Showers and bathtubs are a common area for slips and falls, even for those of us without mobility issues. Fortunately, there are several ways to make the shower or tub safer for your parents, ranging from installing simple non-slip mats to replacing your existing tub with a walk-in bathtub.
Note that while some tubs and showers are already built with “non-slip” textured floors, these can still become slippery if soap or shampoo gets on them. They are better than nothing, but don’t rely on them exclusively. Instead, invest in a few of these safety furnishings.
Simple non-slip bath mats are available at nearly every big-box and home improvement store, as well as online. They are typically rubber and stick to the floor of your shower or tub with suction cups. These mats do sometimes have flaws—including a tendency to come unstuck from the floor—but they get the job done in a pinch. They’re also cheap, so it makes sense to pick one up just in case.
Grab bars are basically small handrails, about the size of a towel bar, that can be grabbed for support in the event of a fall. They can also be used for stability when climbing in or out of the shower. There are two types:
Mounted grab bars that are installed into the wall of the shower
Suction-cup models that stick to the wall without causing any damage
Suction-cup grab bars are not going to be as secure as a properly mounted handrail that is drilled into the wall, but they make great travel items for hotels or guest houses where you can’t install something stronger. If possible, though, you’ll want to install a sturdier bar where your parents normally bathe.
Transfer benches are benches that straddle the side of a bathtub. The user sits down on the bench outside the tub, scoots over until they’re in the tub, and then stands up. This gives them something to grab onto and put their weight on while they get in so that they don’t have to worry about hiking a leg over the side and trying to maintain balance on a potentially slippery floor. These are usually not terribly expensive, and they make great investments if your parents have a hard time climbing into the tub.
Walk-In Tubs and Showers
A walk-in shower is nice even if you don’t have mobility problems. For older individuals who may be more prone to losing balance and footing, though, they can be lifesavers. There are even walk-in tubs with sides that open, if your parents prefer to sit and bathe.
In addition to fixing up the bathrooms with new safety devices, talk to your parents about the potential for buying them a medical alert device. These little gadgets can work wonders in the event of a slip and fall.