Being able to go into the bathroom, close the door and take care of our own cleaning rituals in private is something many of us take for granted. So when we experience a decrease in mobility due to aging or health issues, it can be difficult to admit we’re struggling or relinquish that independence.
However, there is plenty of assistance available to help you or a parent stay safe while showering or bathing at home. In this guide you’ll find tips and guidance to mitigate the risk of slips and falls in the bathroom, along with information on getting help if you need it.
The importance of safe showering and bathing Safety in the bathroom Bathroom aids and accessories Assisting with showering and bathing Getting help at home Shop Bathroom Aids
Showering and bathing isn’t just about personal hygiene when you get older. Laying in a warm bath can provide relief from muscle and joint pain and can also just be a way to destress. Likewise, a refreshing shower can help to invigorate the body and provide a sense of freshness.
However, bathing and showering can also bring with it a lot of anxiety. A fear of falling, dizziness or inability to manage things without assistance can make this normally pleasant ritual something to be avoided.
Meanwhile, the bathroom is the second most common area around the home where the elderly experience a fall resulting in injury. And not only is falling more likely when you are are aged 65 or older, the risk of injury – both minor and major – also increases. So it’s important to take steps to make the bathroom as safe as possible to reduce this risk and make bathing a relaxing and comfortable experience.
Creating a safe bathroom environment is essential to making those daily tasks as pleasant as possible.
Bathroom safety is not just about using mobility aids; it’s also about making the experience positive for you or your parent. Some things you can do to make bathing and showering safe are:
A good place to start when considering what bathroom aids might be suitable is to chat with your occupational therapist. They can help by assessing your current mobility and providing recommendations on ways to make showering and bathing safer, including using specific accessories or making modifications to the way you bathe.
Some of the modifications and aids you may get for the bathroom include:
Grab bars and handrails can be installed near the shower and bath to provide extra support when getting in and out. These sturdy bars give you something to hold onto and can help provide support and prevent a fall.
Grab bars are suited to people with good upper body strength who simply need another point of contact when moving or stepping over the bath. Before installing, observe how you naturally move from the shower or bath and note the points where you may reach for a wall or ledge for support.
Support bars and rails can be either bolted to the wall or attached with suction cups. Bolted on rails should be attached with the assistance of a professional as they need to be drilled into the wall stud for support.
Suction cup grab rails are ideal where you cannot install bolts – such as the edge of a bath – or if you want to avoid drilling into tile or walls. The durable, commercial-grade suction cup is easy to install and remove without tools, yet will provide adequate support for most adults. They come in standard, telescoping and pivot grip, enabling them to be installed in tight corners.
A shower chair can provide stability if you have difficulty balancing in the shower or prefer not to stand for long periods. Due to their lightweight, compact design, they can be placed in the shower when needed, then removed when other family members are showering.
They are available as either a traditional chair with a backrest or a bench style seat with handles at either end. If you have uneven surface in the shower look for a chair with adjustable legs that can be set at different heights and ensure the chair has rubber tipped feet to prevent sliding.
A bath chair or bench makes getting into and out of the bath easier, providing assistance whether you have a carer or not. Bath chairs work by allowing you to sit down at a regular 90 degree angle outside the bath before swinging your legs over the edge. While you won’t actually be able to lower into the bath, they can be used with a hand held shower head for all over wash.
These rubber mats prevent slips in the bath or shower by providing a textured surface to stand or sit on. They attach using moulded suction cups on the underside and have a non-slip rubber surface that provides grip. Bath mats are available in various sizes and are a low-cost option.
A hand-held shower is designed to be held in one hand and makes it easier to clean all areas of the body, even when seated. It attaches to the existing tap in the bath or sink and the gentle flow is ideal for sensitive skin. It’s also handy for washing hair in the sink.
Even with the use of bathroom aids, there may come a time when your loved one or parent will be unable to bathe without assistance. This may be due to mobility issues, dizziness or a loss of cognitive ability.
It’s important that you allow them to guide you on the assistance that they need, especially if they are still able to undertake most tasks without assistance. Create a dialogue by voicing your concerns, then listen to them and allow them to present potential solutions.
