Bathroom Safety Prep: Is your bathroom ready to be safer?
Bathroom safety is more than just attaching a few grab bars here and there. Bathroom safety is about having your bathroom accessible, grab bars you can count on at your weight and beyond, regular maintenance to ensure there are no leaks, and enough supplies to promote independence and lessen frustration.
1. Can you get in? This may sound obvious, but whomever has the difficulty with mobiliy has to be able to get into the bathroom with whatever equipment they use: walker, wheelchair, cane. If not, can the doorway be adjusted? Is there a bathroom available in the residence that is better suited to their needs? Plan B sometimes has to come into play. Can the doorway be widened?
2. Once they are in, can they move about without fear of slipping? How is that tile? Is it smooth - perhaps too smooth when wet? Are there bathmats on the floor or carpet? Are the bathmats helping or are they a tripping hazard or will they block the wheels of walkers and wheelchairs?
3. Shower or tub? Step in or slide in? Are the walls of the shower or tub sturdy enough to withstand attaching grab bars AND up to 500 pounds of weight? 500 I say in case you fall down and have to grab them. The sudden force has to withstand more than your scale weight at that point. Better to have it too strong than to give out on you when you need it most.
4. Profressional help: Sometimes you need to bring in a consultant or professional to evaluate your needs and make recommendations. Many times your doctor can "prescribe" an expert to come and do a home evaluation. If not, invest in a professional evaluation just the same. It's your safety we are talking about. Avoiding an extra trip to the ER is worth the investment in a trained professional.
5. Toilet height: How does the toilet work for the person with the physical challenges? Is it easy to sit and get up? Do you need bars around the toilet as well? Are THOSE walls strong enough or do they need to be reinforced? Is your toilet leakproof? Slippery floors can be the most dangerous feature of a bathroom. Keep it dry. Call in a plumber if you have a leak or a toilet that is not of sufficient height. They can get you one installed with a warranty.
6. Sinks and cabinets. Is the counter around the sink clear of clutter? Is a hand towel within reach and antibacterial soap? Down below, do you have supplies to refill soap, shampoo, toiletpaper, towels? It's difficult enough with physical challenges, but to always have to yell for minor items that could have been within reach if you planned ahead can be VERY frustrating to the person needing care. Help them be more independent. Give them the tools to allow them to problem solve on their own.
7. Shampoo and soap dispensers. Keep them clean and drip free. Drips and smears make the surface of the tub slippery. Also, if you have gripper mats, they still need to be cleaned regularly. They can get gummy and slimy underneath. Use a good cleanser that can strip the slime away.
8. Tub faucets. If you've had children, you may have used the old faucet bumper to smooth the sharp edges. It's funny how many gadgets we used for young children and babies can come in handy when making a bathroom and household safer. Take a trip to Babies R Us and think "adult safety" while going through their bath safety aisle. You'll be surprised how many items fit.
9. Floor mats, rugs and bath mats: Are the mats skid proof? Will the person you are caring for stumble on the edge or catch their walker or wheelchair? Will it prevent the door from shutting easily? Better to tape down the edges from the top then to have a hazard in the way.