Practicing Bath Safety For Seniors

Julia Little  |  January 23, 2014

Do you know what the most dangerous space in your home is? It's not the basement, the bedroom or even the kitchen. As it turns out, the bathroom poses the greatest risk to homeowners across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, nearly a quarter of a million people seek out medical assistance due to injuries they receive in the bathroom, and more than 33 percent of these incidents occur while bathing. January, National Bath Safety Month, presents the perfect opportunity to draw attention to these facts and help prevent further injury and loss of life.

Bathrooms a hotspot for danger
For people in senior living, bathing areas can be particularly challenging places to manage. The slick surface of many tiled tubs and showers can become even more slippery when wet, and complications like physical disabilities can limit older people's ability to steady themselves and prevent loss of balance or falls. According to The New York Times, the most frequently injured body parts in bathroom accidents include the head, which is affected in nearly a third of incidents, followed by the lower torso, upper torso, then the legs and feet, and finally arms and hands.

Bathing safely
Considering these risks, it's important that caregivers introduce seniors to safe bathing methods, and enforce other steps that can reduce the chances of injury in the bathroom. Begin by examining the bathroom space to look for any particularly hazardous areas. Take note of the floor texture and consider whether it may become more dangerous when wet. Are there stable items nearby that would be easy for seniors to grab to prevent falls, or would objects merely pose another threat during a fall? Similarly, are there areas in the bathroom that could be difficult to navigate? Consider the height of tub siding as well as the accessibility of cupboards and shelves holding bathroom necessities such as toilet paper and shampoo.

Making bathrooms and, in particular tubs and showers, safer can be a fairly simple task. Address common hazards as well as specific items you may notice in the senior's space. If the flooring or tiling is slippery, you can apply higher-traction material, such as anti-skid strips in tubs. Be sure that any bath mats or rugs are also secured with non-slip lining, so that seniors don't risk losing their balance. Even with these implements installed, floors can become slippery, so it's important to keep surfaces dry and clean at all times.

In addition to adjusting flooring, you may want to install bars or railings that provide support. Consider mounting a grab bar next to the toilet and bathtub, as well as the sink. For seniors that have difficulty standing for prolonged periods of time, shower seating may also be an option. Arrange the bathroom so that it is easy to navigate and free of obstacles. Commonly-used items should be within reach, requiring no maneuvering. Bathroom doors should also be equipped with locks that can be undone from either side so that access is not delayed in the event of an emergency.

Health, Fitness & Wellness Categories: