non-slip mats, and raised toilet seats. It is also vital to ensure that the bathroom is well-lit and clutter-free and that seniors have easy access to any necessary equipment or devices, such as shower chairs or hand-held showerheads. By taking these steps, seniors can maintain their independence and safety while using the bathroom.

Ten Steps to Making the Bathroom Safer for Your Older Loved Ones

  1. Install grab bars near the toilet, bathtub, and shower to provide support and stability. Grab bars help lessen fatigue and maintain balance while the senior is standing.
  2. Use textured, no-slip strips, decals, or non-slip mats on the bathroom floor and in the bathtub or shower. Replace glass shower enclosures with a shatter-proof material like laminated tempered glass.
  3. Provide a sturdy shower chair or waterproof bench inside the shower for added support and safety. A hand-held showerhead within easy reach allows seniors to shower while seated.
  4. Install a floor-to-ceiling safety pole near the toilet or shower to help your senior maintain their balance; near the bed to assist them as they sit, stand, or reposition; and in the living room or other areas of the home to help them sit down, stand, or move around.
  5. Install a raised toilet seat and safety rails to make it easier for seniors to sit down and stand up. Toilet safety rails can be free-standing or attached to the wall and help a person who is unsteady or frail rise or lower themselves more easily to and from a sitting position.
  6. For those with arthritis or joint pain, turning knobs can be challenging and uncomfortable. Swap out sink and shower knobs with lever-style faucets, which require less strength and dexterity.
  7. Ensure the bathroom and the path to the toilet are well-lit and free of obstacles. As people age, eye muscles weaken, and the pupils become smaller, making it harder to see in low light levels. Install sufficiently bright nightlights or motion-sensor lights to help seniors navigate the bathroom safely.
  8. Consider installing a walk-in tub or shower to make it easier for seniors to get in and out safely. If the senior must step over the sides of a bathtub, provide a tub rail grip, a handle that securely grips the tub’s edge. Have a secure non-skid mat to step on after using the grip to enter or exit the tub.
  9. Keep the bathroom floor clean and dry to reduce the risk of slipping. Keep the bathroom floor clear of clutter, such as towels and bath mats, to reduce the risk of tripping and falling.
  10. Store frequently used items within easy reach to minimize the need for bending or stretching.

While the bathroom can be especially hazardous for seniors, other areas of the home can also pose risks. It’s essential to assess the entire living space and make any necessary modifications to create a safe and comfortable environment for older adults. Above all, keep the entire home well-lit and clutter-free, and remove hazards like loose rugs.

Is your aging loved one living in a safe environment? Help your senior take the CDC risk assessment for falls and review the online brochure What You Can Do to Prevent Falls. For more help and tips, refer to AARP’s article 10 Tips to Help Make Your Home Fall-Proof and Hazard-Free.

At Home Harmony is proud to offer innovative, integrated care delivered to your aging or disabled loved one in their private home or senior living community. Our services include:

  • Primary care home visits.
  • Pharmacy packaging and delivery.
  • The services of a licensed social worker to ensure your loved one receives needed care and resources.
  • In-home monitoring devices track chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart failure. The device automatically sends readings to our health team, who respond quickly with needed assistance. Interactive tech devices also keep families in the loop.
  • Personal care aides assist with companionship, activities of daily living, housekeeping, and more.

Choose the services that fit your loved one’s needs. Medicare covers most services other than personal care aides. Most long-term care policies, Work Comp, VA, and Medicaid policies provide coverage for personal care aides.

Contact At Home Harmony to learn how we can help keep your loved one safe and healthy, whether in their private home, independent living, or assisted living community.