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Types of Bathroom Safety Devices
Bathrooms are cramped spaces that combine sharp corners, hard surfaces, and water. This has the potential to cause significant issues for individuals who are disabled, sick, or injured. Anyone with mobility concerns or experiencing physical symptoms that leave them weak and unable to balance properly should have assistive devices in the bathroom. The sink, toilet, shower, and tub all present unique challenges that can be overcome with the correct equipment.
We are going to go over the most common types of bathroom safety equipment and how they can be helpful. There are any number of smaller devices available. We will focus on the standard mobility-related aids, including chairs, benches, poles, and ways you can augment your existing bathroom to accommodate your needs.
Most people have a passing familiarity with accessibility and safety for equipment that can be installed in tubs and around toilets, but you may not know which is right for you. We are going to break down the various things and make sure you understand how each can benefit you or your loved one, and turn your bathroom into a more accessible space.
Commode Toilet Chairs
Toilets can be difficult for individuals who are disabled or experiencing weakness due to an injury. The primary problem is that they are often set too low, which makes it hard or impossible to get off them once the person has sat down. A lack of arm or body support is a potential issue that a commode toilet chair solves.
These chairs have supportive backs and armrests. They are designed to slide over the toilet with the legs falling on either side of the bowl. Transferring from a wheelchair, walker, or another mobility device is easier with the support structure built into a commode chair. They can come in a variety of materials and styles. Some are sturdier and more ergonomic than others, and for the most part, you get what you pay for, but even the most affordable chair can make using the toilet safer.
They sometimes have wheels and push handles so that bed-bound people can be helped to the bathroom. Others are entirely stationary and meant to stay above the toilet semi-permanently. There are also some commodes known as 3 in 1 commode, which can be used at the bedside, over the toilet as a raised seat, and as a support structure over the toilet.
Bath & Shower Chairs
There are several types of bath and shower chairs that can be tailored to specific needs. For example, you can get heavy-duty ones designed to accommodate larger people who are unable to safely stand for the duration of a shower. Others have accessibility features to make them ideal for individuals who use wheelchairs so that they can transition easily to and from the shower.
The average bath or shower chair has a weight capacity of between 200 and 300 pounds. There are also some heavy-duty ones that are capable of handling up to 500 pounds. They are meant to provide a steady, secure seat. The weight capacity for these has been increasing steadily over the last decade. Now there are some manufacturers that can design custom shower chairs for heavier individuals that require a weight capacity of over 500 pounds. This improved accessibility so that everyone who needs one can get a bath or shower chair.
The materials for portable shower chairs are usually hard plastic and aluminum. Permanent seats that are built into the shower or bath are usually benches, but you can get chairs that are bolted to the floor in some public bathrooms. These provide an extra bit of security since they are not capable of sliding on wet surfaces.
Combination Wheeled Chairs
It is also worth noting that some brands have wheeled chairs that can be used over the toilet and then in the shower as well. These are primarily used for open bathroom designs where there is no shower lip. They can be easily folded for storage or transportation. The main downside of a combination wheeled chair like this is the price. They tend to be more expensive.
These wheeled options many times come with the ability to transform them into bedside commodes. This can be useful for anyone who is almost entirely bed-bound and may not have the strength to be moved to or sit on a traditional toilet.
These are for bathtubs and have an extended edge with four legs and a seat located inside the shower and an extended end that goes over the top of the tub and has two legs outside the bathtub. These are specifically for people who require wheelchairs or scooters to move around their homes and cannot stand to enter the tub. They can transfer directly into the edge of the bench and then move across the seat into the tub space. It is safe and convenient. For elderly individuals, this makes it easier for caregivers to maneuver them into the tub or shower.
There are some transformable transfer benches with removable armrests and backings, adjustable leg heights, and suctioned feet for added stability. There is usually an arm that can be used as a handle for moving the bench and doubles as a safety grip for when the shower is on.
The weight capacity for a transfer bench is slightly higher than a chair. Depending on the manufacturer and model, they can accommodate users of up to 700 pounds. Many bathing areas open to the public have wooden versions but portable transfer benches also come in steel, aluminum, and plastic. Permanent alternatives may be made of concrete and built directly into the wall or tub.
Grab Bars & Poles
Grab bars can be placed anywhere and made of any number of styles. There are ergonomic options and minimalist bars. Most will have a textured grip of some kind, and they will be either temporarily, semi-permanently, or permanently attached to one of the following areas.
