Tips for Bathroom Safety for Cancer Patients
- Cancer & Caregiving
- March 31, 2015
When my husband and I were looking for a new home to accommodate our disabled daughter, it was the bathroom that had our attention each time we looked at a different house.
She has cerebral palsy, is completely dependent and in a wheelchair. Bathing her is difficult.
When one’s health is compromised by a disability or an illness, such as mesothelioma, using the bathtub or shower also can become more complicated.
The weakness and fatigue associated with the disease can make climbing in and out of a tub or standing in a shower with a wet floor not only difficult, but dangerous.
Even for the sure-footed, the lavatory can be a dicey place. A Centers for Disease and Control Prevention study in 2008 revealed that an estimated 234,094 nonfatal bathroom injuries occurred in the U.S. in the bathroom for people over 15 years and older. Eighty-one percent of those injuries were falls.
For people already living with the effects of mesothelioma, any additional injuries would only compound the suffering they’re already experiencing.
Even Small Changes Can Help
Like most families we are forever on a budget. For our situation we were hoping to modify an existing bathroom rather than have to do a complete tear-out.
We were fortunate. We ended up purchasing the home of an elderly woman who had installed grab bars and a seat in her shower. The bathroom is small like many in mid-sized homes, but with these small changes, it’s working well for us, and yours can too.
Maintaining independence and privacy in the bathroom is something we all want for as long as physically possible.
The University of Georgia and other organizations, including the CDC and the Home Safety Council, offer caregivers some ideas to make their bathrooms easier and safer to use:
- Install grab bars to hold on for getting in and out of the tub or shower.
- Purchase a bath chair or bench for sitting inside the tub, instead of standing, and easily turning around rather than climbing in and out.
- Use a bathtub sidewall cushion to soften the tub’s hard edge and provide a nonslip surface.
- Pad the faucet with a faucet cushion.
- Use shower curtain liners made from heavy plastic.
- Keep soap and shampoo at eye level and within reach.
- Wear nonslip footwear in the bathroom.
- Use nonslip rugs and mats to catch drips while bathing.
- Allow water to empty out of tub or shower before exiting.
The AARP also offers some safety suggestions for bathrooms that can make it easier for weak patients or for those with disabilities:
- Install a handheld shower head.
- Install lever handles on bathtub and shower faucets for ease of use.
The Inner Sanctum of the Shower
I think bathing is one of life’s pleasures. There is nothing like the feel of a hot spray of water on the shoulders or the relaxation of a good long soak in the tub.
For those weary from fighting a debilitating disease such as mesothelioma, a warm shower or a calming bath can be like a private getaway from one’s troubles.
Making the bath safe with a few minor and frugal changes can provide that desperately needed respite.
Relaxing in the bath brings to mind that popular bubble bath product jingle from 1970s and 1980s TV commercials many people may remember well: ” Calgon, take me away!”
My contribution to that jingle: “Just do it safely.”
Beth Swantek has been writing professionally for 30 years. She is a former news reporter and anchor for a CBS affiliate in Michigan and often reported breaking medical and political news. Currently, she teaches media writing and video production at Lawrence Technological University in the Detroit area, as well as working as a freelance writer and producer.
- CDC.gov (2011, June 10). Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Greater Than 15 years United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6022a1.htm?s_cid=mm6022a1_w
- AARP.org. (2011, August). Make Your Home's Bathrooms Safe. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/home-improvement/info-05-2009/bathroom_checklist.html
- University of Georgia. (2014, January). Safety Begins at Home in the Bathroom. Retrieved from http://spock.fcs.uga.edu/ext/pubs/hace/HACE-E-79-1.pdf