Within the home, the bathroom is one of the most high-risk areas for clients and caregivers. The proper bathroom safety features and procedures for client handling can significantly reduce the risk of an injury and claim. Consider providing guidance for caregivers to inform clients and client families about bathroom safety features and devices and ensure caregivers practice safe client handling.
Bathroom Safety Risk
The bathroom presents many hazards. As many as four in five falls in the home happen inside a bathroom, according to Consumer Affairs. Those over 65 make up a large portion of the more than 200,000 people who fill emergency rooms each year due to an injury in a home bathroom.
The risks for clients in the bathroom include slick and wet surfaces, hard floors, counters and tiled walls, all within a small, confined space. Bathrooms also present a risk for caregivers, due to these hazards as well as the risk of strain injury trying to transfer clients in a confined space or catch falling clients.
Bathroom Safety Features and Devices
The right safety features and devices can make a big difference for client safety, helping to considerably lower the risk of an accident.
- Grab bars can help clients maintain balance and feel more secure in the bathroom. Unlike towel bars which are not designed to support a person’s weight, grab bars are bolted securely into the walls. Ideal placement is near the shower and within reach of the toilet. If a client does not have grab bars in the bathroom, consider encouraging their installation. The most secure bars will have a textured surface for good grip and a color that contrasts with the bathroom walls.
- Shower and bath transfer benches can offer clients more security and comfort while bathing. This may be particularly beneficial for clients who tire easily and have difficulty standing in the tub or shower for extended time periods. Different models are available, from a simple stool to sliding benches to full chairs with arm rests and back rests. All proper transfer chairs should feature rubber feet to prevent sliding.
- Non-slip mats or adhesive strips may be laid or installed in the shower or tub area to reduce the risk of a slip-and-fall accident. The mats are made of textured rubber or plastic that allow for a better grip than tub porcelain, even when wet. Mats often install with suction cups, but textured adhesive strips are also readily available in stores for a more permanent solution.
- Walk-in tubs can be a good investment for bathroom safety. Clients may have difficulty climbing over a standard tub ledge. A walk-in tub features a door in the side of the tub which opens to allow easier entry and exit. While walk-in tubs can be expensive for homeowners to install, financial assistance might be available via Medicare for those demonstrating a medical need.
- Raised toilet seats are available to help clients who have difficulty sitting and standing. While the difference in height is often minimal at about three or four inches, a raised toilet seat can make toileting simpler for those with mobility issues. Seats attach to existing bathroom fixtures and can be combined with grab bars on adjacent walls or counters to improve the ease of sitting down and standing back up.
- Swing-out doors are another feature which can be implemented to improve bathroom safety. Most bathroom doors open inwards, but this could be a problem for clients with poor balance. If a client falls alone in the bathroom against the door, it may be difficult for caregivers or family members to gain access to the room. Switching hinges and latches can make access easier.
- Path lighting leading to and from the bathroom can also help minimize the risk of falls. Nightlights that turn on automatically can help ensure the hall or corridor outside the bathroom is well lit even at night.
Bathroom Safety Procedures
Even with these safety features and devices, many clients may need assistance in the bathroom with toileting or bathing. When caregivers assist their clients, it is important to follow proper procedures.
- Prepare the bathroom area, chairs, seats, supplies and bath water.
- Escort the client to the bathing area.
- Encourage the client to hold on to the grab bars and walk on non-slip mat surfaces.
- Explain the procedures for bathing or toileting to the client.
- Help the client with any undressing and bathing as is needed.
- During the bath, wipe up any wet spots on the floor as needed.
- Stress the use of safety bars when providing toileting assistance as room to employ basic transfer techniques may be limited.
Home bathrooms present a challenge due to the many hazards and high risk of a fall for either the client or caregivers, but there are safety features and devices available to help reduce the risk of an accident. Caregivers can also provide assistance in line with current guidance to minimize the risk to clients and themselves.