Bath Safety Product Guide

Many injuries for seniors occur in the bathroom, which is not surprising, given the mix of water with slippery surfaces. We have put together a list of helpful tips and products that will make the bathroom safer and help prevent falls and injuries before they happen.

The items below can all be used in your current bathroom and do not require any bathroom remodeling. These innovative product choices will allow you to design the bathroom that best fits your safety needs.

Raised Toilet Seats

Raised toilet seats help with allowing you to stand up and sit down more easily and comfortably. This is especially important if you have difficulty with mobility, such as arthritis in your knees or other leg impairments. These Elevated Toilet Seats install on your existing toilet bowl and add anywhere from 2” to 6” in height, making sitting and standing much easier. Since the standard height of a toilet is usually only about 15” high (with some ADA models now available at 17”), this extra height can be very helpful.

Choosing the Size

There are a couple of considerations before purchasing a raised toilet seat. You will first want to make sure of which size toilet you have. This is the #1 consideration, because if the toilet seat doesn’t fit, you can’t use it! Standard toilets in the United States are typically found in 2 sizes, Standard (Round) or Elongated (Oval). To determine your toilet size, measure from the center of the seat bolt holes in the back of the toilet to the outside front of the bowl. The measurement of a Standard size toilet is generally around 16-1/2” Long. An Elongated (oval) Toilet is approximately 18-1/2” Long.

Choosing the Height

Raised Toilet Seats are available in several height options from 2” to 6”. The height of the toilet seat riser will depend up on the height of the individual. An average height person should be good with a riser between 3”-4” on average. For a taller person, a 6” height might be more appropriate and for a shorter person a 2” height might be all that is needed. We are not aware of any toilet seats great than 6” in height mainly due to safety reasons; however, if you find that you do need 8”-9” of additional toilet seat height, you can combine a raised toilet seat with a toilet base riser to obtain the needed height.

Choosing Installation Features

Most raised toilet seats are constructed of a durable plastic material and are offered in a variety of different options for installation. Do you need to remove the raised toilet seat more quickly and easily on a regular basis in a shared bathroom or will the seat be used for travel? If either of these is true, you will most likely benefit from a raised toilet seat that does not require any tools for installation. There are several types that simply slide into the rim of the toilet seat bowl and do not provide any locking options. This is fine for those that are slightly more mobile and stable. There are also several models available that install in the same manner, but also include a frontal turn knob to lock the seat in place on the rim to help prevent movement of the toilet riser.

If you will not need to remove the toilet seat on a daily or regular basis, then it is recommended to purchase a raised toilet seat that installs with tools and bolts in the back of the toilet. These types of raised toilet seats will be the most secure and are recommended for those that require additional stability. They will almost always include the extra long bolts that install on your toilet in the exact same way as a regular toilet seat and lid. Most standard U.S. toilets include bolt holes that are 5-1/2” apart and most bolt down model raised toilet seats do adjust for a proper fit.

One of the biggest concerns with raised toilet seats that provide a more permanent bolted installation is “How easy are they to clean?” and “What if my husband will be using the same toilet?” There is actually a great solution that solves both of these issues! The 3” Hinged Elevated Toilet Seat would be your best choice! This unique design includes bolt-down installation providing a sturdy seating surface, almost 4” in height when installed with your existing toilet seat and lid, and it is “Hinged” so that it can raise up and lower, just like a regular toilet seat. This is great for households with men, so they do not soil the seat and makes cleaning the toilet much easier.

Considering Toilet Arms or Handles

You can elect to have a toilet seat with arms included (typically most are removable) or you can purchase a separate Toilet Safety Frame to provide a handle grip to help with sitting and standing. The Toilet Safety Frame or other toilet handles can be used alone or along with most model raised toilet seats. Whether or not handles are needed is a matter of individual safety concern. If you would benefit from being able to hold onto the handles when raising yourself or lowering yourself onto the toilet, then this should be a feature to look for in a raised toilet seat or you can add the Toilet Safety Frame to your bathroom safety checklist.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are considered the staple of the bathroom when providing for bathroom safety. It would typically be a good idea to have a horizontal grab bar in the bathtub or shower in a position suited for the user and a second grab bar vertically installed next to the bathtub or shower exit for gripping assistance while stepping over the bathtub wall. Grab bars can also be installed next to the toilet or anywhere a secure hand grip is needed.

Types of Grab Bars

The standard wall mounted grab bar will install permanently onto the wall surface. They are generally constructed of a stainless steel to help prevent rusting and include a non-slip gripping surface for the user. There are also composite plastic grab bars that will never rust. A newer item that was recently introduced in the last few years is the Suction Tub Grab Bar, which installs with suction cups and does not require any tools for permanent installation. These suction grab bars may be good for travel or someone who requires very mild balance assist. However, if more than a mild balance assist is needed, I would recommend installing permanent grab bars for more reliable safety.

