54 bathroom safety tips for seniors – A helpful guide
Living with my mom, as I do, I am constantly checking for things which might cause her to fall, and the bathroom with all that water is the prime area for a nasty accident.
I’ve prepared a list of 54 practical tips that you can implement to make the bathroom safer for your elderly parent, and to also help them enjoy what should be relaxing time in the bathroom, and not a tedious experience fraught with risk.
A large percentage of seniors are reluctant, or scared to shower and bathe, as often as they would like due to the fact that slipping in the bathroom is such an easy thing to do. Even getting on and off the toilet, climbing in and out of bathtubs or the shower, can be daunting when you have reduced mobility, balance and serious stiffness. Coupled with a lack of energy and the longer times it takes to do even the easiest of tasks, the bathroom can become a dangerous place for our elderly parents.
The List !
Walabot Home the latest, and most advanced Automatic Fall Detection system on the market today, is designed to detect falls in the bathroom and to instantly send alerts to family and caregivers !
The system is 4 times more accurate than any other system on the market, and using radio waves can tell when a person is lying on the floor where they shouldn’t be.
The device is also voice activated, so whether the user is unconscious, or can’t move, the emergency call is activated.
It was initially specifically for the bathroom, but now you can have the system throught your house or flat.
For the floor
If you can re-do your loved one’s bathroom floor with rough tiles you will drastically reduce the chances of people slipping.
Non-Slip floor tape
If your parent’s floor is very smooth and slippery when wet you can get a non-slip floor tape which you just put down in strips, and which help to stop them from taking a tumble.
I would take a look at
- 3M – makes a whole range of tapes available in the US and the UK.
- NAC Safety – makes a commercial grade non-slip tape for swimming pools, washrooms, boats etc, which is not expensive and available in the US and UK.
Non- Slip floor mats
Any mats that you put on the bathroom floor need to be non-slip. You can either place the mat over a piece of non-slip PVC liner, or get purpose made non-slip mats.
It doesn’t really matter what brands your loved ones buy, just don’t put something down which is so thick down that you can easily trip on it.
You also need to make sure mats don’t curl up at the corners, and if they do, just get yourself some good DIY double sided carpet tape and stick the mat down.
The safest option is to get rid of any floor mats.
Keep the floor dry
It sounds obvious, but some seniors have age related eye problems and won’t easily see if a floor is wet. Don’t forget that much used statistic, that 80% of falls occur in the bathroom !
For the Shower
Walk in shower
To help your loved ones having not go up and down steps, and particularly in an environment with water everywhere, get a walk in shower for them. Less chances of slipping and tripping.
Wall mounted shower seats
Your loved ones may wish to sit in the shower and, may either not have a lot of room for a shower chair, or not find them very comfortable. A folding wall mounted seat may be the answer. It is obviously very sturdy as it is fixed, and it takes up little room compared to the alternatives. The seat folds up when you are done, so it really doesn’t involve a lot of moving things around. And for others it isn’t in the way.
Don’t forget to check weight limits and the fixing system as certain showers can’t support them – you need a solid wall to fix them to.
The more popular brands are
- Homecraft (US and UK)
- Moen (US and UK)
- CSI Bathware (US)
- Healthsmart (US)
- Days – this has arms (UK)
They generally don’t have arms that you can use to guide yourself when you sit down, so may be a little difficult for seniors who are not so steady. But you can remedy this by putting grab bars around it.
This is a pretty obvious tip, but it is much easier for someone who lacks stability to shower sitting down, and they are much less likely to have a fall or to slip.
Your loved one may want more, or less stability in their chair, or they may need to be in a chair which can be wheeled into the shower. Maybe they just want a chair which is more like a stool or bench, rather than a chair, you just have to bear in mind how strong and stable your loved one is, and that the shower is the most lethal spot for falls.
For those who need to be wheeled into the shower the company Etac make a range of commode shower chairs which can be wheeled in and out of the shower and they are available both in the US and the UK.
