Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors

bathroom safety tips for seniors

Not only are bathroom falls dangerous – they can be fatal – particularly for seniors who are more fragile or who wind up requiring surgery. Post-surgical declines and complications are known for stripping seniors of their original mobility, health, and well-being. So knowledge of bathroom safety tips should always be collected.

The bathroom is one of the major causes of senior slip-and-fall accidents, so bathroom safety tips are an important step in helping a senior to age safely in place. Within the bathroom – the biggest offenders are:

  • Low toilets
  • Slippery floors/wet floors
  • Shower/bath floors that aren’t slip-resistant
  • Shower/bath chairs that aren’t slip-resistant
  • Grab bars and/or towel racks that aren’t sufficiently secured

7 Bathroom Safety Tips to Make the Bathroom One of the Safest Rooms in the House

The good news is that the following improvements aren’t just good for seniors – they’re good for everyone who lives in or visits the home. In fact, while universal and accessible home designs were initially tailored towards the senior population, they’re quickly becoming a tenet of good home design in general. When done professionally, these accessible bathroom improvements can increase the resale value of your home down the road.

Use slip-proof mats in tubs, showers and bathroom floors

Slip-proof mats provide significantly more grip than slick bath/shower floors. Even the most subtle shift or slip of the foot can knock seniors off balance and the only surfaces to land upon are hard ones. Similarly, invest in high-quality shower chairs that have slip-proof feet.

Note: It’s a good idea to purchase a shower chair before a senior feels s/he needs it. They come in handy, even in the event of a bad flu, the end of a long day, or even something as simple as a sprained ankle.

Have a contractor install grab bars in appropriate locations

The first thing we do when we fall is reach out for something to hang on to. If that “something” is a regularly-installed towel rack, odds are one or both sides will pull out of the wall – and that’s a dangerous situation. Instead, have a contractor or licensed, professional repairperson install grab bars that are securely anchored into wall studs- rather than sheetrock.

ADA approved grab bars should be installed:

  • Near the toilet
  • Inside the shower or bath
  • Near the shower or bath
  • Anywhere else that makes sense depending on the bathroom’s size, layout or usage.

Keep in mind that grab bars can be used as a towel rack too, which provides a twofer!

Use non-slip, ultra-absorbent bathroom mats

Make sure the rugs in the bathroom are designed for bathroom use – including non-slip backs and ultra-absorbent materials. These wick surface water from the floors, helping to minimize slip risks.

Install an elevated height toilet

Switching a lower, outdated bathroom toilet for a higher-seated counterpart is a quick fix that makes it easier to sit down and get back up without a struggle. If this isn’t possible where you live, you can find different types of raised toilet seats online for very reasonable prices. If it isn’t possible to install secure grab bars in the toilet niche, order a seat that has safety bars included.

Keep things within close reach

Make sure seniors can access all of their everyday toiletries, shower/bath items, and extra rolls of toilet paper easily and accessibly. This may require a re-organization of the cabinets and drawers (minimizing the need to bend over or get down on hands and knees), using a shower caddy that hangs from the shower faucet, etc.

Update bathroom (and household!) lighting

The slow loss of vision is a common side effect of aging, and it requires improvements in household lighting. The bathroom is particularly important, as seniors need ample light to read the labels on prescription and over-the-counter medications, and night-lighting allows seniors to find and use the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Ensure safe entrance/exit and maneuverability

Is the bathroom doorway causing problems for mobility aids? Can the senior make their way into and out of – as well as around – the bathroom without a struggle. It may be time to change door hinging, remove the door altogether or work with a contractor to expand the doorway to an ADA-accessible width. Re-locating towel racks may gain extra inches that help a senior to turn around and access the entirety of the bathroom without getting tripped up.

For More Bathroom Safety Tips…

Interested in learning more about rearranging, updating – or remodeling – to create a safer, senior-friendly bathroom space? Schedule a consultation with a local home care agency. The consultations are free – no-obligation – and provide a wealth of information to help seniors age more independently in place.

Making A Senior Friendly Home

making a senior friendly home

Creating a safe and senior friendly home and environment is one of the most important steps in helping seniors to age place. Typically, this involves things like being proactive in terms of fall prevention, moving seniors from an upstairs bedroom to a first-floor room and making the home as accessible as possible for mobility aids.

Considering A Senior Friendly Home

However, unless a senior is bedbound, odds are they are spending time in your home or the homes of close friends and family members in addition to their own. In this case, it’s important that all homes are as senior friendly as possible. In fact, this tenet is becoming so widespread that many contractors and remodeling professionals are advocating “livable” home designs – interior designs that are safe and accessible for all.

