Bathroom Retrofit

By Doug Mayberry

September 30, 2019 5 min read

Q: My mother had a fall in the bathroom a few weeks ago and ended up with a minor concussion. After a short hospital visit, we ended up hosting her at our house to keep an eye on her. Now that she's back home, I find myself worried about it happening again.

I volunteered myself to modify her bathroom to avoid another incident. We were lucky this time, but a second fall could be much worse. The only problem is that I don't know where to start.

What are the best ways to improve bathroom safety for seniors?

A: Falling is a persistent fear for many seniors, and 80% of falls in the home occur in the bathroom. Making some targeted modifications will dramatically decrease the likelihood of another fall.

Seniors struggle with poor muscle strength and balance, which makes stumbling in the bathroom more likely.

The most common causes of bathroom falls are entering and exiting the bath/shower; slippery surfaces; insufficient balance supports; and sitting and rising from the toilet.

Toilets pose balance problems for seniors if they're too low to the ground. Good solutions are to install a raised toilet seat or bolted-on grab bars.

Avoid relying on suction-mounted grab bars and towel bars for balance support, as they can't bear much weight. In case of a potential fall, the bar may become detached from the wall.

Install well-mounted bars wherever your mother typically holds on for support — she'll be sure to use them!

Basic balance exercises make a huge difference for fall prevention. Suggest your mother practice sitting and standing without support in a safe environment.

Other solutions are shower chairs (rubber-tipped to prevent sliding), non-slip mats inside and outside the bathtub, and non-slip adhesive strips on grip surfaces.

For more routine solutions, regular bathroom cleanings will prevent extreme slipperiness. Placing toiletries in closer reach will prevent slip-ups from losing balance while bending down. Finally, good lighting will help your mother maneuver better around the room. A bathroom phone or waterproof medical alert system will help in case of emergency.

If this retrofitting isn't effective, it may be time to find more support. Caregiver assistance is especially important for seniors who get dizzy when getting up quickly.

This incident may be just the wake-up call that's needed. As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." — Emma, Doug's granddaughter


Q: For nearly two years, I've been living in a retirement community, and I'm loving life! It's nice to be away from the hustle and bustle. My community has many excellent amenities. And I have great neighbors.

That said, there are some downsides to living only with seniors that I didn't think about. In general, it seems like time is slipping by — it's harder to mark the year. It seems harder to celebrate holidays and events in this little bubble.

Last Halloween was a bit of a shock, as we used to live in a very family-oriented community. I always looked forward to children trick-or-treating and enjoyed decorating. Last year, my husband and I didn't know what to do with ourselves.

Halloween was always my favorite holiday, but I'm not able to celebrate it in the same way anymore.

What can we do differently this year?

A: Don't rely too much on traditions. Create some new ones!

Many seniors look forward to the retired life but don't get the full picture until they're already committed. Although being retired comes with some upsides, all change is disruptive.

Learn to adapt versus regret. A positive attitude makes a huge difference.

If your community has Halloween events, attend them and celebrate with others. If there isn't a good option, make one happen.

Bring out the old decorations. Carve a pumpkin. And make some Halloween goodies.

Celebrations are a very social phenomenon. Many people don't commit to celebrating and tell themselves that it's not worth the effort. That said, one person's holiday cheer is infectious.

Use the holiday to reach out to others in the same boat. — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: midascode at Pixabay

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