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Bathroom Safety Tips for People with Mobility Issues

29th Jun 2021

With accessible home design and use of bath safety accessories, the vast majority of people with limited mobility can safely use the bathroom with no or very little assistance from another person.

According to a recent survey, about 26% of Americans have some type of disability, with many requiring a wheelchair or other mobility devices to move around. And with the aging population, experts believe that the number will continue to rise in the coming years.

Accessible Showers and Tubs

Bathroom safety accessories such as shower chairs or stools should complement a wheelchair-accessible shower to allow people with mobility issues to enjoy a more independent life.

For people using a wheelchair, the best design is a curbless shower with an opening that is level with the floor and has a gentle slope down to the drain. In general, the shower opening should be at least 36-inch wide for a bather who is using a transfer seat, and 60-inch wide for a wheelchair-bound bather.

Accessible showers may also include  built-in grab barsanti-slip matsbath seats, and showerhead and faucets that are within the bather's reach.

For some people, their bathroom may also need a bath lift to lower and raise themselves with minimal effort. These "special" chairs often come with a padded reclining backrest to allow the user to enjoy a relaxing bath, while others are designed specifically for deeper model tubs.

Toilet Seat Riser and Support Rail

Also known as a toilet seat extender, this equipment is installed onto an existing toilet to increase the sitting height and ease the burden of getting on and off from it. Some risers even come with handles to further help with the mobility of users.

An excellent alternative to a toilet seat riser is a commode chair, which is a portable toilet placed at the bedside of people too weak to reach the bathroom. Meanwhile, it comes with a receptacle for waste which can be removed and emptied.

Anti-Slip Bath Mat

These special mats have an anti-skid texture to prevent them from moving during use. While these are commonly used in tubs and showers, they can also be placed in slippery surfaces such as the pool area to prevent slip and fall accidents.

Since most tubs have no slip-resistant finishes, it is important to use anti-slip mats that cover entirely or at least most of the slippery surfaces.

Clutter-Free Bathroom

For seniors and people with limited mobility, a clutter-free home is one of the best ways to reduce slip and fall accidents. This is particularly true for bathrooms and shower areas.

Keep all the towels, combs and brushes, toiletries, hairdryers, etc., out of the walking space.

Comfortable Water Temperature

People with mobility issues and their caregivers should ensure that the water is "comfortable" before the bathers enter the tub or shower. (Note: Some slip and fall accidents happened because of extreme water temperature that startled the bathers.)

Accessible Bath Supplies 

A good rule of thumb is to keep all the toiletries such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, loofa, shaving cream, etc., within reach, so the bathers don't have to get in and out the tub. (If the edge of the tub has no countertop, a good alternative is to use a rolling shelf to store their bath supplies.)

Stylish and "Accessible" Bathroom

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to create a stylish, functional bathroom that is accessible to wheelchair users and people with limited mobility.

In summary, accessible bathrooms should have the following key features:

  • Open shower with no curb
  • Wide-open entry
  • Seamless transition (The flooring "flows" seamlessly from room to room without a gap or step.)
  • Easy-to-reach storage solutions
  • Easy-to-reach faucets and showerheads
  • Well lit bathroom (or, if possible, natural light from a skylight window or a private backyard)
  • Built-in grab bars (They should be tested to ensure that they can support the user's weight.)
  • Toilet safety accessories like toilet seat risers and handles
  • Non-slippery flooring (Some tiles such as those made from slates, bamboo, cork, and honed granite provide excellent traction.) 

Clutter-Free Bathroom

For seniors and people with limited mobility, a clutter-free home is one of the best ways to reduce slip and fall accidents. This is particularly true for bathrooms and shower areas.

Keep all the towels, combs and brushes, toiletries, hairdryers, etc., out of the walking space.

Comfortable Water Temperature

People with mobility issues and their caregivers should ensure that the water is comfortable before the bathers enter tub or shower.(Note: some slip and fall accidents happened because of extreme water temperature that startled bathers.)

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