Your home should be a place where you feel safe and comfortable. As we age our homes can become a source of anxiety for some. Slip and fall hazards increase as our reflexes and movement gradually become more restricted with ageing and we may need to give our homes an update to ensure they help us to remain safe.
One of the most common places where updates can be made to the home for improved safety is your bathroom. Falls are a common health issue faced by older groups within the community, particularly those over 65. In the UK, around one-third of those 65 and over, and half of those aged 80 or over fall at least once a year. In 2017-2018, the NHS reported there more were than 220,000 fall-related incidents in the over 65 age group annually.
Falls or slips around the home can not only have a physical impact on the patient, often causing fractures, bruising and pain, but they can also contribute to mental health-related issues such as reduced confidence around the home and fear. While mobility can affect how well people can manoeuvre themselves around their home, there are some key changes that can be made to your home to make it a more secure place and help you keep your independence.
From renovations in your bathroom to easy installations or budget-friendly items to reduce slip hazards, we’ve collated the top ways that you can make improvements to help prevent falls in your bathroom.
Making structural changes to your home can be a big investment, however, these changes may offer you greater flexibility to make adjustments around the home to reduce the risks of falls in the future. Some of the most common structural changes come in the form of changing your bath or shower to a more accessible style to make getting in and out easier.
Sometimes, making a big change can be the best way to prevent falls in your bathroom. Admittedly, some of these changes can come with a larger price tag that simpler adjustments to your home, but will provide long term advantages. If you are looking to retain more independence around the home, installing a walk-in bath can be a great way to achieve that.
Designed to remove the need to step over the side of the bath, walk-in baths greatly reduce the risk of bathroom falls for those with mobility issues or disabilities. With an access point cut into the side of the bath, you can easily step directly into the tub. Complete with a side door for easy access, walk-in baths also come with a number of other key safety features including; non-slip surfaces, support bars, low entry doors and easy temperature control.
Like walk-in baths, walk-in showers are a great item to install in your bathroom to increase accessibility and help you maintain your independence. In the UK, many homes are fitted with shower-over-bath designed models, which means you need to step over the edge of the tub to have a shower. By installing a walk-in shower you minimise the risk of slipping while trying to hoist your legs over the edge by simply stepping straight into the shower.
Walk-in showers are available both with doors or without for easy wheelchair access too. Walk-in showers also come with a range of safety features included as standard such as non-slip flooring, ultra-low threshold and an easy to clean enclosure.
However, ensuring your bathroom is fitted out with safety features which help remove the risk of falls, you don’t always need to make large structural changes or invest huge sums of money to make sure your bathroom is equipped. Sometimes, smaller enhancements can go a long way to reducing the slip risks and help to prevent falls in your bathroom.
Aside from the structural-related slip and trip hazards created by the bath and shower which we’ve addressed above, a lot of falls can be linked to slippery surfaces in bathrooms, made even more slippery when wet. This is where a number of smaller, budget-friendly items can be of great assistance to alleviate the fear of slipping.
Tread or shower mats
Tiles can be slippery at the best of times and this can be made worse when they’re wet. Having tread mats or a shower mat both inside the floor of your shower and outside will create a surface that enables you to remain steady on your feet and won’t slip on wet flooring. With holes included for water draining, the mats suction to the floor and ensure you or the mat don’t slip or slide when the base of your shower, bath or the surrounding area is wet. You can also have slip-resistant flooring installed in the bathroom to make it even safer.
If you find yourself a little unsteady on your feet, having something to give you a bit of extra support can be reassuring and ensure you remain stable. Shower chairs give you the option of added support in the shower by giving you a place to be seated, rather than standing in your shower. We recommend fxixed chairs over free-standing designs for additional safety.
These are most suitable for walk-in showers as the curved edges of a bath won’t provide a sturdy and level surface that the chair requires. Shower chairs are designed with holes to allow the water to drain and rubber ends on the legs to ensure the chair doesn’t slip.
There are chairs available for use in the bathtub, specially designed to suit the curved sides, and transfer benches are great for those who use a wheelchair. They can often be padded too for additional comfort.
If you’re using a chair in the shower, a handheld showerhead will increase your flexibility. Moving with you, rather than spraying from a fixed point, they offer the option to use it in a fixed position on the wall in a mount or handheld while sitting. This means you can avoid getting anything you need to keep dry such as your hair or wounds away from water while enjoying the flexibility of being able to control the water direction.
Grab rails are a fantastic addition to your bathroom to help you remain steady on your feet. While grab bars can be used throughout the home, there are textured models available for extra grip when used in the bathroom where they may get wet. Grab rails work by providing additional support for those with mobility or balance issues. They also give users more confidence as they know there is support close by if it is needed.
Grab rails aren’t only for application on walls and showers, they can also be used with bathtubs. Adjustable grab rails clamp onto the side of the bath and the height can be adjusted to suit the user.
Grab rails can also be taken one step further with toilet surrounds. Rather than a single wall-mounted rail, you can have a frame that surrounds the entire toilet and provides sturdy support to help people as they sit and stand.
Raised toilet seats
Some models of toilets are lower than others, this can make it difficult for those with mobility issues to bend when sitting and standing when using the toilet. Raised toilet seats help to add height by sitting on top of the regular seat.
Why are falls so common in the bathroom?
As we learnt earlier, people in the over 65 age range are most likely to have a fall at home, with around 30% having one fall a year. This can be linked to issues with mobility or disability, blood pressure and dizziness, slower reaction times and sight issues.
Bathrooms are particularly common places for falls among the elderly as they are filled with slippery surfaces, a range of obstacles to navigate such as even surfaces and multi-levelled access points and require a certain level of mobility to easily navigate. This makes all the above mentioned issues related to mobility and common symptoms of ageing a bigger contributor of ill-ease in the bathroom.
By making changes to your bathroom, whether they are as big as replacing your current shower or bath for a walk-in model, or as small as installing grab rails and non-slip shower mats to make your bathroom a safer, more secure place, you can make preventing falls in your bathroom easier.
The most important way to approach making your bathroom more fall-proof is by choosing options that work best for you. Consider whether you need just a little extra support and so simple changes will be enough or if you would benefit from investing in bigger changes that may work better for you in the long term. However you choose to adapt your bathroom to make it a more comfortable place to be, Mobility Plus can assist you. As providers of a range of walk-in bath and shower options to make your bathroom more accessible, we can offer a consultative approach to give you the support you need to help you stay independent at home.