Bathroom Safety

Bathrooms have an especially high level of safety concern that other areas in a home do not.  As a physical therapist, I am frequently asked to assess people’s bathrooms for accessibility, and to make recommendations for equipment and modifications that will maximize safety.

If a person uses an assistive device for walking, such as a walker, they can’t always fit them into the bathroom.

  • Avoid adding clutter that may make the walking spaces more restricted,
  • Add grab bars if you need to leave your walker outside the room.

The surfaces in a bathroom are unforgiving.  They become slippery when wet and are hard if you land on them.

  • Keep the floor free of rugs, especially if they have fringe,
  • Use a rubber-backed bath mat when getting out of the shower so the floor stays dry and slip resistant.

In most instances, a standard height toilet does not meet the needs for a person with an arthritic knee, hip or spine.  And in some cases, a toilet may be too high for a short person or someone transferring from a wheelchair.  Also, if given an option of which chair to sit in, would you choose one with armrests or without?  The toilet area is no different.  If you have difficulty getting clean due to limited arm/hand function, there may be help! Here are some ideas:

  • Elevate your toilet with a seat riser, or have an ADA (American with Disabilities Act) toilet installed, which is 19” tall,
  • Add a safety frame, which is simply a set of armrests that attach to the bolts of the toilet seat.
  • A portable bidet can be added that washes and dries!

Stepping into a shower or tub also presents some difficulty.  Do you find yourself unsteady if you look up and/or close your eyes?  This is typical movement in a shower, but is not comfortable for many people.  Consider these modifications:

  • Grab bars as you step in, and inside the shower,
  • Shower chair with back,
  • Transfer bench that allows you to sit on the outside of the tub and slide across (to avoid stepping over the edge),
  • Hand held shower with a shut off on the showerhead,
  • Rubber mat on the shower floor or a textured surface (non-slip strips or sanded paint).

 

Finally, all grab bars should be installed professionally.  They need to be firmly attached.  A towel bar or a suctioned handle will not provide enough stability!

 

Happy Bathroom Safety!

For more information:

http://extension.missouri.edu/p/gh7060

If you or a loved one could benefit from additional strengthening or advice on bathroom safety please call.

Carolyn Blake, PT, GCS, CEEAA  

612-965-5122