Making a Bathroom Safer for a Stroke Survivor

Avoid bathing hazards, and help a stroke survivor bathe or shower more easily

The bathroom can be a very hazardous place for someone who's had a stroke. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to make bathing or showering, grooming, and using the toilet easier and safer for the person you're caring for.

  • Install grab bars on the walls of the shower or tub to help her get in and out with minimal assistance, and to help balance while bathing or showering.
  • To prevent slipping, stick nonskid bath decals or a nonskid rubber mat with suction cups on the floor of the shower or tub. Place a large nonskid bath mat on the floor outside the shower or tub.
  • If she has trouble standing while showering, a folding shower chair can be helpful. (Example) You can install an adjustable or handheld showerhead so the stream of water is at the right level for her for when she's seated.
  • If she uses a walker or wheelchair, you can install a roll-in shower with a fold-out bath bench. (Example)
  • Set the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent burns from hot water. (She -- or you, if it's your home -- will  also save money on utility bills.) If that's not possible, you can install anti-scald devices on faucets and showerheads. These devices stop the water flow if the temperature exceeds 120 degrees; they're relatively easy to install and affordable, ranging from $6 to $30. To learn more, type anti-scald device into your computer search engine.
  • A long-handled sponge may allow her to wash hard-to-reach areas herself. (Example) A washcloth mitt can also be helpful. (Example)
  • Body soap in a pump bottle may be easier to use than bar soap, which can be slippery and hard to pick up. You can even mount a motion-sensitive dispenser on the wall of your shower. A separate dispenser can be installed for shampoo. To find online suppliers, type automatic soap dispenser into your search engine.
  • If she has trouble using her hands, install lever-handled faucets that she can turn on and off with her wrists or arm.

Add grooming and toileting aids for a stroke survivor in the bathroom

Grooming aids
  • Standing at the sink may be difficult or impossible for a stroke survivor. Whether or not she's in a wheelchair, a sink with room beneath it for her legs is a good idea. You can set up a chair for her  if necessary. You may be able to remove a below-sink cabinet to accommodate her legs, but be sure to insulate any exposed pipes to prevent burns.
  • If she has trouble using her hands, install lever-handled faucets that she can turn on and off with her wrists or arm.
  • Soap in a pump-top container or a wall dispenser may be easier to use than bar soap.
  • A cordless electric toothbrush makes it easy to care for teeth and gums. Disposable flossing picks, which can be purchased at your local drugstore, enable her to floss with one hand.
  • An electric razor may be easy to use, but some stroke survivors complain that it aggravates nerve pain. If this is the case for the person you're caring for, a disposable safety razor is a good alternative.
Toileting aids
  • Install handrails or grab bars on the walls around the toilet so the person you're caring for can sit down on and get off the toilet with minimal assistance. Alternatively, you can place a commode chair with a raised seat and grab bars over the toilet, or even a raised toilet seat with grab bars. (Examples)
  • A commode chair with grab bars and a removable bucket can be invaluable if she has a hard time getting to the bathroom in time. You can keep it by the bed or in the living room. (Example)
  • Premoistened, flushable wipes make it easier for her to clean herself after using the toilet. These can be purchased at pretty much any store that sells toilet paper or personal hygiene products.
  • In case of accidents, keep a set of clean, dry clothing in the bathroom so she can change with a minimum of fuss and embarrassment.

Since making the right home modifications can make a huge difference in the lives of both you and the stroke survivor, it may be helpful to consult an occupational therapist (OT). An OT can take stock of her specific disability and the current state of her home, then make suggestions based on her particular needs.

The National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modifications has compiled a list of resources for consumers looking for products to modify their homes.

For more information about making a stroke survivor's house safer after a stroke:
Making Your Parent's House Safer After a Stroke
Making Your Parent's Kitchen Safer After a Stroke
Making Your Parent's Bedroom Safer After a Stroke
Making Your Parent's Stairways Safer After a Stroke


Stephanie Trelogan

Stephanie Trelogan writes about heart disease, stroke, and depression issues that concern people caring for their aging parents. See full bio