The bathroom receives a lot of attention when home safety for older adults is discussed (see our article on Bathroom Safety for older adults); however, bedroom safety for the older adult should also be discussed as the bedroom is another common place for falls. The most common bedroom safety hazards are furniture since bedrooms tend to have a lot of furniture for a small space. Additionally, as we get older, the need to go to the bathroom during the night increases which also increases the risk of falls.
Tips to help make the bedroom safer for the person in your care:
- Getting in and out of bed can be difficult if the older adult in your care is unsteady as there is usually nothing secure and safe to hold onto beside the bed. If bed transfers or repositioning in bed is a concern, then consult with a health care professional to determine if adaptive devices such as floor to ceiling poles or a bed assist rail that attaches to the bed are appropriate measures to maximize safety. The options will depend on both the physical and cognitive function of the older adult.
- Frequent urination at night is also a safety concern. If the person in your care is getting up to go to the bathroom frequently throughout the night and has difficulty walking or is unsteady, consider using a bedside commode or urinal. If using a commode, ensure the toilet paper and hand sanitizer are within reach. The commode should be placed close to the bed to minimize both walking and the risk of falling. If incontinence is a concern then the older adult in your care could also wear incontinence garments so they have a backup if they do not make it to the bathroom or commode in time. It is also important that they discuss their incontinence with their health care provider(s).They may also want to consider seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
- It is important that the older adult in your care does not get up from a reclined position too quickly. This may cause them to become dizzy or unsteady. When changing positions, the care recipient should sit on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing. They should pump their ankles 10 times. Then they can stand, pause for the count of 10, and take a deep slow breath before they take a step.
- If a gait aid such as a walker is used, ensure that they have clear pathways so that the gait aid can be parked close to the bed. The walker will not be helpful if it is not within reach.
- If the care recipient is walking to the bathroom, ensure that they have a well-lit path between the bed and the bathroom.
- Ensure that there are clear pathways with minimal clutter for the person to access the bed, closet, doorway, and the bathroom.
- Ensure that there are no wrinkles in the carpet or damaged flooring. These are tripping hazards. Remove scatter mats.
- If balance is a concern or if dressing from a sitting position was recommended by the health care professional, ensure that there is a chair or bed to use for this purpose.
- Keep items stored in closets and dressers within reach.
- Ensure that items on night tables are within reach. There should be an easy to reach/access lamp as well. Some lamps light up with touch or sound and could be a good option for the older adult in your care.
- Check the height of the bed. Some mattresses are very high when paired with a box spring and bed frame. This combination may be too high to safely transfer in and out of. Consider alternative mattresses or whether the bed frame can be safely altered to reduce the overall height. Alternatively, some beds are too low. Furniture risers may be an alternative option if they can safely adapt the height of the bed.
- Ensure that night clothes and bathrobes are not too loose or too big. This will minimize the risk of the care recipient tripping and pockets or sleeves getting caught on door knobs.