How to Prevent the Elderly from Falling in the Bathtub

The bathroom is the most common area where falls occur for the elderly. Learn how transfer equipment and other supportive aids can make bathtub transfers and bathing more safe for seniors.

Transfer equipment the elderly can use to get into or out of the bathtub more safely

Getting into the bathtub can be one of the trickiest things to do for a senior. The bathtub wall may be high and difficult to step over, and the surfaces may be wet making getting out without slipping and falling a challenge.

These transfer aids can make getting in and out of the bathtub more safe for the elderly:

  1. Tub transfer bench – sit on the edge of the bench to lift your legs into the tub.

This equipment sits inside the bathtub and slightly outside of it. Once sitting on the outer part of the bench, you lift the feet over the tub wall and place them inside. 

Varying models have a seat that slides along a track to move you into a more centralized position within the bathtub, but the most basic tub transfer bench requires you to weight shift your body over yourself.

To get out of the bathtub, one simply reverses the steps and shifts over to the outer part of the bench and lifts the legs out of the tub and onto the outer floor. From there you stand up and walk away or transfer onto another surface like a wheelchair.

  1. Tub railing – hold this railing that clamps onto the side of the tub to step in and out from the tub

A simple to use device that latches onto the side of the tub. It can be held for support, but should not be pulled on as it can get dislodged from its position. It is best to use this device to step sideways into and out of the tub as needed.

  1. Grab bars – use the handles fixated to a nearby wall for support with stepping in or out of the tub.

Grab bars are either drilled into studs within the wall or secured in place by suction onto a flat smooth surface. These bars can be held for support and pulled on as needed to help with getting into the tub or exiting it.

  1. Security pole – grasp a vertical pole placed near the bathtub for help with stepping in and out.

A metal pole that runs from the floor to the ceiling and helps someone transfer into the bathtub by bearing their weight to some degree. The pole itself is grasped for security and can be pulled on for support with standing or stepping in and out of the bathtub. 

  1. Bath lift – sit on this platform to slowly lower into the bathtub or rise out of it via remote control.

A piece of equipment that sits inside the bathtub with a seat whose height can be controlled by remote control to lower or rise as needed. This is one of the safest ways to continue to have a bath or simply soak in the water, without the risk of falling during attempts to step in or out.

This device is water proof so the platform can be submerged in the water, however the remote control should be kept dry and on the exterior. Note that this equipment comes with enough backup power to rise up from the floor of the tub in case of a power failure to the residence or an extended blackout.

Supportive aids to use within the bathtub to prevent falls in the elderly

Once inside the bathtub, falls can still occur because the floor may be slippery. Furthermore, bathing is a physically taxing activity that can use up a lot of the elderly’s energy. 

These are some of the aids that can help a senior overcome fatigue and other slipping hazards to prevent falls within the bathtub:

  1. Bath chair – have a shower from a seated position while in the bathtub.

There is no need to worry about standing balance when showering in a tub shower combo, because you can sit and rest on this equipment. Shower from the seated on the chair and conserve your energy for stepping out of the tub when you are finished.

If the chair has armrests, it can be even more supportive for a senior that may have difficulty with standing up from an extended shower. Ideally, the armrests should be removable or able to be moved aside as they can interfere with washing all of your body parts.

  1. Tub transfer bench – sit on a bench to shower and engage in personal hygiene.

This equipment can help someone with both getting in and out of the tub from a seated position, and allows someone to rest while showering in the bathtub. It is a very common addition to the homes of many seniors and is easy to use, but takes up considerably more space compared to a shower chair.

  1. Non-slip bath mat – reduce slips and falls with this anti slip mat placed on the floor of the bathtub.

Many tubs do not have a textured floor pattern capable of producing enough grip that would reduce the risk of slipping and falling. With a non slip bath mat, you can be more sure of your footing and more easily step in or out of the tub, or turn around within the tub if showering from standing.

The mat itself can be held in place through its own grip or via suction cups, but should be checked regularly to ensure that it retains its ability to stay within one spot.

  1. Long handled shower head – can be used in conjunction with a chair to shower from seated.

A bathing aid that helps someone with washing their back, genital area or other difficult to reach spot if showering from seated. This device can also be helpful if a caregiver or personal support worker (PSW) is helping with bathing or showering to make the process smoother and more safe.

  1. Long handled sponge – can help wash difficult to reach areas while showering from seated.

Similar to a hand held shower head, a long handled sponge can be used to wash difficult to reach areas like one’s back. Simply add some soap to the sponge and use it to wash one’s back if twisting is difficult, or scrub one’s legs if bending over is a challenge.

This device may be useful for those that have had recent surgery and have twisting or bending restrictions. For example, many people that undergo hip replacement (hip arthroplasty) are required to follow hip bending restrictions for a certain period of time. In these situations, having a sponge attached to a long handle can be useful for washing body parts that may be out of reach.