Home Caregivers Can Help Seniors Bathe Safely!
While caregivers want to help their senior loved ones practice good hygiene, there is a need for caution in the bathroom; it can be the most dangerous room in the house! Statistics show that approximately two-thirds of accidental injuries leading to emergency room visits happen in the bathtub or shower; 2.2% happen upon entering the tub or shower, and 9.8% occur upon exiting. Interestingly, the injury rate is 72% higher for women than for men.
Researchers have found that injuries seem to increase with age, peaking after age 85. Elderly individuals are particularly at risk because they tend to be frail, unstable, or weak. They often have limited mobility or suffer from debilitating diseases causing impaired vision or balance, and are therefore prone to falls. The results of a fall can be devastating, and sufferers may face the loss of dignity, independence, mobility, self confidence, or muscle strength and flexibility, and may experience broken bones and joints. A fall may leave a person bruised and broken both physically, mentally, and emotionally. The struggle to recover can be long and arduous.
Reasons Bathtubs and Showers Are Dangerous:
- The bathroom is usually one of the smallest rooms in the house and is often not designed with handicap issues in mind.
- Floors commonly get wet and slippery.
- Bathtubs often have walls to step over or sliding glass doors to open.
- Bathtub and shower floors often curve in the middle or towards the drain.
Therefore, it is wise for home caregivers to give this area of the house particular attention! A few basic measures can be taken to make bathing safer. With a little foresight and minimal to moderate effort, accidents can be prevented. Most importantly, your loved one’s sense of security, self confidence, and comfort can be restored or maintained.
Ways to Make Bathing Safer:
- Replace bathroom floor rugs with ones that are designed to absorb water and have nonskid rubber backings.
- Check the temperature setting on your hot water heater. For safety, the heater should be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.88 degrees Celsius). At higher temperatures the chances of accidental burns increase.
- Make sure that bathroom lighting is bright; frosted bulbs provide light while reducing glare.
- Install a reliable nightlight in the bathroom.
- Make sure that hot and cold handles are marked well.
- Remove sliding glass doors and tracks and replace them with shower curtains.
- Install grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower for support. Never rely on towel rods or wall mounted sinks to provide leverage, since these are not made to support a person’s weight. Grab bars with suction cups are made for balance support but are not made to support a person’s weight.
- Install bathtub rails or tension poles if necessary for extra help entering and exiting the bathing area.
- Install slip strips on the tub or shower floor.
- Purchase a sturdy bathtub/shower seat or transfer bench. Make sure the model is designed for the appropriate weight capacity and has slip resistant rubber feet.
- Install a hand held shower spray for convenience and control while bathing on seated bath chairs.
- Most importantly, do not assume that your loved one knows how to use the safety features that you have installed in your bathroom. Provide him or her with instructions and assistance in knowing how to use them properly.
Keep your senior safe in the bath by taking preventative measures! Help your your loved one bathe with confidence, safety and comfort.