The bathroom can be a dangerous place for older adults.
After all, the combination of water and linoleum makes for slippery surfaces. This can increase the risk of falls.
Fortunately, it’s quite easy to learn shower safety for seniors.
In this article, you’ll learn how to make a senior’s bathroom safer — including a quick overview of the walk-in shower.
How to Help an Elderly Person Shower in 7 Steps
Despite their limited mobility, you can help seniors take a shower with minimum assistance.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to make bathing easier for them:
Step 1: Prepare the Supplies
The first thing you should do is ensure that the shower supplies are complete before they start showering.
Some essentials include:
- Tear-free shampoo
- Soap (a bar of soap is okay, but some seniors find liquid soap easier to use)
- Shower dispenser
- Sponge or brush
- Body lotion
- Cover up
Check the shower room to see if it has senior-friendly items as well.
For instance, you can install hand-held shower heads — a great option for elderly people who may have difficulty maneuvering in the shower.
These can provide additional support and control.
Step 2: Set Up the Shower Room
Gather the supplies and organize them in the senior’s bathroom.
Ensure that these are within easy reach. This prevents them from reaching and risking losing their balance.
If your loved one has trouble staying on their feet for long periods, you should consider having them bathe on folding shower chairs for elderly.
Have the senior undress or change into a nightgown or cover-up.
Step 3: Double-Check the Water Temperature
When you turn on the water, check the temperature personally first before having the senior enter the shower stall.
Use your hand to feel it. Warm water is good for most seniors.
Don’t turn the knob too much in the cold or hot direction to keep the water at a comfortable temperature.
Step 4: Make Sure the Senior Holds Onto the Grab Bar
Shower rails help a person maintain balance as they walk through the bathroom.
As such, have them hold onto the rails while you guide them inside.
Make sure you don’t hurry them — otherwise, they might accidentally slip or fall.
They can choose to drape a towel around themselves after they sit down on a shower chair. A hairdresser’s cape is also a good option because it’s water-repellent — some are even waterproof!
Draping something around themselves as they shower helps maintain their dignity.
If they struggle to walk on a slippery floor, you should consider getting a shower wheelchair for safety.
Step 5: Let the Elderly Wash Up on Their Own
Older adults like keeping their independence as much as possible.
As such, let them bathe themselves. But be within earshot in case they need help.
However, seniors with dementia or cognitive impairment sometimes can’t bathe themselves. If this is the case, you must do it for them.
You can start by washing either their hair or cleaning their body.
If you’re beginning with their body, use a soft sponge or washcloth and move from the cleanest to the dirtiest areas. Here’s the general flow:
You should ideally let them clean their groin area by themselves. But you can also do that if they REALLY can’t.
Keep your eyes out for sores and rashes. If you discover that they’re spreading or not healing, contact their doctor later.
Step 6: Wash Their Hair if They Need Help
Some seniors have difficulty washing their hair even if they can clean the rest of their bodies.
This may be because they might struggle to lift their arms to their head long enough to lather and rinse their hair.
It would be a good idea to have the senior wear a shower visor to keep the water out of their eyes, even if you’re using no-tears shampoo.
Another option is to use a no-rinse shampoo and conditioner.
Step 7: Exit the Shower and Head to a Dry Surface
Once your senior is done showering, turn off the water if they can’t. But before they walk out, ensure they’ll be stepping on a soft, non-slip carpet or mat.
Drape a soft robe around them and take the towel or cape you covered them with. The robe should be non-abrasive.
If they need help drying themselves, avoid aggravating the sensitive or injured skin.
You can also apply lotion or moisturizer if your senior is prone to dry skin.
Walk-In Showers: A Brief Overview
Walk-in showers greatly improve bathroom safety for seniors.
They’re especially helpful if an older adult has difficulty getting in and out of a bathtub or a typical shower stall.
If you’re considering home modifications, here’s what you can expect from walk-in showers.
A List of Walk-In Shower Features
Since walk-in showers are home modifications, they can vary according to a person’s needs.
But below are some ESSENTIAL features a walk-in shower should have:
Grab bars would be one of the most prominent features of a walk-in shower.
A grab bar or shower handle lets a person enter and exit the shower safely.