Your occupational therapist can help you understand the different ways you can help with bathing and showering tasks.
They’ll be able to show you ways to transfer in and out of the shower or bath and help with washing and dressing while maintaining their privacy.
Bathing and showering can bring up very real fears, especially if there have been incidents of slips or falls previously. If you’re helping a loved one to bathe, try to make the experience as relaxing as possible. Arrange to do it at a time when you’re not rushed and are feeling awake – this may be in the morning or late afternoon, depending on both of your schedules.
Take things slow and explain what you’re going to do before you take each action. Keep the bathroom warm and have plenty of towels available.
While many people are happy and willing to assist with the daily care of a loved one, it’s also important to know that there is support available, whether you just need help for certain tasks or require assistance for particular times or days of the week.
My Aged Care is a government program that can help you access support at home to carry out daily tasks. A range of services are offered, all designed to assist you to maintain your independence and improve your wellbeing.
Through My Aged Care you can arrange to have someone come to your home to help with bathing, showering, dressing and toileting, along with other services.
The first step in getting help is by calling My Aged Care on 1800 200 422. You’ll be asked questions about your needs and circumstances so My Aged Care staff can refer you to the right aged care services. From there you’ll have an assessment, before being provided with a care plan that outlines the services you’ll receive.
For more information visit the My Aged Care website https://www.myagedcare.gov.au
Lift chairs may also be known as rise-and-recline chairs, power lift recliners, electric lift chairs or medical recline chairs. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, and are available in small to large widths.
A lift chair looks very similar to a standard recliner and works in much the same way by allowing the user to recline for comfort (or perhaps a quick afternoon nap). The key difference is that a lift chair not only reclines, but also provides support when going from a seated to standing position. Rather than having to lift yourself – which can cause strain to the shoulders, arms and hips – an electric lift chair gently stands you up, reducing fatigue and possible injury.
For carers, an electric lift chair can make caring for your loved one easier. Back injuries associated with lifting someone are common in carers. However, a lift chair can help to prevent injury by assisting with the transfer of the user from one position to another.
A lift chair may be ideal for people who have difficulty getting out of a seated position without assistance. Because the lift mechanism does much of the work of getting you to a standing position, there is less strain on the muscle, which can lower the risk of injury or fatigue.
A lift chair also offers therapeutic benefits for people with a range of medical conditions – such as arthritis, poor circulation and back pain – by allowing the user to find a comfortable position, whether that’s seated or fully reclined.
The myriad seating positions can also help people who spend a lot of time sitting as the chair can help to reduce the risk of pressure sores, improve circulation and provide optimum support for specific activities.
As with any other mobility aid, it’s important that you have the ability and awareness to operate your lift chair safely. A lift chair can seem relatively easy to operate, however it’s essential the user has the cognition to operate the controls and get themselves from a standing to seated position without assistance.
A good first stop is to chat with your occupational therapist about whether a lift chair is right for you. Because a lift chair takes on much of the work that our muscles normally do when we go from sitting to standing (and the other way round), there is a risk these muscles could weaken even further. Your occupational therapist can help by giving you specific exercises, such as leg raises, to strengthen the muscles.
Single motor or dual motor operation
Single motor chairs have just the one operating panel that controls both the back recline and leg rest. There are fewer positions available, but they can be easier to operate due to the single control panel, and they are often less expensive.
Dual motor lift chairs have independent controls for the backrest and leg rest, offering a wider range of seating positions, which is ideal if you have difficulty finding a comfortable position.
Finally, space-saving recliner options are designed to be placed closer to the wall and take up less space than standard chairs when in full recline mode. These can be ideal for both seniors who live at home but don't have a lot of space, as well as those who live in a nursing home and are restricted by the size of their room.
Lift and recline chairs should be fitted to the user, based on height and weight. The seat of your lift chair should be wide enough to accommodate your hips while still allowing your arms to rest comfortably on the arm rests.
