How to Improve Bathroom Safety for Seniors

Written by | Updated October 22, 2019

As we age and mobility declines, falling becomes one of the primary causes of serious injury. The CDC says the bathroom is the most dangerous place in the home, especially for adults aged 65 or older.1

One of the most important things caregivers can do to help aging adults maintain independence is to improve bathroom safety. The good news is that transforming the slippery surfaces and hard edges of this frequently visited room is relatively inexpensive. A few simple changes and bathroom safety products can minimize the risk of falls and let aging adults keep their privacy and independence.

Here are a few products you should consider to improve bathroom safety:

  1. Transfer bench or bathroom chair
  2. Handheld showerhead
  3. Shower safety handles and grab bars
  4. Toilet bars and support
  5. Nonslip rugs or mats

1. Get a Tub Transfer Bench or Shower Chair

Drive Medical Plastic Transfer Bench

Drive Medical Plastic Tub Transfer Bench

  • Adjustable height
  • Reversible transfer
  • Suction cup grip

Because a lot of bathroom accidents involve slipping in and around the tub or shower, a bench or bathroom chair is recommended as a safety precaution. Look for a sturdy model with suction that provides a nonslip grip and has adjustable height and bars. A backrest can also help stability, and it’s a good idea to look for a model that’s versatile enough to accommodate transfer from a wheelchair.

Pro Tip: A walk-in or wheel-in shower or tub is ideal, but that may not be affordable for everyone. Luckily, a tub transfer bench offers a budget-friendly solution. Benches like these let you sit down outside of the tub and then hold onto the bars to swing your legs over.

2. Switch to a Handheld Showerhead

Deliao Elderly Shower Head

Deliao Handheld Shower Head

  • One-button pressure control
  • Soft grip handle with safety strap
  • Off button to control drip

Once you’ve got a bathroom chair, you’ll want a handheld showerhead to go with it. Fortunately, this is an inexpensive modification that even the most hesitant DIYer can manage with a few basic tools. Be careful not to get distracted by fancy spa showerheads that boast about high pressure. Instead, look for a practical showerhead with an adjustable flow that’s easy to manipulate for arthritic fingers.

3. Mount Shower Safety Handles and Grab Bars

If you’re a caregiver, it may be difficult to anticipate where an aging adult needs an extra hand. Get in the bathroom together and assess the best place to mount grab bars. Older adults may want bars mounted in these common spots:

  • Inside the shower or tub
  • At the entrance of the shower or tub
  • Near the toilet

There are different kinds of grab bars, but you should choose substance over style. AARP recommends a bar that can hold up to 250 pounds, with a textured surface and a diameter of 1.25–1.5 inches for easy gripping. You can also check out our Senior Safety FAQs for more guidance on how to secure the tub or shower for an older adult.

Pro Tip: If you get a grab bar that doesn’t have a nonslip textured grip, you can apply grip or anti-slip tape to any surface. Anti-slip tape has a grit rating, like sandpaper, that indicates how much traction it provides. Be sure to get a roll with at least an 80 grit and a width adequate for the handhold you want to provide.

4. Install Toilet Bars and Support 

Vaunn Medical Bathroom Grab Bar

Vaunn Toilet Rail Grab Bar

  • Patented adjustable height
  • Sturdy frame supports up to 300 pounds
  • Antislip, padded grab bars

The second-most dangerous place in the bathroom is the toilet. This is because low toilet seats can be difficult to rise from or lower onto if you have mobility issues or arthritis. Installing a raised toilet seat or toilet frame, preferably one with grab bars on either side, is a simple solution. Look for models that offer nonslip handles, adjustable height, and a stand-alone frame that will fit the space.

5. Don’t Forget Nonslip Rugs and Mats 

The most frequent tripping culprit is right under our noses. Make sure bath mats and rugs are the nonslip variety, and get an anti-slip tub or shower mat that’ll stick securely when wet. You can also apply nonslip treads instead on the shower or tub floor for a minimalistic look that won’t run the risk of coming loose.

Pro Tip: If you’re attached to your current bathroom rug ensemble, you can apply anti-slip tape or appliqués to the bottom of the rugs to keep them in place. Just be sure the bathroom mats you’re in love with are low-profile and don’t have so much plush that they pose a tripping hazard.

FAQs about Bathroom Safety for Seniors

What are some other things that can be done to prevent bathroom accidents?

In addition to installing some safety products and tools for senior independence, it’s also important to keep necessary supplies like toiletries within easy reach. Think carefully about what essentials are needed on a daily basis in the bathroom. Things like toilet paper, towels, and hand soap should never be more than an arm’s length away.

Are there other bathroom safety concerns I should be worried about besides the risk of falls?

While preventing falls is the primary concern in the bathroom, it’s not the only safety risk for aging adults. You should also make sure to label medicines and get a pillbox to keep them organized and avoid accidental overdoses. Depending on the climate, it’s also recommended to turn down the water heater to 120 degrees to prevent accidental burns. For more safety advice for older adults, check out our senior safety guide.

How can I make sure the bathroom is a safe place for seniors?

Mounting grab bars and paying attention to nonslip surfaces can drastically reduce the risk of falls. However, there’s no way to absolutely guarantee safety and eliminate the possibility of injury to older adults. It’s best to be prepared and research the best medical alert devices, so if a fall does happen, help will be on its way. We recommend Bay Alarm’s In-Home Medical Alert devices for bathroom safety because they’re waterproof, have a long-range, and don’t require a contract.

Written by Kaz Weida

Kaz is a journalist who covers home security, parenting, and community and child safety. Her work and product testing in the security and safety field spans the past four years. You can find Kaz in HuffPost, SheKnows, Lifehack, and much more. Her degree in education and her background as a teacher and a parent make her uniquely suited to offer practical advice on creating safe environments for your family. Learn more

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