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How to Make Bathing Safer for Seniors

Did you know that for seniors living at home, one of the most common places for injury is in the shower or bathtub?  To help your senior loved one maintain his or her autonomy at home, there a few things you can do to make bathing safer.

Bath or Shower?

For seniors with limited mobility, it seems a bath versus a shower would be the logical choice.  Not necessarily.  While a shower does pose increased risk since you are standing, there is still the matter of getting into and out of the tub to take a bath.  Seniors must step over the side of the bathtub, lower their body safely to ground level, pull themselves back up to a standing position and step back over the side of the tub – not to mention the fact that they must perform these tasks in an area that is wet or moist.

Recognize the Need

Seniors are proud, strong, independent people.  It won’t be your elderly mother or father who comes to you to say they think it might be time for a new bathing solution.  On the contrary, it needs to be you who recognizes their need before an accident happens.  If your senior loved one is showing signs of decreased mobility, start opening the conversation and researching bath safety solutions.

Grab Bars

Studies have shown that many seniors use towel bars for assistance as they climb into and out of their tubs.  This is very unsafe because towel bars, unlike grab bars, are not weight bearing devices anchored to the wall.  Grab bars are an inexpensive and effective bath safety solution and when installed in the correct positions, provide much needed support during tub entry and exit, helping with balance and fall prevention.

Hand-Held Shower Heads

For those who still prefer to stand and shower, hand-held shower heads add an important element of safety because they eliminate the need for spinning around inside the shower to rinse off.  These are also an excellent accompaniment to shower seats.  As you sit down to bathe, you can use a portable, hand-held shower head to wash yourself.

Shower Seats

Shower seats are a helpful aid in both bathtubs and showers.  Some seats are portable and are designed to fold up or down when not in use.  These seats can be mounted to the wall for a more permanent, sturdy solution.

Bath Lift

For even greater support, consider a bath lift.  This device allows seniors to sit comfortably before it lowers them down into the tub.  Whenever they’re ready to come out, the device lifts them up and back into a sitting position.  Bath lifts are often accompanied by a transfer bench, which allows the senior to easily slide in and out over the edge of the tub.  

Walk-In Bathtubs

Arguably the safest and most comprehensive bathing solution for seniors is the installation of a separate unit, walk-in bathtub in another area of the bathroom.  Featuring its own doorway, seniors can easily walk in and out without stepping over any ledges.  Most have a bench inside, enabling seniors to sit down and relax as they bathe themselves.  Walk-in bathtubs provide easy entry and exit, the elimination of lowering down to ground level and the ability to sit up comfortably while inside. Best of all, since these are standalone units, they can be easily removed when they are no longer needed – for example, when the home is sold.
If you have concerns about the bathing safety of your senior loved one, don’t wait to make a move.  Consider all of your options and remember that whatever you choose will be a worthwhile investment in your loved one’s safety and prolonged independence.
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