If you happen to be planning a kitchen or bathroom remodel, talk to the design-build team about accessible or universal design changes that will adapt your kitchen for seniors, children or adults with mobility aids. In addition to making your home safer for senior friends and relatives, you also benefit from a safer and more occupant-friendly environment as well as wider resale appeal.

Things to consider include:

Minimal stairs and easy-access-entryways.

Even the slightest of injuries, like a sprained ankle, can make it tricky to navigate stairs. So, imagine what it’s like when you are weaker, suffer from arthritis or have to use a cane or walker on a regular basis. Stairs are in impossibility for those in a wheelchair. For these reasons, accessible homes include at least one, single-level entryway or a gently sloped ramp so access in and out of the home is both safe and comfortable.

Wider doorways and hallways.

Again, mobility aids make it challenging to navigate narrow hallways and doorways. Even access around the dining room tables, kitchen islands, perimeter countertops, and living room furniture can be a problem. When arranging furniture or designing permanent features, try to keep a width of at least 32-inches between objects so individuals with walkers, crutches or wheelchairs can maneuver without a struggle.

Slip-free floors.

Here’s another area where livable designs make for all-around safer homes. Hard surface flooring can be dangerous for adults and children if they aren’t made using slip-proof materials. This is especially true for kitchens and bathrooms, where wet floors are more common. That being said, hard-surfaces and low-profile carpets are the easiest for the elderly and those with mobility aids to navigate, so be thoughtful of that when choosing flooring surfaces.

Downstairs bedrooms.

Even if stairs aren’t impossible to navigate, they can exacerbate latent physical issues – like arthritic knees and hips, weaker muscles or equilibrium challenges. Stairs also make for a much more dangerous fall if seniors lose their balance. If at all possible, senior guests should have access to a downstairs bedroom, even if that means temporarily converting a den, office or child’s room into a guest room.

Re-organize cabinet spaces.

If a senior will be staying with you for more than a day or two, or if a senior relative will be moving in, you may need to re-organize your cabinets. Keep everyday dishware, mugs and cooking utensils in easy-to-reach places. Typically, this includes the upper shelving in bottom cabinets and lower shelving in the upper cabinets. The same goes for the bathroom. The ideas are to eliminate as bending/crouching- or requiring a step stool – as much as possible. If you’ are considering a remodel, look into cabinetry with pull-out shelving, which makes storage even more convenient.

Need help making your home a senior friendly home? Consider a consultation with HomeAide Home Care. Our consultations are always free and we’ll leave you with tips and recommendations on simple changes that will make your home more safe and accessible for all of its occupants.

The Right Type of Cane or Walker for You or Someone You Love

 

the right type of cane or walker for you or someone you love

Mobility aids can completely transform a senior’s life. The most basic level cane or walker can provide the stability and balance necessary to prevent falls. In some cases, they make a chair-bound senior free again – able to take walks around the block, visit a corner grocery store or to bet able to get outside and garden again without fear.

The key is to choose the right cane or walker for the elderly person’s needs and to make sure the equipment is a good fit for the person’s height and weight. Failure to select the right type of walker, or to ensure a good fit, can cause discomfort and will compromise their safety.

A Guide to Selecting a Cane or Walker For the Elderly

The first step is to make an appointment with a healthcare provider. Let the doctor know you’re interested in using a cane or walker and he can assist you in selecting the right one.

The following are basic guidelines for selecting the right type of mobility aids for your needs.

Determine the amount of support you need

Canes can support as much as 25% of your body weight, while certain walkers can support up to 50% of your body weight. You want to choose the type of aid that will provide the most support for where you are at today – taking into consideration that the need for more support will increase as you age.

Many seniors opt to get one of each and use them in different scenarios. Perhaps a cane will be used around the house, to putter in the yard, or to make short trips to doctors or friends’ homes. A walker may be used for longer jaunts or to take advantage of the basket option if you will be carrying or purchasing small items.

What is the main reason you’ll be using the device?

Typically, canes are used for:

  • Arthritis in the knees and hips.
  • Minor issues with balance, especially on stairs or uneven ground.
  • An injury to the foot, ankle or leg.

Walkers are recommended for:

  • Arthritis pain in the knees and hips is more severe.
  • Moderate to severe balance problems or more serious issues with gait.
  • More generalized weakness in the knees, hips or legs.

Things to Look For in a Cane

Canes are typically made from wood or metal, aluminum being the most common. They come with single, triple or quad-feet – the latter two providing the most stability. The bottom should always have a rubber non-skid tip to prevent slipping. Handle options are curved, rounded or gripped and it’s important to try out different types to see what feels the most comfortable.

