Potty Talk – Toilet Safety at Home

toilet safety for seniors

ADA Compliant Does Not Necessarily Mean Safety for Everyone

Lesli Jenkins Wang, President & CEO, Free2Go Mobility Products

It is commonplace to read articles about the rapid increase in our aging population. We are provided with tools to help our family members “age in place”. We install monitoring devices, ramps and stair lifts, purchase lift chairs, increase lighting, and remove throw rugs and other trip hazards. We make our way down the hall to the bathroom with grab bars and a shower seat. If money is not a problem, we may even enjoy a walk-in tub. Missed anything? I’m going to shout YES! and take this article in a whole new direction. Let’s talk bathroom talk – more specifically – toilet talk!

If extending seniors’ independence is our objective, then fall prevention is a primary concern. With nearly 50 million adults over the age of 65 in the U.S., the National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that more than one in three of these seniors fall each year. 80% of these falls occur in the bathroom, and 25% have a chance of dying within six months to a year if it results in breaking a hip. This is horrific … and avoidable.

To prevent falls in the bathroom at home, many individuals use a commode, raised toilet seat, or toilet safety frame. While these products are ideal for in-home use, they are large and cumbersome and do not offer portability for use outside the home.

Toilet safety in public restrooms has been overlooked due to the incorrect assumption that ADA-compliant restrooms address the needs of all individuals with reduced mobility. ADA- compliant restrooms are designed for individuals within a narrow band of impairments – the approximate 6 million Americans who are transferring from a seated position, such as a wheelchair. Yet, there are over twice that many using walking aids like canes and rollators, where the placement of the grab bars may create more hazard than intended. To maneuver a restroom with a walking aid is difficult at best. The risk of a debilitating accident increases when there is no support close to the body to assist with sitting, lifting and fall prevention. It is reported, that those who survive a fall spend more than $19 billion on directly related medical costs.

In addition, we are very much aware of the millions suffering from incontinence – loss of bladder or bowel control. Women over 40 experience the highest rates which are mainly due to an overactive bladder and stress caused by menopausal changes and/or obesity. One of the most common causes of incontinence in men is related to the prostate, before or after surgery. Chronic incontinence may also affect diabetics and arthritics, people with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s, as well as individuals who have dementia.

So what do all of these individuals do when leaving their home and their toilet safety products? For many, the fear of falling or the frustration and embarrassment of not being able to safely and discreetly use a toilet away from home can be overwhelming, resulting in social isolation. We need to ask the questions: Are they leaving their home? Are they risking a life-altering fall? Are they limited to using an adult diaper?

This last question brings up a recent article on dealing with incontinence. One author recommends planning in advance and being prepared when leaving home. Specifically, he suggests packing a duffle bag with a complete set of clothing, pads/diapers, and a plastic bag for soiled clothes in the event of an accident, much like outings with small children. However, these are not infants and toddlers! Is this the best we can offer? No, we must focus on prolonging one’s independence and maintaining dignity.

So, it’s very simple. If toilet safety products are needed inside the home, they will be required outside the home. To truly promote independence, toilet safety must extend beyond the home.

Several years ago, I was searching for a toilet safety product that would allow my mother to safely and confidently use a toilet away from home. I would have gladly paid the price for any device that solved this problem for her. Although my search was unsuccessful, it did reveal an obvious gap in bathroom safety products. This search also revealed a contradiction in the marketing phrases used for this rapidly growing demographic; for example: Promote Independence; The Power of Independence; Live Happy, Live Healthy, Live Now; Yes, you can! But how?

Determined to resolve this dilemma, in January 2016, I launched the Free2GoTM Rollator, the first combination bathroom safety and mobility product. Combining a walking aid, raised toilet seat, and toilet safety frame, allows mobility-challenged individuals to safely, confidently and discreetly use a toilet in any restroom – at home, in the homes of others, and in public restrooms. These discreet 3-in-1 benefits also make it ideal for travel.

It’s time to promote independence, restore dignity and make life-threatening accidents avoidable. For you or a loved one faced with this problem, there is finally a solution for toilet safety at home … and beyond.