Because 70 percent of home accidents occur in the bathroom, bath safety is at the top of the list of home modifications that may become necessary as we age. In many homes, a few key products, like a bathroom safety seat for the tub, strategically placed grab bars, non-slip mats and a raised toilet seat, will do the job without a costly remodel. For people who are still mobile, these often add a sense of security and make it easier to attend to activities of daily living. Here’s what you need to increase bath safety.
For many people, balance and strength become issues as we age. Installing metal grab bars on the inside wall above the bathtub and/or on the wall adjacent to the tub or shower helps address these problems. Permanent grab bars that attach securely are best for bath safety, and a grab bar with a textured or brushed finish provides you with a better grip, especially when you’re wet. An alternative for getting in and out of the tub is a bathtub rail that clamps onto the outside of the tub itself.
When standing up in the shower or getting up and down from the tub is difficult, a bathroom safety seat, such as a shower chair or bench, allows you to sit in the tub or a stall shower. With the chair or bench for shower safety, you can position yourself under the shower spray or, if you prefer, you can use a handheld showerhead that attaches to the tub faucet—this is also an excellent method when you need assistance from a caregiver. Another item, called a bath transfer bench, seat or chair, straddles the exterior side of the tub. You sit down on the outside part of the bench, then swing your legs over into the tub to make getting in (and out) much easier.
If sitting down or standing up from a low seat position is painful or just difficult, a raised toilet seat is an easy adjustment to minimize stress. There are many types to choose from, depending on whether you want the adjustment to be permanent. You can install a toilet riser under your existing toilet seat to lift it up or you can place a raised toilet seat over the existing one or over the porcelain base. If you need more stability but a grab bar can’t be placed near the toilet, choose a model that has arm rails or handles or place a toilet safety framearound the toilet itself.
One important point to remember is to check for the weight limit of a product before you buy it, especially those designed to increase shower safety. Some offer support for people up to 250 pounds; products labeled bariatric can often support a bodyweight of up to 400 pounds or more. Another consideration is the material of the product. Metal often lasts longer than plastic, but any item that is to be used in the moist environment of the bathroom will have a longer life if it is rustproof or waterproof. Also, always compare the size of an item you’re considering to the space it will be used in; measure carefully to avoid having to make a return.