Choosing a Grab Bar

Grab bars are available in many different lengths, sizes, and colors. The standard grab bar lengths are 12”, 16”, 24” or 36”. There are variations to this, but these are the most typical sizes found in the market. The ADA (American with Disabilities Act) does provide for federal guidelines for grab bars being installed in public areas or new property construction; however, if you own your home, you can purchase whichever grab bar fits your needs and décor the best.

Standard ADA approved wall-mounted grab bars will include a diameter of between 1-1/4″ to 1-1/2″ and will provide 1-1/2” of spacing from the wall. There are many other specialty grab bars that individuals find useful, but they may not adhere to these exact guidelines.

Over the years, many manufacturers have come out with new colors and designs to better match your bathroom décor. There are stainless steel, brushed nickel, bronze, and many more. Some of the nicer models may even have special gripping surfaces to make using the bar safer and easier. One such model can be viewed here.

Installing a Grab Bar

Grab bars can be placed anywhere assistance is needed. There is no specific set guideline regarding the location of the bar. I would recommend that you have the person who will be using the grab bars enter and exit the tub and see where they grab onto the wall to assist themselves. This may be a good indication that a grab bar would be helpful in that area. The bars can be installed horizontally or vertically, depending on which ever will suite your needs the best.

Grab bars can be installed on almost any bathroom wall surface, provided there is a stud to secure the bar or a wall mounting anchor is used. There are special made drills that will allow you to drill through the tile without cracking it to install the grab bars. If you are worried about permanent installation, simply choose a nice design to match your bathroom décor and everyone can appreciate having a nice-looking bar to hold on to or to put your washcloth or towel.

If you are unsure of how to install your newly acquired wall mounted grab bars, it may be best to contact your plumber or local handyman to provide the installation, as drilling and tools will be required. If you are handy around the house, there are several online articles and you tube videos that explain how to install the grab bars yourself. It is very important that the grab bars are installed securely to a wall stud or installed with a wall mount kit to prevent the grab bar from coming loose and causing a fall. Many grab bars have user weight capacity limits; however, no grab bar should be considered secure unless it is installed into a wall stud or used with a mounting kit.

To view the listing of grab bars, please visit us here.

Tub Rails

Tub rails are a great device to assist with getting in and out of the bathtub or for help with getting up from a bath chair. A tub rail can be installed on any area of the bathtub wall where assistance will be needed and that will not interfere with the individual getting into and out of the tub. A tub rail is a great option for individuals who would benefit from a secure hand grip to help pull themselves up from a seated position or who need assistance when entering or exiting the bathtub.

Tub Rails VS. Grab Bars

The difference between a standard grab bar and tub rail is that the grab bar installs permanently on the walls of the bathroom, whereas the tub rail installs directly onto the side of the tub and can be installed and removed without any damage to the tub. Grab bars are typically installed vertically or horizontally on the wall and can provide a higher gripping surface if needed. Tub rails will typically have a lower gripping surface, which may work well for those using bath chairs. When a tub rail is used together with a wall grab bar, the user can then have a hand grip on both sides while entering or exiting the tub.

Choosing a Tub Rail

Tub rails are available in many different designs and sizes to fit individual needs. The first thing to consider is the construction of your bathtub. Most tub rails are designed for ceramic or other hard surface bathtubs and will not work with fiberglass tubs as the wall is not strong enough to safely support the rail installation and user weight. There is a newer model tub rail that will work with fiberglass tubs. You can find the details about this item here. It is also important to note that tub rails should not be used with Claw Foot Tubs or with tubs that include sliding doors, as the metal rods will prevent proper installation. For users with these types of bathtubs, you can consider using wall mounted grab bars or Alternate Type Support Rails that install on the wall or floor of the bathroom.

You will also need to check the thickness of your bathtub wall before buying a tub rail. Most tub rails will fit standard size tub walls, typically adjustable from approximately 3”-7”. Almost all tub rails install without tools (hand tightening) and include pads so that they will not mar or scratch the tub surface during installation and tightening.

Considerations for a Tub Rail

There are many tub rail designs to choose from, which will depend mainly on the individual needs of the user. Most rails run horizontally with the tub wall; however, vertical installation tub rails are also available. Some users prefer the tub rail to run perpendicular to the tub wall as they don’t want the tub rail interfering with getting in and out of the tub. The most important thing to remember when choosing a tub rail is the location of the rail. It should be installed in a place that will aid the user with getting in and out of the tub, but not cause any obstacles or interference.

Many users who are using a bath chair find a tub rail installed on the bathtub wall and a wall mounted grab bar on the other side useful for helping to pull themselves up to a standing position. Although some bath chairs may include arms, these are typically meant for balance assist and can assist users with pushing themselves upward to a standing position. However, it is sometimes easier for users to have an option to pull themselves up.

