Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falling once doubles your chances of falling again. There are things that can be done to help prevent yourself, or your loved ones from falling. This blog will look at things you can do to help improve safety in one of the biggest safety risks in your house, the bathroom. In addition to the NOCA article linked above, this piece includes information from the following articles: 10 Bath Safety Tips For Seniors, Grab Bars à la Mode, Bathroom Safety: A Shower Chair or Bath Bench?, Commodes for the Elderly, and product suggestions from independent living aids, LLC.
Grab Bars and Removable Stability Bars
When people think of bath safety, usually the first thing that comes to mind are grab bars in the bathroom, especially for the bathtub, shower, and toilet. It helps one get in and out of the tub, steady you when reaching for the hand-held showerhead, getting on and off the toilet and if you have an accidental slip, you can grab onto it to prevent a full-on fall.
A grab bar will not be much use if it does not hold you up when you need it most. Do not buy a bar unless it will hold up to 250 pounds. And be sure you install the bar correctly so it can do its job.
There are three main types of grab bars:
Wall-mounted Grab bars: These are the most stable. They attach to the wall at both ends. You can position them any way you want. Some people like grab bars to be vertical – pointing up and down. Other people feel more secure when they grab a bar that is horizontal – stretching from side to side. ILA offers several different types of these grab bars including the Healthcraft Easy Mount Grab Bar 24 with an innovative 9-hole flange that allows it to be installed at varying degrees.
Hinged Grab Bars: Some grab bars attach to the wall at only one end. They connect to a hinge right at the wall. When you are not using these grab bars, they rest against the wall. When you need support, just pull them out to where you need them most.
Sheltering Arm Grab Bars: These provide the best support for getting up and sitting down on the toilet. These grab bars come around both sides of the toilet. They look a little like the armrests on a chair. ILA offers several options of this type including the Foldeasy Toilet Support which provides safe support for people who need help getting on and off the toilet. No need to modify your bathroom or toilet; portable, adjustable & foldable for storage or travel.
There are also removable types of stability bath bars used in the bathroom. Typically, these attach to the side of the tub wall. They must be securely attached to the side of the tub and as stated above must be able to support your body weight. One such example of this type of safety bar is the vertical bath bar, it extends 14″ above tub edge to provide extra stability when getting in & out of tub.
Show Chairs/Bath Benches, Transfer Chairs, and Wheeled Bath Chairs
Shower chairs (sometimes called bath benches) are ideal for people who have poor balance when showering. A shower chair provides stability for people who have difficulty balancing and serves as a resting place for those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time. A chair with a back is appropriate for persons with limited back strength or balance. A good shower chair has rubber tips on the legs to prevent sliding and when used with a hand-held showerhead, a person can remain seated while bathing. An advantage of shower chairs is they can easily be removed from the shower when others in the household wish to take a shower. ILA has a wide variety of bath benches including the Bathtub Safety Bench, which is a comfortable, versatile bath bench with adjustable legs (14″ to 20″), non-scratching rubber feet and a wide seat. It weighs only 5 lbs. but can handle up to 250 lbs.
A transfer bench eliminates the problem of stepping in or out of the tub. These are ideal for individuals with poor balance or for those having difficulty getting in and out of the bathtub. Individuals can get into the tub safely by sitting down on the bench outside the tub, then sliding over, and into, the tub. The bench is often used with a hand-held showerhead, allowing someone to remain seated while bathing. Benches are available in a variety of sizes and some come with a back support that is appropriate for people with limited balance or who simply want the security of more support.
A shower commode wheelchair is a chair that looks like a small wheelchair but with a hole in the middle of the seat. These type chairs can also come equipped with a commode bucket. It can be rolled right into a shower (provided the shower is large enough) and used while a person bathes. These types of chairs are made from rust-proof materials making them perfect for use in the shower. There are adjustable height and angle footplates as well to provide the most comfort possible. ILA offers this Combi Shower Commode Wheelchair which is particularly suitable for immobile persons who are not able to walk to the bathroom by themselves.