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Aging in Place Essentials: Part 5 — How To Make Your Bathroom Safer

Home Safety - Staying Put at Home Blog

As we have mentioned elsewhere on Staying Put at Home, a safe bathroom is critical to Aging in Place. This week, we have a few more suggestions for how to improve the safety of your bathroom.

Remove Tripping & Slipping Hazards

In 2009, bathroom slips, trips and falls accounted for over 230,000 nonfatal injuries in the US.1 These accidents are particularly dangerous for the elderly, as falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.2 Here are several ways to avoid these mishaps in your bathroom:

  • Replace throw rugs with nonslip mats and pads around your plumbing fixtures
  • To reduce slipping, have flooring that is matte-finished, textured tile or low pile commercial carpet
  • Wipe up wet spots immediately
  • Wear proper footwear

Install the Right Toilet

Having a toilet that properly fits you can make your bathroom much easier and safer to use. A toilet between 14 and 16 inches off the ground can cause pain for those with arthritis and back, knee and hip problems. The National Association of Home Building recommends installing a toilet that is 2 ½ inches higher (17-19 inches) than the standard sized toilet.3 This should make it easier for you to stand up and sit down. Also, consider the following ideas to make your toilet safer and more comfortable:

  • Installing an elevated toilet seat or toilet seat riser from Home Depot or another home improvement retailer so that you don’t have to replace your entire toilet
  • Covering your seat with a soft toilet seat cushion
  • Having a toilet seat color that contrasts with the rest of the toilet and the surroundings to make it easier to see where you are going to be seated
  • Installing a Kohler nightlight toilet seat so that your toilet shines in the dark and is easy to find at night
  • Using grab bars with nonslip grips on adjacent walls or armrests on your toilet’s sides to easily get up and to stabilize yourself
  • Making sure toilet paper rolls are within reach and can be changed easily

Walk-in Tubs

Depending on your needs, a walk-in tub could be one of the safest investments you make. Here are a few practical reasons why a walk-in tub can improve your health and lead to a safer bathing experience:

  • The low threshold makes it easier to get in and out, greatly reducing the chance of losing your balance
  • Many walk-in tubs have slip-resistant floors
  • A walk-in tub seat allows you to sit down and relax, and it is easier to stand up and get out of your tub
  • In-tub grab bars can provide stable support, which you won’t find in a standard bathtub
  • Warm water bathing relieves arthritis pain,4 alleviating stiffness in arthritis sufferers and saving money on health care and physical therapy
  • Soaking in a warm bath increases heart rate while lowering blood pressure5
  • Bathing improves blood circulation, strengthens your immune system and gives you more energy.6Increased blood circulation promotes cell growth, organ function and healthy skin.7
  • Water therapy can help in recovery from strokes,8 connective tissue diseases9 and other respiratory related problems
  • A warm bath before bedtime promotes drowsiness and relaxes muscles, resulting in a good night’s sleep10
  • Studies show that those with Type II diabetes who used warm water therapy reported a reduction in blood sugar levels, improved sleep and an increased sense of well-being11
  • Warm water immersion can protect the heart from arrhythmia and strengthen the heart muscle12
  • Water therapy can alleviate back, knee and hip pain
  • A relaxing bath can soothe hemorrhoids, varicose veins and tendinitis
  • Many walk-in tubs have a detachable hand-shower that makes it easier for bathers to get to those hard-to-reach areas

Roll-in Showers

For those who have mobility challenges and require a wheelchair, getting over a walk-in tub’s threshold may not be feasible. Roll-in showers do not have a barrier so that the transition from your wheelchair to your shower is less challenging. In these circumstances, a roll-in shower may be a more appropriate choice. Consider all your options when contemplating whether to install a walk-in tub or roll-in shower in your bathroom. While a roll-in shower may offer more convenience, they lack the water therapy and bathing benefits of walk-in tubs.

General Safety Tips

Creating a safe bathroom does not stop at your toilet, bathtub or shower. We have some advice for safety-proofing the rest of your restroom:

  • Don’t rush; move at a comfortable, leisurely pace so that you don’t accidentally slip
  • Select grab bars that contrast with the walls to increase visibility
  • Never use towel racks as grab bars, as they are not sturdy enough to support your weight
  • If you are unable to install grab bars where you need them, install a vertical support pole from your floor to your ceiling
  • Have a well-lit bathroom, but use non-glare lighting to keep your vision clear and unobstructed
  • Install an illuminated light switch next to your door so that you can find it in the dark
  • Install a plug-in nightlight that will turn on automatically when the bathroom is dark
  • Make your toiletries easy to reach13
  • Remove or pad sharp edges on your countertop
  • Lower your bathroom cabinets by 3 to 5 inches so that your shelves are easier to access
  • Turn your water heater to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns
  • Don’t leave appliances plugged in around plumbing fixtures
  • Purchase a waterproof phone in case you need to call someone in an emergency
  • Always check your medications to make sure that they have not expired
  • Install GFCI electrical outlets in your bathroom so that you lower the risk of electrocution

Keeping a safe, comfortable bathroom makes Aging in Place much more effective. Check back in at Staying Put at Home for future articles on keeping your home safe, and take a look at the other entries in our series on Aging in Place:

Aging in Place Essentials

  1. Introduction
  2. Making Your Home Safer & More Comfortable
  3. How Can Aging in Place Save You Money?
  4. Maintaining & Modifying Your Home: Who Can Help?
  5. How to Make Your Bathroom Safer
  1. Thousands of Injuries Occur in Bathroom Each Year, CDC Reports | Return to Text
  2. Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview | Return to Text
  3. Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist | Return to Text
  4. Warm Water Works Wonders on Pain | Return to Text
  5. Foundational Lifestyle Strategies to Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure | Return to Text
  6. 5 Tips To Improve Blood Circulation | Return to Text
  7. Benefits of Increased Blood Circulation | Return to Text
  8. The Effect of Aquatic Therapy on Postural Balance and Muscle Strength in Stroke Survivors | Return to Text
  9. Tips for Getting the Most Out of the Oldest Form of Therapy | Return to Text
  10. Bedtime Behaviors That Work: 7 Habits That Will Prepare Your Body for Sleep | Return to Text
  11. Immersion in Warm Water Induces Improvement in Cardiac Function in
    Patients with Chronic Heart Failure
     | Return to Text
  12. Aging in Place | A Seniors Guide to Growing Old in Your Own Home | Return to Text
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