In some cases it is more practical to have a swivel chair for the shower, especially if there is a step into the shower. You simply place the chair in the shower facing outwards, and your parent can sit down and then swivel round facing the shower. This avoids having to step up on to a slippery surface.
You can find both chairs and stools which are built fo this. Some examples of the are the
- Eagle Health Swivel Shower Chair
- MMOB Premium Bathroom Swivel Chair
- Platinum Health Revolution Pivoting Shower Chair
- Drive Medical Bathroom Safety Swivel Seat Shower Stool
For a shower chair with arms and a back these are made by
If you don’t want arms on your chair – a bit odd as it’s harder to sit down and we are looking for stability – the main brands are
- NRS Healthcare
- Carex and Drive Medical
The last type of seat is a stool/bench seat, it just has a couple of slots in the seat for your hands to hold onto as you sit down – I don’t recommend them for the elderly as they are smaller and have less distance between the legs, and you really have to reach down to get ahold of it – the main brands are
- Drive Medical
- Dr Kay
If you already have a 3-in-1 bedside commode, and it fits in your shower this is pretty much the same as a shower chair. Just take out the potty, and put the seat and the lid down – make sure of course that it can take your loved one’s weight before you sit them on there. The only way it might not suit your loved one is if with the seat and lid down, there is no back rest. If you can push it against the wall that may work, but only do it if it is comfortable.
It has arms and adjustable legs in most cases so if your shower is big enough to fit it in, you can use it. You can also put a towel over it and give your loved one a sponge bath.
Hand held shower head
It makes showering much easier, especially if you are sitting down, if you have a handheld shower head. It is much easier for washing as you don’t have to move around, you move it around you, and this means less moving around in the shower, so less risk of slipping.
It’s important for anyone who is not steady on their feet to have something to hold onto in the shower, and it will certainly make it a safer place.
There are a large number of different types of grab bars, as they are called, which you can attach in the shower.
I don’t like the suction ones. I have had three sets from different brands and all came off unexpectedly, and we have perfectly smooth glazed tiles on which they were sucking. I wouldn’t trust my mother’s safety to one of those, and I don’t know if you should either.
I would, if it is possible go with fixed, drilled grab bars if you can do it.
As for the shape and the size, you really need to adapt that to your shower, if you look on the internet you will see all the shapes and sizes.
If you are going to fit grab bars I would get a professional to do it, as some showers will need reinforcing before the grab bars can be attached.
Non-Slip tape on grab bars
Grab bars are invariably made of plastic or metal, and when either of these gets wet it is hard to get a good grip. So, if your bars are slippery when wet, so that your loved ones can really keep ahold of the bars in the shower, it’s a great idea to give them a layer of non-slip gripping tape.
3M do a 3M GM gripping tape which is suitable for the job and you can find this easily on the internet.
Always have a non-slip shower mat in the shower, especially if your loved ones are standing. You will find them all over the internet, and you can even get non-microbial, anti-mildew, anti-bacterial, but most importantly non-slip.
Non-Slip Safety Shower Tread Stickers
If you don’t have a a non-slip mat in the shower, you can get adhesive anti-slip treads. Affinity is a popular brand in the US, and the UK NAC Safety aqua slip waterproof anti slip discs
Using a shower caddie means that all the items that your loved one needs in the shower – sponges, cloths, shampoos, conditioners and any other products – can be kept in one place within easy reach. Just make sure it is hung at the right level if they are seated. There are many many brands to choose from.
Soap on a rope
Just to make it so your loved ones have one less thing to drop and then pick up, try using a soap on a rope. If the rope is too short you can attach a longer piece of string to it.
For the sink
The elderly if they have weaker hands or arthritis will find it much easier if you get taps with a lever handle, rather than knobs – I know my mother says they are much easier. Another option is push taps, but these are a little more difficult to find.