- Walls near toilet
- Along the side, if the sink or cupboard
- Near the bed
A standard bar or pole will be mounted in the ceiling, floor, or a wall. Bars can be placed at any height or location, which makes them ideal for creating safe handholds die transferring out of a wheelchair or steadying oneself when stepping away from any other mobility device. They are also excellent for anyone with an injury or sickness that may leave them feeling weak or dizzy. The grab bars provide a steading feature.
When purchasing grab bars, it is good to keep in mind how much weight they will be holding up. Will they provide a supportive handhold or take the full weight of the person using it during transfer. The average grab bar is placed 30" to 33" off the floor, and some can handle a weight capacity of up to 250 pounds. It may be necessary to have multiple grab bars to make sure no one takes too much direct weight.
Poles are very similar, but they are usually affixed to the ceiling or floor and placed in a centralized area such as between the toilet and the tub. Most are metal, and they can have suctioned bases to keep them steady.
Raised Toilet Seats
Using a raised toilet seat is a simple, effective, and affordable way to improve independence in the bathroom for individuals who have mobility issues. Toilet seats are usually too short for elderly individuals to get off of easily. These are also useful for people with joint pain such as arthritis. The raised toilet seat sits over the toilet bowl and can either replace the toilet seat entirely or be placed above it, depending on what kind you choose.
They are made of plastic, and some may have metal or plastic armrests for easier transition and stability. The armrests can sometimes be removed as needed. These are ideal for anyone who requires a caregiver to assist them onto and off the toilet. The extra inches of height can make it so that some individuals can be entirely independent in the bathroom while using it.
Raised toilet seats generally have a weight capacity of between 300 and 400 pounds. They can sit between 4" and 6" above the bowel rim. If you are not certain how to determine which size to get, the rule of thumb is to measure the height from the floor to the back of the knee. This is how high the seat should be to make it an ideal height for sitting and standing more comfortably.
These convenient devices are designed specifically for wheelchair-bound users. A shower bay is essentially a portable shower that can be assembled in any space large enough to contain it. It does require being hooked up to a standard faucet. They are made of plastic, and the walls usually stand at chest height to contain the water spray. Most kits take around ten minutes to set up or take down and do not require any tools to slot everything together.
There is an entrance for rolling in the wheelchair. They are safer than a traditional shower because everything is within easy reach, and there is no need to stand or stretch. This significantly lowers the risk of falling or injuring oneself while showering.
Shower bays feature portable shower heads, water drains, and easy to access and manipulate temperature controls. They are most useful for people in wheelchairs but are also an excellent alternative for those who can only stand a brief time or require a caregiver's assistance to shower. This portable stall is straightforward to use and comes with no-slip flooring for added safety.
What Are The Hazards In The Bathroom?
Water is everywhere in the bathroom, and most of the surfaces are both hard and smooth, which is a terrible combination for anyone with mobility issues. It is all too easy to slip and fall or hurt yourself against the harsh corners that fill the small confines of most average bathrooms. Water is an issue inside and outside the tub or shower.
Even with the cramped space, it can be quite difficult to reach everything that one might need, whether it is temperature controls or something else. Some appliances may get in the way, or things you need to reach may be placed too high to be reached safely while sitting.
Without assistive devices, it can be difficult for multiple people to maneuver safely around the bathroom. This has a big impact on people who require caregivers to assist them. Lack of textured grip on most surfaces can also impact how well one or more people are able to move about the space. Grips, floors, and poles should all have textured surfaces that make them easy to hold onto despite water or soap.
How Can I Make My Bathroom Safe?
Proper lighting is essential. You need to be able to clearly see what you are doing. Designing a safe bathroom also includes making sure that bathtubs, floors, and grab handles all have no-slip surfaces. It might be necessary to use safety material on sharp corners near sinks and counters.
When purchasing safety devices, it is essential that they are properly installed and secured before anyone tries to use them. You will also want to carefully measure everything and check manufacturer guidelines to make certain that height, weight capacity, and dimensions are all going to fulfill your requirements.
Space is a big plus, and if there is any way to remove certain things from your bathroom to provide more room, that would be best. This can include moveable storage shelving or closets, laundry hampers, and other bulky items. Doors can also sometimes make it hard to move around, so finding an alternative or removing the door for personal bathrooms may be useful.
When in doubt, you can reach out to a health care provider to find out about more specialized assistive and safety equipment that can make your bathroom safer and more accessible to yourself or a loved one who may be experiencing mobility issues.