Things to Look for in a Walker

Most walkers are made from aluminum to ensure they are light weight. There are generally three types of walkers:

  1. Standard, pick-up walkers.
  2. Walkers with wheels on the front and feet on the back (the feet should have rubber, non-slip tips).
  3. Rolling walkers, which have 4-wheels, hand-brakes and come with or without a seat/basket attachment.

Most seniors find that the rolling walkers with the seat/basket option make the most sense. Not only do they provide support, but the built-in seat provides a place to rest comfortably on a longer walk or while cooking or cleaning. The basket allows seniors to get the mail, carry a purse, or pick a few things up from a nearby store without having to carry the bags.

A proper fit is important for an elderly person’s ergonomic health, safety and comfort. Your healthcare provider can help you order the right size and ensure a proper fit.

10 Tips For Preventing Elderly Falls

10 tips for preventing elderly falls

Preventing elderly falls is crucial. Every year, more than 30% of adults over the age of 65 fall down. These falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for that age bracket and in 2010, direct medical costs as the result of an elderly fall totaled more than $30 billion dollars.

Of course, the “cost” of an elderly fall isn’t purely financial. Minor brain injuries can be more detrimental for adults diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s and increasing medical studies show the anesthesia associated with knee/hip replacement surgeries have more negative cognitive effects than we realized.

Preventing Elderly Falls

For these reasons, we highly recommend you adhere to these 10 tips to prevent elderly falls and increase your quality of life.

Keep exercising.

The weaker your muscles are, the more prone you are to falls. Exercise is good for the mind, body, and spirit. Plus, it will strengthen muscles and help to maintain your sense of balance.

Eat a well-balanced diet.

If your body is malnourished or your blood sugar drops, you are likely to become shaky, dizzy and/or disoriented. All of these side-effects put you at risk for falls. Drink lots of water. Eat five small meals a day, concentrating on healthy proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Observe your annual physical.

Things like low blood pressure can also contribute to falls. Make sure you attend your annual physical, even if you’re feeling “fit as a fiddle” so your doctor can catch and monitor things you might not be able to feel going on with your body.

Visit the eye doctor.

Eyesight is a funny thing; the brain is good at compensating even when vision has diminished considerably. Unfortunately, vision loss causes depth perception issues and makes it harder to see things in your peripheral. Have your eyes checked at least once a year after you turn 65.

Schedule a consultation with your pharmacist.

Doctors and pharmacists try their best to make sure your medicines work in harmony with one another. Even so, there can be occasional glitches. Schedule a consultation with your pharmacist and have him/her review your medications to make sure none of them cause dizziness or drowsiness that may make you more susceptible to a fall.

Take your time.

Try not to rush around. This is especially true after moving from a seated or prone position to standing. Sudden drops in blood pressure can make you dizzy, and it increases the chances of instability or even a small fainting spell that can cause you to fall.

Install grab bars.

Hire a handyman to come install grab bars near your toilet, shower, bathtub, etc. You might feel like you don’t need them but you’ll be surprised how often you use them once they’re in place.

Remove trip hazards.

This is a good time to evaluate your home and eliminate trip hazards, such as cords, area rugs, small tables, etc., that are easy to stumble over.

Provide adequate lighting.

Make sure your lighting is adequate. If you have macular degeneration, cataracts or other vision issues, increase your bulb wattage just a bit to compensate. Put exterior lights and strategically placed interior lights on motion sensitive and/or time-sensitive timers so you never have to navigate your home or exterior in the complete dark.

Ask for help when you need it.

Don’t hesitate to get professional help for tasks like cleaning, yard work, running errands, etc. You can pick your favorite tasks and let a professional home care provider help with the rest.

Schedule a free consultation with HomeAide Home Care, Inc. and we’ll assess your home for potential fall risks and helpful tips for preventing elderly falls.

Fall Prevention: Be Proactive and Prevent an Accident

fall prevention be proactive and prevent an accident

The majority of our time is spent at home, especially during the retirement years, so it’s no wonder that 60% of all falls occur in the home. Falls are also the leading cause of hip replacement surgery and traumatic brain injury in seniors. The safer you can make your home, the better.

Fall prevention in the home can be done over the course of a weekend. While a few suggestions may require some tools and the assistance of a local handyman, most of the changes are easy to do on your own, or with the assistance of a friend, family member, or companion.