You should be able to sit comfortably with your feet resting on the floor and your legs at a 90 degree angle when in the standard seat position. Look for a depth adjustable seat for personalised comfort and positioning that can be adjusted over time.
It’s likely you’ll spend considerable time in your lift chair, so comfort is important. Adjustable padding will allow you to find the most supportive position and maintain good posture in all positions.
Fabric choice should also be considered. The most common fabrics you’ll find are easy-clean suede or medical-grade upholstery.
Easy-clean suede is soft to touch while offering commercial grade durability and is resistant to mildew, flame retardant and anti-pilling.
Alternately, medical-grade Dartex upholstery provides is preferred if you’ll be spending a lot of time seated. The fabric is designed to reduce the risks of pressure injury by distributing the weight across the surface. The fabric has moisture-permeability properties to ensure the surface remains dry and is antimicrobial to prevent infection.
The single motor rise and recline chair is ideal if you need a basic chair for everyday use. With a single motor, the chair will go from standing to seated and reclined with the footrest up. Options may include an emergency battery backup system to ensure the chair still functions in the event of power failure.
Features to look for:
Dual motor rise and recline chairs offer the widest range of seating positions. The two motors control the recline and foot rests independently, allowing the user to find the most comfortable position for them and relieve the effects of sitting for too long.
Space saver lift and recline chairs offer the benefits of a single or dual motor chair, while requiring less clearance at the back when in the full recline position. They are ideal if space is limited or you want to maximise the clearance in front of your chair.
A lift chair should be chosen specifically for the user based on their height, as this is what determines the distance the chair needs to lift off the ground to facilitate a safe exit. Other considerations should be given to the user’s weight and how they intend to use the chair.
Lift chairs generally come in three sizes – small, medium and large – and will also have options to adjust the backrest and padding to your personal preference.
Lift chair size guide
Under 160 cm
160cm - 172cm
175cm - 188cm
Seat to top of Back
When you get your lift chair home, you’ll want to ensure you get the most out of it. First, consider how much space you’ll need around the chair. Ensure you have a clear space in front for you to stand up without tripping. Also, make sure you have adequate clearance behind the chair and the wall when it’s in the full recline position.
If you use a walking aid or wheelchair to move around, clear some space so you can keep it next to your chair while you’re seated.And of course to make things more convenient, consider having a small table nearby for things like water or a cup of tea.
Think about how you’ll spend your time when seated. Do you prefer to watch television, in which case angle the chair so you can see the screen without glare. Or perhaps you like to read or knit, so natural light during the day and a good reading lamp are essential to avoid eye strain.
Avoid the power cord being a trip hazard by placing your chair near a power point. If there is no suitable power point an electrician can install one for you.
To enjoy your lift chair for many years check the power cord regularly and keep it away from liquids, pets and children. Inspect the fabric regularly for tears or pulls. To clean your chair, use a mild fabric cleaner and gently dab at the area.
The addition of a chair pad can make clean up easier, especially if spills or incontinence is a concern.
Browse the full range of lift and recliner chairs for sale at Mobility HQ
Mobility scooters are designed for people who are mobile enough to operate a small vehicle, but who find it difficult to walk long distances due to disability or a health issue. As their design and battery-life has improved, mobility scooters have become an increasingly popular mobility aid and a common sight in shopping centres and on pavements.
There are a wide range of scooters available, from smaller models that can fit into the boot of your car through to heavy duty mobility scooters that are able to navigate steep hills and travel distances of up to 50km on a single charge.
The different types of wheelchairs can be broadly separated into manual wheelchairs and motorised wheelchairs. Manual wheelchairs need to be propelled or pushed by the user or a carer. As the name suggests, motorised wheelchairs have a motor and rechargeable battery and are moved using a hand control on the armrest, requiring only minimal effort from the user.
When it comes to manual wheelchairs, there are both self-propelled and transit models.
Self-propelled wheelchairs allow you to push yourself using the hand rim on the large rear wheels. These wheelchairs generally also come with a rear handle for a carer to push when appropriate.
Transit or folding wheelchairs have smaller rear wheels and can only be pushed by a carer. These models are generally lighter in weight and can be folded to fit in the boot of a car.