Even if the senior doesn’t use the grab bars regularly, having them around can prevent injury from falling by helping the user maintain their balance.
If a senior needs something to put their weight on, consider permanent grab bars.
This would be especially helpful if they need help standing or sitting from the toilet, bathtub, or chair.
Walk-in showers might initially still have the same slippery floors as a bathtub or typical shower.
As such, when considering home modifications, you can design a walk-in shower with no-slip materials with grooves or other features that offer traction.
However, renovating the whole floor might cost a lot. So, you can just cover it with non-slip shower mats instead.
Shower chairs make showering easier for those who struggle to stay on their feet for long periods.
These help a senior bathe in safety without assistance.
As the name implies, anti-scald faucets stop dangerously hot water from streaming out of the faucet and burning seniors with sensitive skin.
Anti-scald faucets use water pressure or temperature to regulate the water flow into the shower.
These can also prevent falls if a senior tries to move out of the way of really hot water.
What Are the Benefits of Walk-In Showers for the Elderly?
Home modifications to create walk-in showers might cost quite a bit. However, they are worth it since they come with many benefits. These include:
Walk-in showers are made with a senior’s safety in mind.
As such, they provide enough space for a senior to move around comfortably and take a shower safely with minimal assistance.
Reduces Risk of Falls
Bathrooms present a HIGH risk of injury from falls because of their slippery floors and walls. This is especially the case for those who struggle to maintain their balance.
Fortunately, the installation of the right fixtures and features helps seniors take a bath safely.
To further prevent falls, you can also provide non-slip shower shoes to add friction as they walk.
Easy to Clean
A walk-in shower is easier to clean than a typical shower enclosure. That’s because it’s made for convenience rather than style.
Thanks to that, most surfaces are flat, with fewer corners.
That also means fewer areas where dirt and grime can build up. So there are fewer places that you’ll have to scrub.
Bathing would be one of the first things a person will need assistance with when they get older.
Fortunately, as previously mentioned, walk-in showers are made for convenience and safety. It has features that seniors can utilize when showering on their own.
All their bathing essentials should be within easy reach. If this isn’t initially the case, caregivers should prep the bathroom to make it more accessible to the user.
Adaptable to Any Bathroom Size
Because of how convenient a walk-in shower is, you might think you’ll need large-scale home modifications — but you don’t!
Walk-in showers DON’T need to take up more space than a senior’s existing shower.
You can hire the help of professional services to help you design a walk-in shower that fits the space you have.
It’s even better to replace a standard bathtub with a walk-in shower. That’s because you’ll get to free up more space.
To explain why, a standard tub takes up 15 square feet of floor space, while a walk-in shower normally just uses 12 square feet.
When designing walk-in showers, you can make the bathroom safer AND more aesthetically pleasing for seniors.
You can let them custom-pick details like tiling, door style, shelf placement, and color scheme. This adds to their feeling of independence.
When customizing the walk-in shower, consider what the senior needs.If they can’t stand for long periods, the place should fit a shower chair too. Search and add different shower aids that will give a person as much convenience as possible while bathing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Walk-in showers prioritize a senior’s safety in bathrooms.
But below are some frequently asked questions to help you make taking a bath a safer task for the elderly:
Where Should You Put Grab Bars in a Shower?
In general, it’s ideal to have up to four for maximum safety. Here’s where to place grab bars in the bathroom:
- Near faucet handles
- Two on the shower walls
- At the shower stall’s entrance
According to the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Standards, you should typically install grab bars 33 to 36 inches from the ground.
However, you should adjust to the senior’s height and physical capabilities.
You can run some scenarios with them. Walk them through the bathroom and notice at which height their hands automatically go when they need help balancing themselves.
If they sit on a shower chair or bathtub, also notice how high the grab bar should be to help them up and down.
How Can You Help Someone Suffering From Dementia Shower?
Showering can be a big problem for seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia — leading to poor personal hygiene. There are several reasons for this, such as:
- Fears around water
- Embarrassment of not being able to bathe themselves
- Other people see them naked
If the senior person refuses to take a shower, here are some tips to gently coax them into changing their mind:
- Make it quick. This is especially important if a senior has anxieties regarding water.
