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Bathroom safety - adults

Alternative Names

Older adult bathroom safety; Falls - bathroom safety

What to Consider at Home

Staying safe in the bathroom is important for people with joint pain, muscle weakness, or physical disability. If you have any of these issues, you will need to take precaution in your bathroom.

Bath or Shower

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.
  • If you do not already have one, install a single lever on your faucet to mix hot and cold water together.
  • Set the temperature on your water heater to 120°F (49°C) to prevent burns.
  • Sit on a bath chair or bench when taking a shower.
  • Keep the floor outside the tub or shower dry.

The Toilet

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.

Safety Bars for the Bath and Toilet

You may need to have safety bars in your bathroom. These grab bars should be secured vertically or horizontally to the wall, not diagonally.

DO NOT use towel racks as grab bars. They can't support your weight.

You will need 2 grab bars: one to help you get in and out of the tub, and another to help you stand from a sitting position.

When to Call the Doctor

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

References

Afifi M, Al-Hussein M, Bouferguene A. Geriatric bathroom design to minimize risk of falling for older adults - a systematic review. Eur Geriatr Med. 2015;6:598-603.

Rubenstein LZ, Dillard D. Falls. In: Ham RJ Jr, Sloane PD, Warshaw GA, Potter JF, Flaherty E, eds. Ham's Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 20.

Review Date:5/21/2016
Reviewed By:Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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