How to help safety-proof a bathroom

Occupational therapist Sharon Howell gives advice on how to help safety-proof a bathroom, a common spot for falls.

As your loved one ages, the bathroom – with its slippery surfaces and potentially scalding water – can become the site of accidents. Implementing some safety strategies and equipment can help reduce the risk of falls, so that your loved one can remain independent and in their own home for longer.

Stay safe with professional advice

When modifying a home to accommodate any mobility issues, it’s always best to seek professional advice to make sure you’re implementing the right modifications.
 
If showering and other personal tasks are becoming an effort, or falling is a concern, consult an occupational therapist who can assess the bathroom and provide specific strategies and equipment to increase safety.
 
Also, if moving house, building or renovating, an occupational therapist can advise on bathroom design that will support people as they age, reducing the need for costly modifications in the future. If you're not sure where to start, Bupa's Aged Care Support Line might be able to point you in the right direction. 

Howell’s tips on how to help safety-proof a bathroom

bathroom infographic
Simple ways to help make a bathroom safer
  1. Install grab rails (consult an occupational therapist for appropriate placement and to ensure these are installed correctly).
  2. If your loved one’s home is being renovated, consider having a stepless shower installed to reduce trips.
  3. Consider installing safety flooring, or applying a non-slip treatment to the floor.
  4. Purchase a specialised shower stool or chair for your loved one if they are unsteady on their feet.
  5. Long-handled aids such as a toe-washer or long-handled sponge can help.
  6. Consider having a thermostatic mixing valve installed to reduce the risk of scalding.
  7. Organise for a plumber to lower the temperature of the hot-water service so it cannot scald your loved one.
  8. Purchase a rubber-backed bath mat.
  9. Remove other mats from the bathroom, as these can be trip hazards.
  10. Ensure the floor is kept free from trip hazards, such as discarded towels and clothes.
  11. Mop up and dry wet floors.
  12. Consider having a personal alarm installed, so that if your loved one falls and can't get up they can still get help.
  13. Evaluate whether it is still safe for your loved one to use the bath.
  14. An occupational therapist can provide advice on redesigning a bathroom, offering alternative strategies to increase safety (specific to your loved one’s functional level) and recommend the most appropriate equipment to maximise independence.

Keeping it clean

Cleaning the bathroom can further increase the risk of bathroom injuries. Howell has some tips on how to keep the bathroom clean and safe at the same time:
  1. Make sure that your loved one has all the equipment they need before they begin cleaning, to prevent them having to get up and down frequently.
  2. Have them use heavy-duty spray and detergents that can be applied to the surface and left to dissolve grime; they can then return later to wipe over and rinse (task rotation).
  3. Advise them to kneel on a mat or towel to clean the shower base and/or bath rather than bending and stooping, or to use a long-handled tool.

Useful equipment

  • Long-handled toilet brush.
  • Long-handled scourer or scrubbing brush.
  • Heavy-duty sprays.
  • Window wipes.
  • Antibacterial wipes.

Don’t settle for a bathroom environment that could be a hazard for your loved one. Seek advice from an occupational therapist to help reduce the risk of accidents.

Bupa aged care support line

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