- Make the bathroom as comfortable and appealing as you can.
- Instead of using the words “shower” or “bathe,” try “washing up.”
- Play some soft music while they’re in the bathroom.
- Try to incorporate it into their daily routine. If it’s something they can eventually get used to, they’ll be able to accept it easily.
- Ask for help from professional caregivers.
- Ask another member of the household to coax the senior into bathing. Don’t take it personally if the senior agrees to someone else. Remember that you’re doing this to maintain a senior’s good hygiene.
How Many Times a Week Should an Elderly Person Shower?
Most seniors aren’t active anymore, so showering at least once or twice a week is okay. This helps prevent skin irritation and UTIs.
However, if you’re experiencing hot and sticky weather or the senior is quite active, then they definitely shower more frequently.
Of course, what’s important here is the senior’s comfort, so the number of times they bathe in a week depends on their comfort.
Also, remember that a sponge bath (or sink bath) also counts as bathing.
What’s the Difference between a Walk-in Shower and a Walk-in Tub?
We can differentiate walk-in shower and a walk-in tub in several factors:
You might have guessed that walk-in tubs take up MORE space than walk-in showers.
A walk-in tub would be a good option only if you already have a large bathtub, like a jacuzzi.
But if you have a smaller bathroom, it’s highly unlikely that you can fit a walk-in tub in it — making a walk-in shower better.
Ability to Walk
If the senior can’t stand for several minutes, you can put shower seats in a walk-in shower.
This is especially the case if you think the senior might have more mobility and balance problems. Using a shower chair might be safer.
But if the senior is strong enough to walk into the tub, you can choose that option.
If the bathroom can fit either a walk-in tub or a walk-in shower, it comes down to preference.
A senior might be more comfortable in a walk-in tub. Alternatively, they may just want to take a shower the way they normally do.
For the latter, you should have a shower chair ready in case they want to take a bath sitting down.
Does Medicare Pay For Walk-in Showers?
No, Medicare does NOT pay for walk-in showers or other home modifications.
Installation costs for BASIC walk-in showers can range from $800 to $2500. However, larger or higher-end ones can reach $4200 to $8500.
These prices depend on how much material and labor costs in your location.
This would be too expensive for a senior (or even the family) to pay out-of-pocket.
Fortunately, several financial assistance options can cover walk-in showers:
STANDARD Medicaid doesn’t cover walk-in showers. However, many states have Medicaid Waiver programs — which essentially extend Medicaid coverage.
One example is the Home & Community-Based Services Waiver. This helps seniors stay in their homes or community rather than move to a skilled nursing facility for financial reasons.
Non-Medicaid State Assistance Programs
Aside from the waivers, states also offer non-Medicaid assistance programs.
Not all states offer these — and those that do offer them vary in the specific benefits.
For instance, Florida offers a monthly subsidy to seniors to help pay for their necessities, like durable medical equipment and supplies.
Meanwhile, Maine provides financial assistance to LOW-INCOME homeowners to pay for home improvements. That can include making a walk-in shower for the elderly.
Some nonprofit organizations are also dedicated to home modification projects — including making the shower safer for the elderly.
For instance, the organization Rebuilding Together does repair work that makes housing healthier and safer for those needing it.
It has a Safe at Home program that offers no-cost home modifications for seniors to safely age in place and maintain independence.
Government Programs and Grants
The U.S. government has several assistance programs for home improvement projects.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has the Property Improvement Loan.
Here, homeowners can get approved for loans for home improvement projects — like installing a walk-in shower.
You can get a maximum of $25000, which is more than enough to answer the costs of a walk-in shower.
Seniors in the rural area can avail of the Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants program from the Department of Agriculture.
This helps low-income adults remove health and safety hazards at home.
The slippery floors in bathrooms can endanger a senior’s safety.
As such, it would be very helpful to learn the best way to help your elderly loved one to take a shower. This also ensures they maintain good personal hygiene.
Installation of various safety aids like a grab bar and shower seat can help them maintain their independence.
Depending on the features, walk-in showers might cost a lot — but their benefits are worth it.
Fortunately, various programs can help you afford it.