Tub rails are available in various lengths, heights, adjustable height, and there are those with multi level gripping surfaces to provide for a hand grip at different levels. You can check out the full selection of tub rail options here .

Slip Safety

It’s very important to make sure that the bathroom tub or shower area includes a good non-slip surface to prevent slipping when wet. This could be through the use of a bath mat or installing self-stick tread strips to ensure there is always a good foot grip to prevent falls.

Bath Mats

Bath mats are available in many sizes, colors, and forms. The most standard form of bathtub or shower mat includes suction cups along the bottom that adhere to the tub surface. Shower mats with rubber suction on the bottom seem to stay in place a little better with ceramic tubs than fiberglass surfaces. Bath mats should be installed on clean and dry surfaces, free of any residue.

Self Adhesive Treads

If you find that your bath mat tends to slip when the tub floor gets wet, you might want to try using the alternative self-stick adhesive backed bathtub treads as an alternative. When installing the self-stick treads, you want to make sure that the tub surface is completely clean and rinsed thoroughly from any cleaner residue. The surface should also be completely dry before installing the tread strips. These treads are available in strips, fish & shells, stars, and many other decorative designs. You want to make sure that enough of the tread strips are installed to prevent any areas that may cause a fall.

Bath Chairs

Bath chairs are great for individuals who cannot stand for long periods of time or who are unsteady on their feet. The chair is placed inside the bathtub or shower and you can sit safely and comfortably while taking your shower.

Bath Chairs & Handheld Shower Sprays

Bath chairs go hand and hand with Handheld Shower Sprayers. You can replace your existing shower head with a long hose handheld shower spray so you can keep the shower spray next to you or clipped on your bath chair for easy access. If the bathroom is being used by others that do not require the bath chair, the shower spray will simply mount back on top of the shower bracket for a standard shower.

Considerations for your Bath Chair

The most important thing you should do before selecting your bath chair is to measure the inside of your bathtub or shower. The majority of returns on bath chairs are a result of the chair not fitting inside of the bathtub. You want to make sure that the bath chair will fit securely in the tub on a flat surface, and don’t forget to account for the curvature of the tub wall! In most cases the seat width is not an indication of the width at the base of the legs. If the leg span (width x depth of the legs) is too large, the chair will be unstable and unsafe. This is especially important in older construction or in bathtubs that are smaller than the standard bathtub width.

Choosing a Bath Chair

There are many different varieties of bath chairs. Many people prefer the all composite plastic bath chairs as they are easy to clean and will never rust; however, bath chairs that are made of aluminum and plastic will also have little issues with rust. The seat size is also important. You want a bath chair that will provide enough room for the user, but not too big and bulky so that it gets in the way. Most standard bath chair seat dimensions are approximately 16”-20” wide x 14” deep, but can vary depending on the models. Weight capacity is another important factor. There are bath chairs that include a 250 lb. weight capacity and those that support up to 500 lbs.

Bath chairs are available with either a backrest or without a backrest, depending on your needs. Backrests can make your bathing experience more comfortable; however, some people prefer the open back to have better access to cleaning their back area and to have more freedom to lean backwards. The open back would not be recommended for those who have greater mobility issues and require the backrest for greater support and safety.

Bath chair handles are another option that is based on user needs. The handles of most bath chairs provide some leverage for helping to sit, stand and maneuver on the bath chair if needed. Handles are generally removable so you can remove them at any time. The handles of the bath chairs are really meant to be used as a balance assist for help with sitting and standing. If you have grab bars or a tub rail installed, it may be easier for some individuals to pull their full weight up from a seated position rather than try to push up their weight. Of course, the bath chair handles, grab bars, and tub rail can all be used together if this will provide the safest option for the user.

Bath chairs are available in many different styles and colors to fit your specific needs. Some include rubber non-skid tips and others include actual suction cup feet. Some include padded seats, folding options for portability, as well as wheels for mobility. The options can be overwhelming, but when you decide on a style that fits your specific needs the best, make sure that you double check all of the chair dimensions to make sure that the unit will provide the best option for your needs and bathroom space. You can view a full list of available bath chair here .

Bath Chair Accessories

There are many accessories available for bath chairs to make the bathing experience more comfortable and convenient. There are under chair bags to store shampoos, conditioners and other toiletries. If the bath chair does not already include a shower spray holder built into the chair, there are shower spray clips that can be used universally with most shower chairs. Some models, such as the designer bath chair includes an optional bathing baskets that attaches to the side of the chair.

Transfer Benches

Transfer benches are a perfect choice for those with very limited mobility. This is essentially a very wide bath chair that includes a permanent extension that sits on the outside of the bathtub so you can easily transfer from a wheelchair or simply sit down on the outside of the tub and maneuver yourself over the bathtub wall while sitting on the bench.

