Bathroom showers and bathtubs are a common accident area for older adults with mobility issues. These are some ways to reduce falls for your loved ones. Here a few safety additions.
As we are all ‘ageing on’ and some of us with parents that need assistance many of us need to make the bath tub shower more accessible.
Knowing where and how to install aids can save money when setting up a system for showering.
First, start with a shower chair. It is the best comfort of safety when taking a shower alone.
Second, sit in the chair and reach over shower valves and see what height a bar would be easy to reach. I usually use a 24” and install it as close to the edge of the shower without interfering with the shower door or curtain. It is best installed level so as one enters the bath tub they can grab the bar before lifting a leg to get in the tub. Then placing your second hand on the bar as you enter the tub one has better balance stepping into the tub. Now with both hands on the bar you can lower onto the seat. To get up, grab the bar and pull yourself off the seat, easy peasy.
Third and last, that shower head is too high to use while seated so a hand held shower gets the head down to the showerer. A bracket mounted on the wall about the height of the grab bar that holds the hand held head makes for a mini shower that leaves the user more comfortable.
Drilling into the tile for the bar and shower head bracket is best done with small carbide bits first. Then open the holes to 1/4″ with a carbide bit all the while feeling for wood that could be behind the tile. If there is wood the screws will work fine to hold that part of the bar up. If there is no wood I open one hole on each end of the bar to 1/2″ and use a Toggler ‘zip tie’ anchor for better security. The other 1/4″ holes get green plastic anchors and use the screws that come with the grab bar.
Bath mats, decals and rugs
Some tubs and showers have built-in, non-slip textured floors, but may still be slippery from soap and shampoo. Bath mats that stick to the floor, or the adhesive decals, are cheap and easy to apply. Also, a non-skid rug outside the shower because of wet tiles, not just a towel on the floor. Put in front of the toilet and sink, too.
Shower chairs and transfer bench
Chairs give stability for elders with balance problems or cannot stand too long. Chairs should have rubber tips on the legs.
A transfer bench reduces problems of stepping into the bathtub. They sit on the bench before lifting their legs over the edge, then they sliding over.
Removable hand-held shower head
These are simpler to use while sitting down because you don’t have to move your feet. And they need no tools to install. Add an attachment for the head down-low so it is reachable and not flapping about. Include a weighted shower curtain so the water doesn’t spray outside the shower.
Don’t use towel bars as grab bars because they are not designed for stress or weight.
The grab bar should have a slip-resistant grip surface, not a high gloss finish with a different color than
the wall for visibility, and bolted securely, not suction cupped. Thinner bars are available, but a standard 1-1/2 in.
dia. shower bar like we’re using is just right for most people’s grip.
The best position to install grab bars is where the elder usually holds onto when entering or exiting the shower. Take into account if the elder will be standing or sitting. Have the person decide the bar placement.
Attach the bar to wood wall studs if possible.
If the shower is fiberglass, must mount the bar into a wall stud. But the space between the fiberglass wall and the stud behind must be supported (filled) or the fiberglass will bend and may crack.
For the hollow walls behind tile with no stud, or they are metal studs, toggle bolts are best.
You’re not done until you yank-test. Give the shower bars a good solid yank to test their holding power. Pull with all your strength to ensure it will hold when needed.
Install a tension pole if you can’t have a grab bar for some reason. It runs from floor to ceiling to give the elder something to hold on to for stability, support and balance.