Safety in the bathroom has to be priority #1. That's where up to 70% of home accidents happen. Outfitting a bathroom for safety doesn’t have to be complicated or costly.
Start With Grab Bars And Rails
Metal grab bars, attached strategically to walls in the tub and shower area, offer a steadying brace for those who need help getting in and out of the bath and shower and when standing in the shower. Grab bars generally range in length from 12" to 42" and are up to 1-1/2" in diameter. Textured or brushed finishes offer more traction, especially when wet.
Bathtub grab bars and rails that clamp on to the tub itself offer support when getting in and out of the bathtub without the permanence of drilling into walls.
Be sure to read all product descriptions carefully and look for the weight the bar or rail you’re considering is able to bear, usually up to 250 pounds. You want to be sure it can support the full weight of the person grabbing onto it. Some bars may only provide help to steady people, but not necessarily support them if they slip and grab hold.
When stability is the goal, look for bars and rails that attach securely; a product that uses suction cups, for example, may only provide some aid rather than full support.
Put Safety Inside The Bath And Shower Next On Your List
A wide variety of products are available for people who need to sit down to shower. The shower chair, seat or bench allows the user to sit at chair height in the shower when unsteady or unable to stand for long periods or when the movement of getting into a tub is too difficult or no longer possible.
The design features you choose should match up with the needs of the user. Choices start with a simple stool design; many allow you to build on that, adding a back and/or arm support as needed.
Bathtub transfer benches, seats and boards allow the user to sit down at one end, positioned outside of the tub, then swing their legs over without having to actually climb over the side to get in.
For walk-in showers, a mobile shower chair that rolls right in is a great option.
One more alternative for narrow tubs where a shower chair will not fit is a shower stool.
No matter which of these products is the right one, look for a design that allows water to drain, meaning less pooling and risk of staining or other signs of wear. Cutouts may be available for resting a handheld shower and for grabbing the chair to adjust it; cutouts in the center of the seat section make personal cleansing easier.
An adjustable leg design allows you to customize a chair or bench for the user’s height and allows more than one user to sit comfortably. Always look for sturdy, wide legs with grips on the ends to offer better traction on a wet surface. Shop for styles made with rust-resistant or non-corrosive materials like aluminum, molded plastic or PVC.
Other specifics to check before you buy include the maximum weight it can bear; if the user is over 250 lbs, look for models in bariatric sizes that can usually accommodate up to 400 lbs. Consider the weight of the seat itself if it will have to be moved in and out of the tub; a design that folds is a good option if others are using the same bathroom. And finally, if using in a stall shower with a door closure, measure the space carefully to be sure the chair will fit inside it with the door closed (some prefab showers are very narrow).
Make Easy Adjustments To The Toilet
When bending is difficult, either because of a bad back or knee problems, getting on and off the toilet can be a challenge. Simple adjustments can make a huge difference: by raising up the seat, there’s less movement needed to sit down.
Installing a toilet riser under an existing toilet seat effectively lifts the seat by about 5". Clamp-on or locking raised toilet seats go right on top of the existing toilet, usually without any tools.
Adding arm rails or handles provides that much more support, though may not be necessary if the user already utilizes a walker. As with grab rails and shower chairs, the more support needed, the more securely attached the item should be.
Seats are available with different cushioning, often a personal preference. Choosing a seat with a deep front recess for easier hygiene might be an important consideration.
When support only is needed for getting on and off the toilet, consider a toilet rail. Another option is a toilet safety frame—think of it as a grab rail that extends around both sides of the toilet. On some models both the height and width can be adjusted for a better fit.
For people who are confined to bed and unable to walk to the bathroom, a bedside commode is a useful option. Many commodes can also be used over a toilet to create a raised seat effect. A lifting commode has a mechanism that uses a person's own body weight to help lift them up. Commode liners make emptying the pail easier.