Falls are a leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. Experts say an average of 2.8 million adults are treated in an emergency room for fall-related injuries every year. For seniors, the bathroom is the most dangerous place in the home. Older adults experience more falls here than in any other room in the house.
In honor of National Bath Safety Month, we are sharing this checklist. It can help you conduct a bathroom safety audit of a senior loved one’s home to identify potential hazards.
Bathroom Safety Checklist for Older Adults
Here are a few of the issues that can prevent a fall risk for older adults:
Are there nightlights in hallways and spaces surrounding the bathroom? These help prevent falls if a senior gets up to use the bathroom during the night.
Is the doorway wide enough for the senior to access the bathroom with a wheelchair or walker? It’s important to have the doorway retrofitted if not.
Does the bathroom door open outward or is it a pocket door? Both make it easier to access your senior loved one in the event of an emergency. Consider having them refitted to make it easier to reach your loved one in an emergency.
Is there a step-free shower for the senior to use? Stepping over the side of the tub presents a significant fall risk for seniors.
Is the shower door made of safety glass or plastic? If your senior loved one’s is made of something else, consider replacing it with doors made of safety glass or plastic in case they fall against it.
Does the shower have a nonslip surface? Add floor mats or nonskid appliqués to lower the odds a senior will slip and fall in the shower.
Are the bathroom floors slippery? You might need to install nonskid vinyl, cork, or bamboo. All three receive higher safety ratings than tile.
Is your family member able to stand alone in the shower? A bath bench or chair can help keep them safe.
Is the bathroom lighting bright with switches that are easy to access in the dark? Lighting plays an important role in fall prevention throughout the house.
Are doorknobs, shower handles, and faucets easy to use for those with arthritis or decreased hand strength? Twisting knobs and handles can be tough for aging hands.
Is the showerhead easily accessible, especially from a seated position? A showerhead attachment can prevent a senior from having to stretch or twist while bathing.
Is the water heater set to a safe temperature? Most experts say 120 degrees is best for preventing heat-related injuries to an older adult.
Is your family member having difficulty getting on or off the toilet independently? A raised toilet seat with grab bars is an easy and inexpensive safety solution.
Are grab bars placed in areas of the bathroom where they are most needed? They should be installed near the shower and toilet to aid in balance.
Are frequently used items, such as towels, washcloths, and toiletries, stored within easy reach? The goal is to avoid the need for a stepstool.
Does the bathroom have GFCI outlets? These help prevent electrical shocks.
Finally, if your senior loved one is having difficulty with balance or taking a medication that causes dizziness, make sure they have an emergency alert pendant. They need to be able to easily call for help if they fall.