Having the ability to age at home is the desired choice for many older adults. In fact, a study conducted by Clarity and The EAR Foundation found that the majority of older adults fear being moved to an assisted living facility more than they even fear death.
This reality is striking and is a clear sign that aging at home will only continue to become a more popular choice for many older adults. However, regardless of an older adult's desire to age at home, this option is only possible if the home has been properly modified for ultimate safety.
And when we’re thinking of concerns that might keep your loved one from aging at home, the biggest concern is often fall risk, with the bathroom being one of the most common places at home falls occur.
Shower safety is a particular concern for older adults and their caregivers because the floor is wet and slippery, and the surfaces are hard. A fall is not only more likely in the shower than in other areas of the home but is also more likely to cause injury.
Though there are three simple changes you can make to your loved one’s shower to significantly reduce the risk of falls, and keep them safely aging at home.
- Installing safety bars in the shower
- Using a nonslip shower floor mat or strips
- Adding an appropriate shower chair
Safety Bars in the Shower
Safety bars, also known as grab bars, are beneficial when stepping over the shower or tub threshold, when standing in the shower for balance, and when moving from sitting to standing in the shower. If you or a loved one has difficulty with balance, safety bars in the shower can significantly decrease the risk of falling in the shower.
Safety bars come in many different sizes and shapes. They can be wall-mounted, tub-mounted, free-standing, or suction to the wall. Each has benefits that meet specific shower safety needs. Below is a table to help guide your decision on which type to purchase.
In addition, the shower grab bar height from the floor will also depend on the needs of your loved one.
A lower grab bar height would be more beneficial if the older adult will need to scoot into the shower from a wheelchair or will be using it to move from sitting to standing. However, a higher shower grab bar height would be beneficial if they will be using the bar as added support while they step over a threshold or improve balance while standing.
An occupational therapist can assist you in deciding the shower grab bar height, direction (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal), and type that will work best for the home.
Nonslip Shower Floor
Once inside the shower, the wet floor surface is the next aspect of shower safety that needs to be addressed.
Shower safety mats that are nonslip while allowing water to drain underneath are the most common solution to a slippery shower floor. These mats can be made of rubber, teak, moss, wood, or loofah material. The material you choose will depend on your unique needs and your aesthetic preferences.
Another option to reduce slipping in the shower is to apply nonslip strips to the shower floor. These strips can be cut to the length and shape you need and applied using adhesive. They will often require the floor to be dry when placing them, so always plan ahead to maximize shower safety.
Shower Chair Options
At some point, it may become necessary to sit in the shower either for the entire duration of the shower or part of it. And this is very normal. As we age, all of us experience more weakness in our muscles or our energy running out faster.
When considering shower safety for your loved one, consider having a way for them to sit in the shower when it’s needed.
If a shower chair might be beneficial to your loved one there are many different types of shower chairs to choose from. Though we know from personal experience that choosing the right type can be confusing.
Trying out different options can not only be expensive but can also increase the risk of falling if the wrong equipment is used.
Below is a list of possible options for shower chairs, but this is by no means a complete list. The options are changing every day.
- Shower chair with arms and backrest
- Shower chair with back
- Transfer tub bench
- Sliding or swiveling shower chairs
- Folding shower chairs
- Rolling shower commode chair
At the very least, make sure you are always looking at the product reviews and checking for weight capacity before purchasing a shower chair. Remember, shower safety is not just an investment to improving safety in one area of the home. It’s a long lasting investment in your loved one’s health and mobility around their entire home.
Long-Term Solutions For Shower Safety
Aging in the home is about finding long-term solutions, not quick fixes. When considering shower safety, there are a lot of products out there to choose from. Some of these products will meet the needs you’re looking for while others will not.
Talking with an occupational therapist about your individual needs can be very helpful as you decide which items will be the most important investments. If you’d like, be sure to give us a call and our Client Care Team would be more than happy to discuss shower safety options with you.