Over flow safety devices
If your loved ones are prone to forgetting to turn the taps off you can have some serious problems, and that’s not just slipping over in the water. If you have an upstairs bathroom a flood can seriously damage both floor and ceiling.
To remedy this you can get “Flowban”. This is a special valve/kit which fits to the pipes and the overflow. As the over flow starts to take in water it goes into the valve and creates more pressure as it rises, finally shutting off the water flow to the tub. As soon as the water level in the tub drops the flow to the taps will resume.
It can’t be fitted on all types and it does require some serious plumbing to installed, so it is not the cheapest option.
Another, and cheaper and really easy option for your loved ones is “Magiplug”. This plug has a pressure plate, and when the water reaches a certain depth, and thus weight, the plug starts to let water out of the tub. This requires no special installation and is just placed in the water exit like your normal plug would be. For ease of use it is pretty simple.
If those two solutions don’t float your boat, then you could try sink taps which shut off automatically. These are sometimes called “Time Flow Shut Off Taps”, “Self Closing Taps”, “Saver Taps”, “Auto Shut Off Taps”, “Touch Free” or “Hands Free”.
Some of theses taps work on a sensor and will only run when you hands are underneath the spout. Or you can get taps which are set to run for a certain time; you push and then the water runs for 3 -15 seconds, for example, and when it shuts off you can just push it again. The second type is much cheaper than the taps with sensors.
The sensor taps are made by a range of companies like
- Fyeer (US)
- Apollo (UK)
- Fortana (UK)
The taps where you push are made by
- American Standard (US)
- Premier (UK)
You get the best results on google when you search of “hands free taps” if you are looking for the sensor taps, and with “self closing taps”.
Sink Safety Rail
If your parents spend a good deal of time primping at the bathroom sink they may find it more stabilizing to have a sink rail to hold on to.
There are three kinds which could be of use here.
There are the portable rails which are just like support rails for the toilet, and which go all the way around sink like the
- Vaun safety rails (US)
- LCM safety rails (UK)
- NRS Health safety rails (UK)
The advantage of these being that you can move them easily to where they are needed, and you only have to buy one item.
If you prefer something which goes all the way round, and which is permanent, the following are all good examples
- Achfs handrail sink support
- KKCF bathroom grab bar for sink
- Daleys pedestal basin handrails
- WLLVM sink safety handrail
A third type of support for the sink is a fixed flip up grab bar. When it is not in use the grab bar flips up out of the way, but when needed the bar drops down sticks out on the side of the sink. The more solid ones are the
- Moen R8960FD (US and UK)
- Dijod Elderly disabled handrail (US)
- Healthsmart fold away grab bar (US)
- NRS Healthcare M48465 (UK)
- Tropik Home Stainless Steel Hinged Bathroom Safety Rail Grab Bar (UK)
Mirror and cupboard above sink reachable
This is pretty self explanatory, you don’t want your loved ones over reaching if they aren’t stable. So put everything at a good height, and within reach.
You can also put a clear film over any mirrors in case they may break, if you feel that it’s necessary.
You must check the max loads that any devices mentioned here can take. If you wish to get anything for someone of considerable weight, then the term to search for is bariatric. Simply place the term bariatric in front of the name of whatever article you are looking for e.g. “bariatric raised toilet seat”.
A toilet safety frame
If your a parent’s toilet is the right height, but they need bars for stability you can place a portable frame without a seat around the toilet. This gives you a couple of horizontal rests which your parents can hold onto when sitting down and getting up.
There are many makes of frames which suit most needs. You can find these anywhere, but if you want to look on amazon they are all there
- Drive Medical
If the toilet is too low you can just add a raised toilet seat.
3-in-1 bedside commode placed over the toilet
In my mom’s case we have simply placed our 3-in-1 commode over the toilet – we had bought this for when my mom had a hip replacement. As well as using it in her room when she could hardly walk, we then used it once she was up and about, putting it over the toilet without the commode potty on it. This raised the seat up as much as my mom needed, as the height of our 3-in-1 commode is adjustable.