7 Simple Steps to Fall Prevention

  1. Remove obstructions. This may seem like an obvious step, but you’d be surprised. We get used to our homes the way they are and forget that the corner of the area rug by the couch sticks up, or the lamp cord in the living room forms a barrier between the couch and the television. As eyesight begins to dim, steps grow less steady, and balance wavers, the obstructions we have become used to can cause a fall.
  2. No-slip mats for area rugs. Ideally, surface rugs should be removed completely in a fall proof home to prevent the edges from becoming trip hazards. However, if you won’t budge with a favorite rug on your hard surface flooring, make sure you have no-slip mats underneath to keep it in place.
  3. Widen the space between furniture. Make sure there is ample room to navigate around tables, chairs, and couches. You may want to eliminate an end table or chair in order to create more space.
  4. Adequate lighting. The better lit an area is, the better you will be able to see. If you are experiencing vision loss, increase the wattage on your lights to provide a brighter interior. Replace light bulbs as soon as they go out. Consider using motion-sensitive exterior lighting fixtures so you don’t have to remember to turn them on/off, but will always have ample lighting at night when you need it. Use night lights in bathrooms, bedrooms, hallways, and the kitchen. Make sure to have a bedside light within reach of your bed.
  5. Clear stairways and hallways. It is often a habit to place things on the stairs, or in the hallway, with the intention of “putting them away later.” This is a dangerous habit. Put things away immediately and keep all walkways free of objects that can trip you up.
  6. Attach carpet on stairways. Make sure any carpet on your stairways is securely fastened on every stair. Otherwise, remove the rug/carpet and attach slip-proof tape for added security.
  7. Handrails and grab bars. There should be easily accessible hand rails and grab bars on all stair ways, in your tub and shower, and next to the toilet. The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house, so give extra special attention to fall prevention measures here.

The sooner you fall proof your home, the less likely you will be to suffer unnecessary pain and injury. For more information about home health safety, contact HomeAide Home Care, Inc.

Elderly Home Care – How to Make a Home Safe For Seniors

By Elizabeth Dennis

Elder CareAs our parents age it is a great idea to take a look at their surroundings with a different set of eyes. Is their home safe for them? Is it getting increasingly difficult for them to perform everyday tasks? There are many features of a home that can make it difficult for the elderly to manage. Simply take a look at the multitude of products on the market to assist in the modification of a home – you will be amazed at all of the problem areas that need to be addressed.

Let’s take a look at some of the improvements that can make your aging parent’s environment more accessible and safe. This list will provide a good starting point.

Kitchen

  • Put everyday items in the cupboards that are the easiest to reach
  • Replace knobs on faucets and cabinets with handles or bars
  • Clearly label all stove and oven dials with stickers or brightly colored markers
  • Install slide-out bins in lower cabinets
  • Elevate the dishwasher or invest in dishwasher drawers
  • Replace glass cups and plates with plastic

Bathroom

  • Raise toilet seat or purchase a chair-height toilet
  • Install handrails near toilet and in bath or shower
  • Use a hand-held shower head and store it low
  • Install a secure seat in bathtub or shower
  • Place non-slip decals or mat in the tub or shower
  • Replace knobs on faucets and drawers with handles or bars

Bedroom

  • Re-locate bedroom to first floor
  • Clear off a solid chair or bench to make dressing easier
  • Hang a shoe rack in the closet
  • Move everyday items to the top drawers in dressers

All Areas of the Home

  • Replace all light bulbs with brighter ones
  • Position electrical cords and computer cables under furniture and against walls
  • Make sure all windows can be opened easily
  • Replace small appliances with those that have an automatic shut-off feature
  • Remove furniture that is low to the ground making it hard to get out of
  • Remove tables with sharp corners from high-traffic areas
  • Make sure entrances to homes are brightly lit and stairs and porches have handrails
  • Lock or replace casters on any chairs or furniture
  • Set up lamps so they can be turned on and off from a light switch
  • Place reflective tape on stairs
  • Remove area rugs to prevent tripping and obstacles for walkers
  • Replace stairs with ramps
  • Use nightlights in every room including halls
  • Replace door knobs with handles
  • Make sure there are temperature controls on the hot water heater
  • Install handrails in hallways and near steps
  • Widen doors for walkers or wheelchairs
  • Stick reflective decals on sliding glass doors
  • Remove locks on all interior doors in case of an emergency

Many of the items listed are quick fixes while others may require a bit more effort to implement. The goal is to make moving around the home and performing everyday task as easy and as safe as possible for your aging parents.

Elizabeth Dennis writes for a variety of health, beauty, and fitness topics. She regularly contributes to the think change and hair removal surgery guides.

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