Back to Basics: Bathroom Safety

In this month’s blog, we wanted to bring it back to the basics. The original reason we created this company four years ago:  BATHROOM SAFETY. While our company now addresses anything and everything regarding home accessibility, we started out with preventing falls in the bathroom with grab bar installation.

Of all the household areas that we encounter during our daily routine, the bathroom is the area in which 80% of falls occur for the population of adults 65 years and older. Falls for the older adult commonly result in fractures of the musculoskeletal system, reduced functional independence, and often creates anxiety which reduces their frequency of showering/use of the bathroom. Luckily, all dangerous aspects of the bathroom can be modified in a way which promotes independence, maximizes mobility, and reduces the risk of falling. Here we will highlight some of the hazards within the bathroom. Oakley Home Access has researched effective solutions to address each problem area.

  • Wet and Slippery Surfaces – Bathrooms often have smooth tile surfaces and slick bathtub floors. Although they are easy to clean, they also are a frequent culprit of falls. We advise looking into a non-slip floor treatment. Bob @ Sentinel Safe Floors provides free quotes. Non-slip strips are also an alternative, however less permanent/effective DIY solution.
  • Low Toilet Seats – Toilets are many times as low as 14-15 inches which is exceedingly difficult to stand up from when you have reduced leg strength. If the individual can benefit from an additional 3.5 inches of height, a toilet riser (only the ones utilizing the toilet seat bolt holes) is an option. A reputable plumber can also replace the toilet with a comfort height toilet which generally measures in at 17-18-inches high.
  • Dimly Lit Rooms – Many bathrooms do not have adequate lighting which is only reduced with the presence of steam from a hot shower. We always recommend a light switch located directly next to the entrance to any room. LED battery-operated push-button adhesive mounted lights are a great DIY solution when you need lighting a small area such as the path to the bathroom or atop/bottom of staircases.
  • Drops in Blood Pressure – Hot showers may feel great on a cold New England morning, but the negative effects on blood pressure can cause dizziness and loss of balance. Take three to five deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, prior to standing up from a seated position. At-home blood pressure monitors are available to keep a close eye on blood pressure changes.
  • No Place to Rest – Many showers and bathrooms have no place to take a seat and rest at the vanity or in the shower. This can cause fatigue which leads to falls. We recommend portable shower chairs with arms, backrests, and adjustable height.
  • Reaching Overhead – Placing your arms overhead to wash your hair, adjust the shower head, or reach for high shelving can create losses of balance leading to falls. Mounted grab bars with shelves are available for multi-functional use.
  • Glass Shower Doors – While sometimes attractive, glass shower doors (whether sliding or swinging) are one of the most dangerous items found in the house. We at Oakley Home Access are anti-glass doors for several reasons. They reduce access for entering and exiting a shower which also allows less space for caregivers to assist their loved ones. Also, shower doors have handles that offer a false sense of security: The handles are very tempting to utilize for stabilization during entering and exiting the tub or shower, which commonly leads to falls. Finally, glass can be very dangerous because some doors can break if we lean or fall into them. We gladly provide a service to remove doors and replace with curved wall-mounted curtain rods.
  • Suction Cup Grab Bars – While readily available and inexpensive, suction cup grab bars are a dangerous misconception. These bars often come lose during hot showers and offer no support in a falling situation. They literally indicate on them to not utilize for weight bearing.  Call the professionals at Oakley Home Access to assure your grab bars are securely anchored with specialized hardware as well placed properly based on our holistic, functional assessment.

Every 11 seconds an older adult falls.  Most commonly in the bathroom but also in other areas of the home. Call Oakley Home Access 401-429-3882 and have one of our home safety specialists complete a free home safety assessment for you or a loved one.