For tall people who may have real problems standing up from the toilet this could be the real answer, as they will be able to make it much taller than if they a raised seat, which is about 3″- 4″.
A fixed frame, or portable will address the problem of stability, but not height as no seat added, so a 3-in-1 commode with it’s frame was a great fit for us, and we didn’t have to spend more money.
You can find lots of 3-in-1 commodes on amazon and in a range of prices – just make sure that you can sit it over your toilet and that the legs have adjustable height.
Raised toilet seat with side bars
Another way of making the toilet more stable is an elevated seat with side bars. If your loved ones are not so steady it is a good idea to get one with a locking plate that makes the toilet fit very securely – there are no legs going to the floor, hence my liking of the seats with the locking plate for extra security. The following companies have this kind of raised seat with the bars and the locking plate
- Drive Medical
- Essential Medical
We had one for my mother without the bars or the locking plate and it wasn’t very easy to use, especially as there was nothing to hold onto as you sat back.
These will actually lift your loved ones on and off the toilet. They have a handheld push button control which allows the user to maintain their independence, even if they have problems getting up and down.
The only lift which goes on a toilet that I have found is the EZ Access Tilt Toilet Incline Lift – that is not to say there aren’t others, but I didn’t find them in my search.
If your toilet is in the corner of the room and the height of the toilet is not a problem for your parents then you can use grab bars.
Grab bars come in all kinds of finishes and sizes, so there won’t be a problem finding the right style.
For the wall you can fit the grab bar at whatever height your parents need it. for the side without the wall you can get a bar which is attached to the wall, and has a leg which goes to the floor, called a “wall to floor grab bar” – if you just type into google you will find tons of examples and in all price ranges.
Ceiling to floor pole
These are poles which wedge between the floor and the ceiling and have handles on them that you can hold onto and pull yourself up with. The handles can swing around the pole to any position around the 360 degrees.
You have the luxury of being able to try different positions around the toilet. You may need to be a little more assured to use one of these
The poles can be moved around the room and can be used for getting in and out of the bathtub as well. They are also used for getting in and out of bed and other pieces of furniture. These companies all make models of ceiling to floor poles.
- Able life (US and UK)
- Signature Life (US and UK)
- HealthCraft (US)
- Stander (US and UK)
Toilet contour mat
If you place a rug or mat on the floor around your toilet try to make sure it is non-slip. If it’s a rug, check that the edges don’t curl up. Your loved ones are better off having a thin mat which can’t curl up, than a thickish rug.
If you don’t have a non-slip mat for the toilet you will find one on Amazon in two seconds.
If you parent wishes to keep the mat that they have and it isn’t non-slip you can get some non-slip PVC or rubber matting which comes in rolls and just cut off a piece of that and slide it under the mat – but bear in mind that you don’t want to have something to high which will cause tripping.
Over-flow safety devices
The same information here applies for the sink, so I’ll just refer you back to that section.
For those of our parents who have very serious mobility issues, but who can’t afford a walk-in bathtub, there is the option of a bath lift. The lifts are placed in the bottom of the tub and have a seat which raises the user up and down, in and out of the water.
The seat will raise up to the height of the tub allowing the user to sit on it and swivel over into the tub. The seat can then be lowered into the water. Your elderly parent will be able to do the raising and lowering with a simple control device by themselves, making bathing totally possible without assistance and giving them back some of their independence.
