If an elderly loved one will soon be moving into your home or if you already have a senior member of the household who is growing older, then you need to take steps to make your home as safe as possible for that person.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 235,000 adults and older teenagers injure themselves in the bathroom each year, although the elderly make up a large percentage of this group. While the elderly can injure themselves in and around the shower, surprisingly, they are most prone to injuries before, during, and after using the toilet. The kitchen is another room in the home where the elderly can injure themselves when using water fixtures.
Read on to learn about three plumbing fixtures that can help make your bathroom and all home taps safer for your elderly family member.
1. Thermostatic Mixing Valve
Every year in the United States, about 112,000 people scald their skin so severely with hot water that they must visit their local emergency rooms. The elderly, children, and the disabled make up about 80 percent of this group.
While you can lower the temperature of the hot water in your home hot water tank to help protect your entire family from hot water burns, bacteria can flourish in hot water tanks that aren’t kept hot enough. Water that is 140 degrees F can scald the thin skin of the elderly and children and cause a third-degree burn in just a few seconds.
Thankfully, you can protect your elderly loved one from hot water burns while controlling bacteria in your water tank when you have a licensed plumber add a thermostatic mixing valve to your hot water tank. This valve mixes the hot water that leaves your hot water tank with enough cold water to lower the temperature of the water to 120 degrees F, then sends this water to your home taps when hot water is desired.
While a 20 degree F drop in water temperature may not sound like a huge difference, a child or senior with thin skin must expose their skin to water of this temperature for about 5 minutes before a third-degree burn occurs.
2. Comfort Height Toilet
Over half of the injuries that people over the age of 85 experience in the bathroom occur on or around the toilet. One way you can make your toilet safer for your elderly loved one is by replacing your standard toilet with a comfort height toilet.
The seat of a typical toilet sits just 14.5- to 15-inches above the ground. The elderly often struggle to lower themselves onto a standard toilet and stand up after using it due to arthritis pain, mobility issues, and other health problems that often come with age, leading to falls when getting on and off the toilet.
To combat this problem, replace your existing toilet with a special comfort height toilet. The seat of a comfort height toilet sits about 17- to 19-inches above the ground. Your loved one will likely struggle much less when getting on and off a toilet seat that is several additional inches away from the ground.
In fact, this toilet height is so much safer for the disabled and elderly that all ADA-compliant toilets are now required to have bowls with rims 17- to- 19-inches above the ground.
For additional senior safety when using the toilet, install grab bars on both sides of the toilet. The elderly in your home can grab onto one or both of these bars to aid their balance when getting on and off the toilet, if needed.
3. Walk-in Bathtub Or Removable Shower Head
Many seniors struggle to step over the side of a traditional bathtub, leading to many senior bathroom slip-and-fall accidents also occurring in and around the bathtub. Replace your traditional bathtub with a walk-in version with a door on the side. The senior in your home can enter the tub through this door to eliminate the high step they must take to enter your current bathtub and make entering and existing the tub safer and easier.
Many walk-in bathtubs also come with built-in seats that make sitting while bathing more comfortable. Your loved one can also sit on this seat while showering to make showering safer — seniors who stand in the shower can fall easily, even when shower floors are covered with non-slip mats.
You can also swap your traditional shower head with a removable, or detachable, shower head that can be removed from its base. Your elderly family member can hold this shower head in their hand to move the stream of water around as needed instead of moving their body around underneath the water that flows from a traditional shower head. Less movement in the shower can lead to fewer accidents and less end-of-shower fatigue that can also be a safety hazard. If an elderly loved one will soon be moving into your home or if you already have a senior in your home who struggles to use your bathroom safely, then consider installing these three plumbing fixtures to make using your bathroom and all home water taps safer and easier for your loved one. Contact the plumbing experts at Jim Dhamer Plumbing and Sewer, Inc. at (630) 964-2222 to schedule new bathroom fixture installation today.