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1 May 2020

Seven ways to make a bathroom ideal for an older person

Slips and trips can happen in the bathroom and lead to serious injury. But accidents can be prevented with home adaptations and aids

The bathroom is a place of sanctuary for many of us - somewhere we associate with privacy and peace. But it can also be a dangerous and scary spot for older people with mobility issues.

Unfortunately, bathing may be the first thing that you notice becomes challenging with increasing age. Slips and trips are a risk when showering or getting into the bath and can lead to serious injury. Luckily there are many things you can do to improve safety in the bathroom for an older person, and many of these only require minor changes.

1. Speak to an occupational therapist

If you're struggling to get into and out of the bath, adaptations to the bathroom may help. Everyone is different, so it's hard to make blanket assumptions about the best type of equipment to choose. So seek out expert guidance before you purchase bath aids.

It's a good idea to speak to a registered occupational therapist before and during the planning. They will be able to do an assessment that will help identify your specific needs and which equipment will work best for you.

2. Bath gadgets

If only a small change is needed, there are many gadgets that can make bathing safer but without you having to make major adjustments to the room.

For instance, you can get bath cushions to support your body while you're lying in the bath. Or tap turners can be really useful for those who don't have sufficient strength to easily rotate the tap. And a wall-mounted soap dispenser can solve the problem of a bar of soap slipping out of your hands and onto the floor.

3. Bath boards and shower seats

Bath boards are designed for people who have limited strength but still have some level of agility. They help you get into and out of the bath more easily and also provide a solid seat to sit on once you're in. They fit on the bath across its width.

You can also get bath and shower seats that work a bit like a board but allow you to sit more immersed in the bathwater than with a board alone. Bath seats are ideal for people who have limited mobility around the knee joints and limited arm strength.

4. Easy-access baths and showers

If using a conventional bath or shower has become too difficult, there are many different types of baths and showers to explore. From walk-in baths and showers to ones with built-in seats, there are plenty of options available to give you peace of mind around bathing.

5. Safety-proof the floor

Don't neglect the floor when considering how to make a bathroom safer. Many falls happen due to unstable flooring or loose carpet or rugs. It's particularly important that the flooring in the bathroom is slip-resistant.

You can purchase non-slip mats cheaply from most DIY and household stores, which will help if you need a quick fix. But you can further reduce the risk of slips by installing specialist safety flooring. Well-known slip-resistant floor manufacturers include Altro, Polyflor and Tarkett.

Don't forget to lay a non-slip mat on the bottom of the bath (or shower). But avoid using bath oils, as these will reduce the effectiveness of non-slip mats.

6. Install a bath lift

A bath lift or hoist is a big investment, but they may be right if your mobility and strength problems are severe.

Bath lifts and hoists can be either removable or fixed to your bath. There are many different types to choose from, such as hoists that fix to the ceiling or floor. The easiest type of bath lift to remove from the bath is the inflatable cushion bath lift.

7. Getting financial help for adaptations

Some bathroom adjustments are more expensive than others. In some circumstances, you may be able to get help from your local authority to fund necessary adaptations.

The kinds of help available range from minor adaptations that may be carried out free of charge by the council, to means-tested grants of up to £30,000 for those who need major work.

The first step to finding out whether you can get financial help is to request a needs assessment. During this process, an occupational therapist will visit your home to see what adaptations may help you to continue living there independently.

Find out more: Which?'s step-by-step guide to choosing and hiring a professional bathroom fitter.