January is National Bath Safety Month!

Why is bathroom safety so important? According to a study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), adults 65 and older account for 79% of bathroom related injuries. The most common of these injuries are slips and falls while showering or bathing, which make up over one-third of all bathroom injuries. With the significant risk posed to seniors, addressing bathroom safety concerns has to be of the utmost importance for senior living communities.

So what can be done and whose responsibility is it? Addressing bathroom safety for senior living residents requires a community-wide approach involving every department.

Prioritizing bathroom safety in senior living facilities is a team effort,” explains Caitlin Broome, OTR/L, CMDCP, CSRS, CFPS, CGCP, a clinic director and occupational therapist with EmpowerMe Wellness. “From the maintenance team making sure each bathroom has the right equipment to therapists helping residents build skills and strengths for bathroom usage, to housekeeping staff managing bathroom upkeep — each and every community staff person has a role to play in keeping residents safe.”

The national professional organizations AOTA, APTA, and ASHA all recognize the importance of addressing the safety concerns of our residents and supporting our interdisciplinary possibilities to best serve seniors during this critical activity of daily living.

Roles of Senior Living Staff In Bathroom Safety

  • Therapy Providers:
  • Occupational Therapist: Improving coordination and safety, adaptive equipment training, and more.
  • Physical Therapist: Improving balance, strength, transfers, and more.
  • Speech Therapist: Improving cognition for sequencing tasks, safety awareness, and management of negative behaviors surrounding the task.
  • Nurse Practitioner / Physician: Increasing awareness of bathroom risks, particularly fall risks related to conditions or medication, among residents and their families. Recognizing a safety hazard or functional decline and referring to therapy.
  • Wellness Coordinator: Ensuring residents and families understand proper usage of adaptive bathroom equipment. Ensuring carryover of nursing staff to implement new strategies taught by therapists to prevent further decline and maintain new skills.
  • Housekeeping Staff: Maintaining bathroom safety through prompt cleanliness and eye for potential risks such as rugs, piles of towels, or faulty equipment.
  • Marketing Staff: Promoting amenities and resources to potential move-ins, building trust and awareness with resident families so they fully utilize available resources.
  • Resident Assistant / CNA: Recognizing a decline or potential safety hazards during daily care, consulting with therapy to make any necessary adaptations, provide further training, or prompt a referral if the resident is not already on caseload.

This month and throughout the year, senior living communities are strongly encouraged to set aside time to refresh staff members on the importance of bath safety and strategies for keeping residents safe.

Let us all strive to ensure the safety of senior residents by working together to minimize potential risks and threats in the bathroom.