Evaluating the Bathroom Safety Needs for Bariatric Clients
For bariatric clients, the bathroom might just be the most dangerous place in the house.
According to the National Safety council, about 30 percent of accidents in the home are caused by falls, and the majority of those falls take place in the bathroom. Traditionally, children and the elderly have been thought to be at the most risk, but as the obesity rate rises, heavier individuals also becoming more at risk.
A Look Around the Bathroom
Part of the safety hazard for bariatric clients rests on the fact that standard bathrooms just aren't built to support weights of 400 to 500 pounds.
Typically, if a person slips in the bathroom, a nearby sink or toilet makes a great grab bar. But if a bariatric person leans on a sink for support or even sits on a standard toilet, there's a good chance those bathroom fixtures won't be able hold up.
Couple these weaker fixtures with the mobility issues of someone who is morbidly obese, and going into the bathroom becomes very risky.
"Bariatric patients, they don't just sit down gently; they usually fall into whatever that device is," explains Mike DiFranco, product manager, Bariatric Products & Solutions, Invacare, Elyria, Ohio. "So things like porcelain toilets, things that are in older homes, they're most likely not going to support their weight."
"The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in a house," agrees Dave Jacobs, president of durable medical equipment division, Medline Industries, Mundlelein, Ill. "So, it's important to have bariatric products that can support folks more safely." He says an average toilet supports 250-300 pounds; and a sink supports only 250 pounds.
Product Solutions for Safety
To address bariatrics, Medline offers toilets in weight capacities up to 850 pounds. And more manufacturers are producing bariatric shower chairs, grab bars and other bath safety devices.
Heavy-duty bath safety products not only make bariatric clients feel more secure in the bathroom, they make the bathroom usable again.
"Traditionally, you think of bath safety for someone who's more of the geriatric population, but (bariatric clients) really suffer from these hygiene issues," says DiFranco. "And you think about the extreme cases of people who are house-bound or bed-bound, they could possibly not bathe for weeks because they're too afraid to go into the bathroom, which is the smallest room in the house.
"They're very large and you mix that with a very wet environment; they're afraid to go sit down in a tub because they're afraid they're going to slip and fall," he continues. "So, if they have things like shower chairs or transfer benches, at least that elevates (the client) in the tub. From a caregiver perspective, it allows that caregiver to more thoroughly wash the patient because now they're elevated out of the tub and can actually access them better."
Finding Cash in Bath Safety Products
Plus, bath safety products contribute to higher retail sales. For those younger bariatric clients, if they have to spend money out of pocket on a home medical item, a shower chair, which costs less than $200, is affordable, says DiFranco.
"As far as retail business, I don't think it'd be a bad idea for providers to create a retail showroom for (bath safety)," he says.
Here are some bathroom safety tips from Home Care By Moen that translate into excellent additions to your bath safety inventory:
- Install a night light to make nighttime trips to the bathroom easier and safer to navigate. Carry night lights as cash sale items in the bathroom safety section of your store.
- Use adhesive-backed, non-slip tread strips on tub/shower floors to reduce the chance of falls. Non-slip tread strips are also a great item to place near the register for impulse buys.
- Mount grab bars to provide assistance when getting in and out of the tub. Grab bars don't have to look like they belong in an institution. Today's manufacturers carry stylish products that blend into a bathroom's décor —plus heavy-duty options are perfect for bariatric clients.
- Add an elevated toilet seat. Raising the height of the toilet seat prevents clients from dropping down, reducing the chance of injury and falls. This is a must-have for both bariatric and elderly clients. But also look at toilets with higher weight capacities to accommodate the needs of bariatrics.
For more on bathroom safety and the bariatric client, read "Treating the Bariatric Client" in the January issue of Home Health Products.
This article originally appeared in the January 2007 issue of HME Business.