Bathing is an important aspect of personal freedom and confidence for many older adults, but caregivers might worry that the bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. Regardless of strength or balance, many people of all ages are prone to slipping in the bath or shower and suffering a serious injury. However, caregivers can help drastically reduce the chances of falling while still promoting independence by installing accessibility items in the bathing area.
There are many additions to a bathtub or shower that can greatly improve safety and accessibility. The main goal is to reduce the chance of losing balance, which can be achieved with handrails, seats, grip surfaces, and other items that either reduce the need for movement or provide strong support during movement.
Keep in mind that every situation is different, and some older adults may not be able to safely bathe on their own, or may not be able to fully utilize accessibility installations without assistance. Not all items are appropriate for every situation either, so carefully consider what will be most helpful. These products can greatly reduce the risk of falling, but will not entirely eliminate it. Have a conversation with the older adult about how to properly utilize the installations as well as general bathing safety to ensure that there is as little risk as possible.
With that in mind, here are some essential bathing additions that can greatly support accessibility and safety:
This upgrade is an invaluable addition to any shower. There are some options available for bathtubs as well if you lack a shower, but the installation is more difficult and might not fit into every bathroom.
Having a shower head that can detach and be held can greatly improve bathing accessibility by allowing full coverage of the body from the faucet while reducing how much movement is required to achieve a full body wash. This is especially useful for showers that have a seat, as the handheld shower head can easily allow the older adult to remain in a stable, seated position while still having the ability to wash their entire body.
There are many options for shower heads.
This product from Hopopro wassa is Amazon’s Choice, it offers a 59 inch hose with greatly extended reach. It’s made from durable materials and even has 6 different spray patterns and functions so the older adult can comfortably bathe.
AquaDance’s option is a best seller on the Amazon store. It offers a 60 inch hose, 6 spray patterns and boasts strong materials and easy installation. The showerhead is slightly smaller, but this can be advantageous for older adults that have low hand strength.
Handrails, or grab rails / grab bars, are a versatile addition to the shower that can greatly improve the older adult’s ability to safely enter and exit the bathing area, as well as generally supporting balance. They provide good handholds to maintain balance while standing, and depending on the type of rail installed, can support an adult if they fall and put their full weight on it. You can mount them in various places inside or out of the shower to suit any bathroom layout.
These installations usually come in two types. The first are standard installations which require drilling into the walls to mount screws, these can typically support a large amount of weight in the case of a falling emergency. If you don’t have the option to drill into a bathroom wall, there are also grab rails that can be mounted with suction cups. These can be removed easily, but don’t provide as much ability to bear weight before coming loose. Suction cup rails are better used for steadying balance, not as full supports.
There are many products available. Consider mounting both horizontal and vertical bars that have non-slip handles.
These safety handrails from DIWANGUS are a fairly standard option. The large size provides plenty of surface area for grip as well as a brushed surface for greater friction that reduces the likelihood of slipping. These types of safety bars are the most versatile as they can be installed anywhere in the bathroom.
This bathtub-mounted grab bar from Carex Health Brands is a simpler option for those that might be restricted to what they can install, or for those that want to provide multiple grip surfaces. The safety bar can be installed by mounting it to the side of a bathtub and just as easily removed later. This option boasts a weight capacity of 250 lbs.
These suction-mounted shower handles from Safe-er-Grip offer an option for those that cannot install hand rails into the wall of their shower. They provide an easy way to quickly add or remove grip surfaces to help steady balance while bathing. Keep in mind that they have limited weight support and cannot be installed onto every surface. These are best utilized to help keep steady while staying still rather than for transferring in or out of the shower.
Similar to the handrails and grab bars, a ceiling transfer pole is an installation that provides a good handle for transferring in and out of the bath or shower. These are primarily used for support while transferring rather than maintaining balance in the shower, and have adjustable angles so that the older adult can transition from standing to sitting or vice versa. Some options even offer adjustable rail height. They are larger and more expensive, but provide an invaluable range of motion and support.
This ceiling transfer pole from Stander is Amazon’s Choice. The safety assist rail has full 360 degree motion and can lock into place for stability, as well as a multi-angle rail for various grips so that entry or exit from the bathtub is as secure as possible. These are installed without having to drill, simply extend the pole until the bottom and top are braced against the ground and ceiling respectively.
One of the best ways to minimize the risk of falling is to have the older adult remain seated while bathing. Transferring from a sitting position in a shower can be difficult, however. Thankfully, there are options that provide accessible seating while inside a shower. There are also options for easy transfer in and out of the bathtub area for those that have difficulty lifting their legs and keeping their balance at the same time.
This bath and shower chair from Medline is a solid and standard example of accessible seating for bathing. The armrests and backrest provide a safe and supportive way for the older adult to secure themselves while bathing and can support up to 350 lbs.
Transfer benches are excellent tools for careful entry and exit from a bathtub. Some older adults may struggle to lift their legs over the edge of the tub. Transfer benches help remedy this by providing an easy, stable platform to slowly transition in and out of the tub without risk of losing balance or slipping. This transfer bench from Drive Medical provides a sturdy and reliable option at an affordable price. The design also helps prevent slipping with water drainage holes in the bench, and a handrail for extra security.
While the above items help reduce the chances of falling or losing balance, the slippery floor of a bath or shower can still be worrisome. Having a surface along the basin of a bath or shower can add an extra layer of security by providing a friction surface that is resistant to slipping. Most solid options have holes that drain the water out so there are fewer puddles that can cause a sudden slip, while strong suction cups along the underside of the mat ensure the item will not slide around.
This shower mat from Gorilla Grip is one of the best selling options on Amazon. It boasts a large surface area of 35 in by 16 in and is able to properly cover the basin of most baths to provide the maximum amount of safe mobility. The strong suction cups prevent the mat from slipping, while drainage holes keep water from pooling on the mat. It also has several color options.
AmazerBath’s suction-cup, non-slip shower mat is a solid alternative if you need something a little larger. This bath mat is 40 in by 16 in, comes in multiple colors, and has the standard anti-slip features of good shower mat options. The design ensures that water doesn’t stagnate and produce a mildew smell, and the product itself is machine washable.