For many older Americans living independently, using the bathroom requires special attention and caution. According to the National Council on Aging, one-fourth of Americans over the age of 65 suffer a fall each year. The CDC further found that for those who have fallen over the age of 85, 51% occur on our near the toilet.
These statistics highlight the dangerous design flaws in most standard bathrooms. Design flaws only become more dangerous with older individual’s weakened strength, reduced mobility, and decreased sense of balance.
Without completely removing the presence of water and slippery surfaces there are many different modifications that we will be covering over the next few days to ensure that you or your loved one may remain independent and safe.
Hazardous Standing Water
Water is somewhat essential to a typical visit to the bathroom. Whether showering, using the toilet, or using the sink standing water is a transparent hazard to anyone. Also, many bathrooms include floors and surfaces constructed from smooth plastic or marble materials. Though these materials are easy to clean and aesthetically pleasing, they can hide dangerous standing water and disorient older adults.
It is essential to ensure that standing water is adequately controlled and reduced throughout the bathroom. These hidden puddles can come from many places, exiting the shower or tub while still wet, a leaking fixture, or poor lighting.
It is important to be very careful and take the time to dry off fully before exiting the shower or tub. This simple habit will help keep the floor or shower mat dry and reduce the chance of a fall from your wet feet on a wet floor. Slowly patting yourself completely dry has even been found to help prevent uncomfortable dry skin. Slowly patting yourself dry allows a chance for water to gradually evaporate from your skin rather than abruptly with a rushed dry.
Non-Slip Bathroom Mats
Standard bathroom mats are fantastic at keeping your feet warm on the cold bathroom floor. The mat even may come in a fun color or design. But traditional mat's thick and lush design cause many senior adults to trip and fall. Once they absorb water traditional bath mats will begin to slide or flip flop.
Many experts recommend replacing your traditional bath mat with a non-slip bath mat or even using a low-profile, non-slip mat. Low-profile, non-slip mats (here is one from Bed Bath & Beyond) are typically designed to be used in the kitchen. But its soft construction and rubberized backing will keep the mat strongly adhered to the floor. This design also makes it easier to wheel over if using a wheelchair or walker.
For additional safety, when the shower or tub is not in use, drape the mat over the side of the tub or move it up off of the floor. This will keep the floor free of any additional clutter and reduced chance of accidentally tripping.
Regular Cleaning & Maintenance
Monitoring the soundness and routine cleaning of the tub or shower basin is essential. The growth of mildew and soap scum is not only unsanitary, but mildew and soap scum's growth can reduce the anti-slip design features.
Ensure that the areas around the shower or tub’s edge do not leak water. A small leak can quickly grow to a large puddle after a few showers. Use caulk and silicone adhesive to fix any leaks found.
Collapsible Water Dam
If you have a curbless shower or need any additional standing water control, use a Collapsible Water Dam. The Collapsible Water Dam is the low-profile, soft, and versatile solution to water leakage.
The Collapsible Water Dam’s built-in adhesive and end caps create a substantial water barrier. The Dam can be easily cut or shaped to fit any curbless shower or water basin.
Their high-quality silicone construction provides a soft to step on but yet strong bounce. They are the ideal solution for those using a walker, wheelchair, or other transfer devices to enter and exit the tub or shower.
High Contrasting Colors & Patterns
Standing water in some cases may be inevitable in the bathroom. Create an environment where the standing water or damp surfaces are clearly visible and easily navigated. Proper lighting is especially important with many Senior's visits to the bathroom occurring at night. Installing a few night lights can help many orient themselves and find the right path.
Incorporating high contrasting colored wallpapers and surfaces will help significantly. Breaking up a solid white surface, wall, and floor with different colors and patterns will help those with declining eye sight find their way. Emphasize this effect by adding frosted light bulbs to reduce the room's glare. You may also find it easiest to paint the walls to increase contrast in color.
We hope that these tips can help you or your loved one avoid an accident from standing water. Now that we have covered how to reduce and control standing water we will be learning about ways to sit and stand from the toilet safely.