A wheelchair offers increased freedom for people experiencing limited mobility as a result of disability or a health issue, whether short-term or more permanent. While there are obvious benefits to using a wheelchair, whether one is right for you ultimately comes down to a personal or family decision.
Most wheelchairs are designed to maneuver in small, tight spaces making them suitable for use at home. More robust wheelchairs are designed to be taken outside and can even be used on difficult terrain, like pavements and slopes.
A wheelchair can be used in conjunction with other mobility aids or forms of transport. Folding wheelchairs, for example, are lightweight and will fit in the boot of the car making them suitable for use when travelling or when a larger mobility aid might be too cumbersome.
Wheelchairs can also provide temporary assistance when you’re recovering from an injury or operation. This allows you to continue to maintain your independence while avoiding fatigue or a delay in recovery caused by too much physical activity.
A good place to start is by chatting with your occupational therapist about your requirements, ability and the appropriate mobility aids to help you gain or maintain your independence.
When buying a wheelchair for a family member it is important to think about whether they’ll need additional assistance to get around. For example, someone with limited mobility or dementia may not be able to move around at all without assistance, in which case a transit wheelchair may be the most appropriate option.
If you’d like a wheelchair in order to gain more freedom or to alleviate symptoms associated with walking, then a self-propelled wheelchair may be suitable. However, these still require some upper body strength in order to move and they can be harder to control on slopes and rough terrain.
A motorised wheelchair, which is operated by a hand control, often provides the best combination of convenience and ease of use. Designed to fit into the same space as a manual wheelchair, a motorised wheelchair can be used indoors and outdoors by people with varying levels of strength and dexterity. They allow you to navigate ramps and slopes without experiencing fatigue and the comfortable seat means you can use it for hours without discomfort.
Something else to consider when choosing a wheelchair is how you’ll use it. Will you use it only infrequently or as an adjunct to other mobility aids? Will you use it around the house as well as outside and need to navigate small slopes and ramps? Do you have the upper body strength to propel a manual wheelchair?
If you have a carer to help you get around, will they be able to push you in the wheelchair, taking into account the weight of the chair as well as any slopes you may need to go up and down?
Once you’ve considered how and where you’ll use your wheelchair, let’s take a look at the different types available.
There are many reasons why someone would choose to use, or not use, a mobility scooter and it ultimately comes down to a personal or family decision.
For people who are having difficulty driving, a mobility scooter can help to replace a motor vehicle. This can be a particular issue when it comes to road safety. While you do still need a level of confidence and ability to operate a mobility scooter, the ease of use and low speeds presents less of a hazard to the user and others, compared to a car.
A mobility scooter can also be used in conjunction with other forms of transport. The folding mobility scooters, for example, will fit in the boot of a car and can be taken out for use around a shopping centre or for short trips where using a car may not make sense.
Mobility scooters can also provide temporary assistance to someone recovering from an injury or operation. This allows them to continue to maintain their independence while not tiring themselves out with too much physical activity.
Lightweight and able to be folded up, a travel or transit wheelchair is an ideal option for people who need to use a wheelchair infrequently or for only short periods of time. These wheelchairs have an ultralight frame and small wheels, making them easy to lift and fold into the boot of a standard car.
A travel wheelchair also makes a good second wheelchair for those times when your standard wheelchair or mobility aid isn’t convenient. For example, when you’re going on holiday you may arrange to hire a motorised wheelchair or mobility scooter on arrival, so you only need a small wheelchair in transit. As these wheelchairs require a carer to push them, they aren’t suitable for people who want to be able to propel themselves.
A self-propelled wheelchair provides both independence and flexibility. These wheelchairs can be propelled by the user or can be pushed with the assistance of a carer.
This is an ideal option for someone who wants to be able move around without assistance at home, while gaining the features of a transit wheelchair, including being lightweight and easy to take when travelling.
The service from MobilityHQ was first class, my wheelchair was ordered and delivered fully assembled faster than I can get an envelope delivered!
Mrs M Kerry