Bath lifts are made by
- Drive Medical (US)
- Lumen (UK)
- Aquila (UK)
- Aquajoy (UK)
- Mangar (UK)
- Bellavista (UK)
Sliding transfer seat
These can make getting into the tub for seniors much less of risky business. Two legs of the bench are in the tub, and two are on the bathroom floor. Your loved one sits on the chair seat which is placed initially outside the bath over the floor. They can then lift their legs and slide themselves over into the tub area. They can then sit and wash themselves, and when they are done, slide back over to the area outside of the tub and stand up
- DMI Sliding Transfer Bench (US)
- Duro-Med heavy-duty Sliding Transfer Seat (US and UK)
- Platinum Health Carousel Sliding Transfer bench with swivel seat (US and UK)
For those who can afford to change their bathtubs your loved ones can get walk-in bathtubs which mean that you don’t have to step up over the tub edge to get in, you use a small door.
The bathtubs mostly have seats built into them and can be short and square or long and rectangular. The longer tubs may be referred to as “soaking tubs”.
Some also come equipped with a shower as well.
American Standard, Venzi, Ella, and MediTub all make walk-in bathtubs.
Their are some grab bars which a especially made for the bathtub and stand up vertically on the edge of the tub as a handle helping you get in and out. The bars clamp onto the side of the tub.
These clamping grab bars are made by
- Viva (US)
- HomeCraft (US)
- Medline (US and UK)
- Drive Medical (US and UK)
The ceiling to floor pole
That I noted earlier is a great device to have to hold on to when stepping out of the bathtub, as this is one time when a person need to have control of their balance. With the pole they can grab the handle, or the pole at any height they wish, making things a lot safer.
Non-slip tape on bathtub grab bars
This is the same as with the shower. It’s a simple fix -just a roll of tape you can buy and put around the grab bars for when people’s hands are wet. If hands are wet they can make grab bars pretty ineffective as you can’t grip on a shiny surface.
Non-Slip mat in tub
These are exactly the same as for the shower and will help reduce your loved ones’ chances of slipping when they step into, or out of the bath tub, or if they have a standing shower unit in the bath.
Anti-Slip safety bath tread stickers
These are the same as for the shower and will help reduce your loved ones’ chances of slipping and taking a fall.
Again just like in the shower, get soap-on-a-rope so that your loved ones don’t have to go groping around for it.
Keep everything where you don’t have to reach
Make sure that everything in the bathtub is within easy reach, especially things your parents may need when standing. This will avoid them lurching and falling.
Medical Alert Buttons
Medical Alert Central Hub
If your loved one has a medical alert system, try to get the hub for the system placed as close to the bathroom as logistics will allow. The reason for this being that many of the hubs have two way microphones and speakers, and your loved one will want to be heard as clearly as possible when they speak to the emergency operator, or caregiver if they fall in the bathroom. As 80% of falls, in the home, occur in the bathroom it would seem sensible to prioritize a spot nearby for the system hub.
Waterproof medical alert button
Make sure that your parent’s medical alert help button/pendant is waterproof, or at least water-resistant, so that it can be worn in the shower.
If your elderly parent has a pendant which has automatic fall detection, make sure it is waterproof or water-resistant, and that they wear it in the shower. Although these only detect faster falls, there isn’t much doubt that any slip in the shower will lead to a fast impact fall. Automatic fall detection will, after 30 – 60 seconds, call the emergency monitoring centers, or your parent’s designated contacts, depending on whether you have a monitored or unmonitored medical alert system. In any event, this is the best type of pendant to be wearing in an area where your parent is at risk of falls.
If you have a medical alert system which has panic buttons for the wall, even if you have a pendant button, put the panic button on the wall incase you have a problem, and put it at a height that you can reach it from the floor and when you are standing.
Cell phone by the toilet
If your elderly parent doesn’t have a medical alert button, or has a system which requires they answer their phone should they fall, it’s a great idea to keep the mobile in the bathroom with them while they are in there. Have a spot where they can put it by the toilet, at a medium height so they can reach it if they fall on the floor.
Bright lighting everywhere
Other than keeping surfaces dry, probably the most important thing is to have really good bright lighting so that your elderly loved ones can see where they are going, and avoid tripping and falling.
