Bathroom Safety: What to Consider

Bath safety is essential for people of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly. The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house, with slippery surfaces that are easy to fall on and sharp corners where someone can hit their head. Because bath safety is so important to prevent falls and allow seniors to main their independence, a wide variety of bath safety products are available to provide stability and assistance when needed. With the right bath safety aids in place, the most dangerous room in the house can become one of the safest.

To protect yourself when you take a bath or shower:

  • Put non-slip suction mats or rubber silicone decals in the bottom of your tub to prevent falls.
  • Use a non-skid bath mat outside the tub for firm footing.
  • Set the temperature on your water heater to 120° F to prevent burns.
  • Sit on a bath chair or bench when taking a shower.
  • Keep the floor outside the tub or shower dry.
  • Hand Held Shower: Though the hand-held shower may seem to be a small, less significant accessory item compared to some of the other bath aid products, it is an important part of the self-care package. It is an essential item for users of bath seats and transfer benches.

Good quality hand showers have two common features. First, they have on/off controls built into the handle. This allows the user to turn the water off and on as needed without having to readjust water temperature each time. Second, they all have hoses of sufficient length to permit the user, seated on a bath seat or in the tub, to easily reach every part of the body with the shower spray.

The on/off control varies from one model shower to another, and care should be exercised to select an appropriate model that is compatible with your hand function and finger dexterity. A control that is appropriate for a severe arthritic may not be functional for a quadriplegic.

A hose length of 5 1/2 to 6 feet is usually sufficient for most users.

Raising the toilet seat height can help prevent falls. You can do this by adding an elevated toilet seat. You can also use a commode chair instead of a toilet. Consider a special seat called a portable bidet. It helps you clean your bottom without using your hands. It sprays warm water to clean, then warm air to dry.

You may need to have safety bars in your bathroom. Grab bars should be secured vertically or horizontally to the wall, not diagonally. Do not use towel racks as grab bars. They cannot support your weight. You will need two grab bars: one to help you get in and out of the tub, and another to help you stand from a sitting position.

If you are not sure what changes you need to make in your bathroom, ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist can visit your bathroom and make safety recommendations.

Original Medicare, Part A and Part B, doesn’t consider a shower chair to be durable medical equipment. Items primarily used for self-help, convenience, or personal comfort do not fit into Medicare’s definition of medically necessary equipment. So a shower chair doesn’t qualify and would not be covered by Original Medicare.

Nancy Mazariegos, CDME Specialist