Easy ways to make bathing safer.
The bathroom may be the smallest room in the house, but it poses a big risk for injury without the right safeguards in place. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit the emergency room because of bathroom-related injuries. More than a third of those injuries occur while bathing or showering.1 And the number of injuries increases with age, peaking after age 85.1
With a few simple additions to your bathroom, you can lower your risk of injury and make washing up more comfortable and less stressful. Here are five easy ways to help you stay independent and prevent injuries in your bathroom.
Before you bathe: Pick a seat.
For seniors and those recovering from surgery or an injury, it’s important to take a seat in the bath or shower. Stability is key, especially on slippery surfaces. Bath benches and shower chairs provide a safe seat when bathing and are easily removed when others in your household need to take a shower. But not all seating options are the same. They’re each designed to assist with a specific need. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of bath safety chairs and benches to find the one that’s right for you.
Bath Benches. A bath bench is a good choice for those with better mobility. Because of its backless design, it allows for a wider range of motion, making it easier to maneuver within the bath and reach your products. A bath bench fits right inside your tub or shower, allowing you to sit when you bathe. Be sure to look for a style with height-adjustable legs to ensure a proper fit and nonslip rubber feet for more stability. Pay close attention to the weight limits, too. For an extra layer of safety, it’s a good idea to place a nonslip rubber bath mat on the floor outside the tub to help prevent slip-and-fall accidents when you’re getting in and out.
Bath and Shower Chairs. Bath and shower chairs provide even more support if you have trouble balancing or standing for long periods of time. These bath safety aids fit right in your tub or shower, allowing you to sit comfortably with back support as you wash. Look for a bath chair with adjustable seat height, angled legs for even weight distribution and rubber tips for a nonslip grip. Here are some tips on how to use bath and shower chairs safely:
- Check that the shower chair is positioned firmly in place — no wobbling or sliding.
- Adjust the height of the chair so you can sit and stand up easily, especially if you suffer from frequent back pain.
- Make sure that the chair legs are level and in contact with the floor.
- Gather all the supplies you’re going to need before you get in the bath, so you won’t need to reach or stand up while showering.
- To help prevent falls, place a safety mat on the floor outside the tub so you don’t step on slippery surfaces with wet feet.
- Clear the area of any obstructions to reduce your chance of tripping and falling.
- Watch your weight distribution. Sit back and relax. Avoid sitting on the edge of the chair.
Bath Transfer Bench. Bath transfer benches not only provide support in the bath, they make it easier to get in and out of the tub. Instead of stepping over the side wall, which can lead to a fall, they allow you to easily and safely slide into the tub from your wheelchair or other mobility aid. Bath transfer benches are ideal if you have poor balance, limited mobility, or even impaired vision. Look for safety features like sturdy, suction cup feet and a side arm for more stability. Here’s how they work:2
- Have all of your bath items ready and within reach before you get in. A shower caddy is an easy way to keep everything in one place at your fingertips.
- Stand with the bench touching the back of your legs.
- Using the handles on the bench, or grab bars on the wall, steady yourself to sit down slowly.
- Scoot as far back as you can, keeping both legs outside the tub.
- Lift one leg at a time over the edge of the tub — have somebody help you if you can.
- Sit in a comfortable, seated position, all the way in the tub.
- When you’re done with your shower, repeat those same steps in reverse.
Not sure what type of bath support seat you need? Take this quick two-minute quiz to help find the best safety aids for you.
Pre-bath prep: Toilet safety rails vs. grab bars for the walls
Grab bars and toilet safety rails both help to make your bathroom safer by minimizing your risk of slipping and falling. But there’s a big difference in how and why they’re used.
Grab bars are usually installed in or around the shower/bathtub to provide extra support. They’ll help you steady yourself when you’re standing or stepping in and out of the bath. Look for a style with a textured surface to provide a more secure grip when they’re wet. For additional stability, use them in tandem with a transfer bench.
Toilet safety rails, on the other hand, are installed around the toilet and designed to help you sit down or stand up from the toilet more easily. They provide extra balance and stability if you have limited mobility, allowing you to move with confidence. Using toilet safety rails with a raised toilet seat makes it even easier to navigate from the toilet to the tub by reducing the distance you need to sit and stand. According to the CDC, using a raised toilet seat could help minimize the risk of injuries getting on and off the toilet.1
Getting in and out of the tub: Bath assist bar
Hold steady and keep your balance with a bath assist bar. This style of grab bar is designed to clamp to the side of your tub to help you to get in. It’s important to note that you’ll need to be able to lift your legs over the tub wall to get in or out, as opposed to a general grab bar that simply helps you pull yourself up. Be sure to retighten and check the clamp on the tub before each use. Here are some key features to look for in a clamp-style bath assist bar.
- Multiple grab points. Look for a bar that installs vertically into tub. A curved and straight handle provides support at any angle.
- Strong frame. You’ll get more mileage out of a strong steel frame coated with durable enamel. A textured finish offers a more reliable grip.
- Nonslip pads. Soft, wide pads compress to help hold the bar firmly in place without scratching wall or tub surfaces.
- Tool-free installation. Make setup easy with a large, easy-twist clamping knob. Simply tighten to secure the bar in place on your tub.
After bath: Dressing aids
Once you’re out of the bath, you’ll want to get dressed and warm up quickly, but limited mobility can make that challenging. Try using a dressing aid, such as a dressing stick, button hook or sock aid. These simple tools are especially useful if you live independently and have limited range of motion or trouble bending down. Dressing aids will assist you in putting on jackets, pulling up pants or skirts, slipping on your socks and fastening buttons.
Whether you’re a senior living independently, or a caretaker assisting your loved one in the bathroom, taking extra precaution with bath safety essentials can help reduce the risk of injury and keep the bath the relaxing place it should be.
______________________REFERENCES. 1. Non-Fatal Bath Injuries, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6022a1.htm. 2. 5 Steps for Safely Using a Bath Transfer Bench, Caregiver Aid: https://www.caregiver-aid.com/tub-transfer-bench/. Both accessed December 15, 2019.