Motion sensor and smart plug
To turn on bathroom light at night as this stops your elderly loved ones from wandering around in badly lit conditions, and groping for light switches when they may be half asleep.
You can find companies with smart home systems such as Hive which sell the kind of systems with smart plugs and motion sensors, or you can get smart plugs such as d-link’s smart plug with a motion sensor, and just plug a light into that.
Motion sensor lights en route to bathroom
You can use simple motion sensors with small lights, to light any hallways between the bedroom and the bathroom.
These very simple lights are battery operated and only need a new battery about once every six months.
In the US some of the more popular ones are
- New Version Amir
- Mr Beams MB723
- Cloud Bay Motion Sensor Ceiling Light
- Magitec Sensor Lights
In the UK some of the popular ones are
- Criacr Motion Sensor Lights
- WRalwaysLX Motion Sensor Lights
- Novelty Place
Motion sensor lights in the bedroom
You can use motion sensors and a smart plug to automatically turn on the lights in the bedroom when your loved one wakes up at night. This immediately lights the room and means your loved one who may be very drowsy, is not searching for switches or tripping over things if they didn’t bother to turn on the light.
You can also put a night light into your loved ones bedroom if that doesn’t hinder their sleep, as it is probably cheaper than putting smart plugs all over the place, and it will give them enough light to see what they are doing and to switch on the main light.
Some night lights like the Dewenwils LED Night Light Plug (US) just goes into the wall socket, and has sensor which turns it on and off on its own.
Other examples of this type of night light are the
- Maxxima MLN-16 LED Plug in Night Light (US)
- Emotionlite Plug-in Night Light (US)
- SYCEES Plug-in Night Light (UK)
General things you can do
Bathroom water at 120 F or less
The older we get, the thinner our skin gets, and the more delicate and easier to burn it becomes. So that your elderly parents don’t scold themselves it is a good idea to turn their hot water to 120F on the water heater. You can then check it by simply pouring some hot water in a cup and then putting an oven thermometer in it.
If you don’t know how to change it on your water heater I’d give your handy man a call and get it checked. You don’t want to make a mistake.
Storage and Cupboards
Have all of these within easy reach at a level where they won’t cause your loved ones to lose balance getting to them.
Handy Reacher/ Grabber Tool
If your parents are very stiff, or suffer from poor balance, or both, they will have trouble bending down to pick articles up off the floor. It could be a great idea to hang, somewhere in the bathroom, a handy reacher/grabber tool for getting stuff they have dropped, or even stuff they just can’t reach.
You need to get all of that clutter out of the bathroom. With all the chances of slipping that there are in the bathroom you don’t need to have any obstacle that can cause falls in there – put it all in cupboards.
Cover all sharp corners
Don’t leave any sharp corners exposed to reduce the chances of your loved ones hitting their heads on them if they fall. You can buy all manner of rubberized plastic corner covers. It is also a good idea to round any corners off if you can on shelves.
As well as covering corners you can use something like Wemk Transparent table edging (US and UK)to cover all the sharp cabinet and hard top edges in the bathroom.
There are lots of other brands to choose from like
- Bebe Earth (US and UK)
- Rove Cove (US)
- Zalock (US)
- Baby Proofing Edge and Corner Guards (UK)
- Miny Baby (UK)
A powerful extraction fan
Make sure that you have a powerful fan that can extract all the humidity from the bathroom to make surfaces a lot less slippery. if you can’t do that try and make sure you can open a bathroom window to evacuate the humidity that way, it’s better than nothing.
Don’t rush seniors in the bathroom
If you are helping a senior in the bathroom just go slowly and let them move at their own pace. I find that life just goes much more smoothly when I go at my mother’s pace, even if it isn’t my own, it makes things simpler for everyone.
Have a safe and happy time in the bathroom !
I hope that some of the ideas here will be of help.
I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com
I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.
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