For a senior to safely age in place, some house renovations are necessary. While this usually means a complete overhaul, it’s important to start with the most dangerous rooms. As the room that creates the highest hospitalization rate, the bathroom is where you should start. Since 79% of all bathroom injuries among people over 65 are due to bathroom slips and falls, fall-prevention modifications should be your top priority. From grab rails to raised toilet seats, there’s a lot of work to do.
The older we get, the less flexibility we have. That’s why simple things like getting in the bathtub are so challenging to the elderly. Even a small step in the shower can be a fall hazard, so it’s best to have a walk-in shower. This allows seniors to get in the shower easily as they won’t have to make any unnecessary efforts. When fall proofing a bathroom, you should also keep in mind that the most secure way to take a shower is by sitting in a bathroom wheelchair. So, if you’re building a shower from scratch, make sure it’s wide enough to accommodate a shower chair. Even if it isn’t needed right now, it could be useful later. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s best to have a wireless showerhead, as it prevents the senior from getting tangled in the wire while showering.
If your loved one showers without a caregiver’s help, consider installing some grab rails. A shower grab bar will offer support if the senior feels dizzy due to the heat, whereas a grab bar near the toilet will help them sit down and get up. It’s essential to get the height right, though. So, before installing anything, do some tests with your loved one to find the most comfortable height for them to grab.
One of the main reasons why seniors fall in the bathroom is due to a slippery floor. Of course, the shower is the main culprit here, so it’s recommended that you use a non-slip decal on the shower floor. However, the bathroom floor is also prone to getting wet after the senior gets out of the shower or washes their hands. While you could also apply the decal throughout the entire floor, non-slip flooring (like bamboo or vinyl) is also an option.
It’s easy for the elderly to lose their balance when sitting down or getting up from a toilet, and this is especially true if it isn’t at the right height. Tall toilets allow users to exert less effort when using the bathroom. On top of that, there are some toilet accessories that you can get, such as side grab rails, which increase safety even further. Another option is to get a bedside commode with a roll-in feature. This helpful device is as tall as a regular chair, rolls on top of a toilet seat, and can be placed in the bedroom for seniors who get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
Extra Room for a Wheelchair
There’s a high chance that your loved one will need to use a wheelchair sooner or later. That’s why it’s recommended to make some space adjustments even if the senior doesn’t need a wheelchair right away. This means widening the bathroom door, taking out any unnecessary clutter, and ensuring that there’s enough space for a wheelchair to pass. If you have a tight bathroom, place the shower entrance in line with the bathroom door for unobstructed easy access.
How Medical Alert Systems Can Help
Medical alert systems are a good safety net for seniors aging in place. Since bathrooms are such a dangerous place, most devices are designed to help the elderly in this specific room. Pendants and bracelets with a built-in panic button are usually water-resistant to allow users to wear them when taking a shower. If the senior falls, they can ask for help by pressing the button.
Another option is to place wall buttons near the most dangerous places in the bathroom, like the bathtub. There are even voice-activated wall buttons that let the senior ask for assistance by calling for help, which can be lifesaving if they can’t move. Finally, there’s also the fall detection extra that most medical alert systems provide. Since these detect when a fall happens and automatically connect to a care agent, they're the most secure option, as the senior will get help even if they pass out.
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