Considerations for your Transfer Bench

It is important to measure your bathtub width before selecting a transfer bench to ensure that the bench will be adequate for your space. The length of the bench is important because you don’t want the bench to be too short or too long for the space that you have. Almost all transfer benches are reversible, so they can be used universally for right side or left side entry tubs. Typically this is done by simply reversing the backrest and armrest of the bench.

Choosing a Transfer Bench

Transfer Benches do include solid surface benches, benches with built in commodes, and sliding transfer benches that actually allow you to gently glide into the tub and lock into place. Depending on your needs and space, there are many transfer bench styles and models to choose from.

There are several optional features, depending on the model transfer bench chosen. Some options include suction cup tips inside of the tub, curtain tucks to tuck the shower curtain into the bench a couple of inches, and many other others. You can view the full line of transfer benches here

Preventing Water Spillage with Transfer Benches

One of the most complained about things with the use of a transfer bench is that the shower curtain will not close around the bench to prevent water from getting outside of the tub. We have had people tell us that they simply cut slits in their existing shower curtain so that the unit would fit around the transfer bench. If you get an inexpensive shower curtain, this home-made solution might help.

Guarding against Elder Neglect

In our last post on Elder Abuse we shared that, “Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.” Usually, in both ourselves and others, we can recognize the intentional immediately. The negligent is more insidious and often escapes notice until long after the harm has been done.

That may have been the case with Mary Madeleine Araujo, an eighty year old woman who according to police reports sat on a sofa recliner for over a month in her own urine and feces while developing infected bedsores. All of this in the home she shared with her daughter, son-in-law, and three adult grandchildren.

It is easy to write off Mary Madeleine Araujo’s family as monsters but there is an important lesson to be learned from them if we are willing to believe that they may have been ignorant of their crime. Being passive in caring for an elder can be a crime; it’s called neglect and even if the caregiver isn’t aware that they are causing the elder harm it is elder abuse.

How to guard against elder neglect as a family caregiver.

  • Don’t let the elder dictate terms of Caregiving: It is immensely difficult to take control of an elder’s life. Often it feels like stealing their competence, stripping them of their adulthood – that’s not true though, aging is stealing their competence, not the caregiver. It is the responsibility of caregivers to provide care to balance out lost competence. The daughter in the Araujo case claimed that her mother refused help bathing, that refusal should not have ended the discussion. Caregivers can’t accept the word of their elders alone, they need to judge for themselves if the elder needs them to step in. A good practice is to follow a threefold decision making policy; listen to the elder’s opinion, discuss the matter with the elder’s Doctor, and make the decision that is best for the elder.
  • Clearly define and share Caregiver Roles: In the Araujo case there were five adults living in the same home as the elder. Five adults but the grandmother ended up with festering bedsores, sitting in her own urine and feces. According to reports, the daughter admitted that her mother had trouble getting to the bathroom on her own for several weeks. The family should have established clearly defined caregiving roles and responsibilities; for example, the grandchildren could have been responsible for checking on her and getting her to the bathroom, the husband could have been responsible for feeding her, and the daughter could have been responsible for bathing her and monitoring her health. Without clearly defined roles, it’s possible that four of the adults in the house thought that someone else was responsible for caring for the elder and were too caught up in their own lives to realize what was happening.
  • Failing to provide healthcare is Elder Abuse: At the time of her admittance to the hospital, Mary Madeleine Araujo had not had medical care for four years. We don’t know why that was the case but whatever the reason it was criminal neglect. The result is the same regardless of whether the reason was that the family didn’t want to pay medical expenses, that the elder refused to go to the doctor, or that the family didn’t see anything that merited medical attention. The elder should have had regular medical checkups, especially after significant events such as when she stopped sleeping in bed, after she fell, and as her health declined. Not providing the elder with medical attention was abusive.
  • Empower the elder by equipping them: Technology can lighten the burden of caregiving and allow elders to retain a large measure of their competence. In the Araujo case, a few simple pieces of equipment might have made a world of difference; an alternating pressure mattress overlay to help prevent pressure sores, an assist rail to aid in getting in and out of bed, a cane or walker to increase mobility and help protect from falls, grab bars in the bathroom for added fall security, and a transfer bench or bath chair to enable the elder to bath herself.
  • Be proactive in assessing and addressing the Elder’s needs: Don’t wait for a unmet need to become a problem, regularly reevaluate the elder’s needs and how they are addressed. Monitor the elder’s condition in a journal and calendar, seek advice from experts, and join caregiver support groups. It is better to provide too much support rather than too little. If an elder begins to have trouble reaching the bathroom, immediately take action  – don’t wait to find your loved one sitting in their own urine and feces. Only respect an elder’s refusal to accept help up to the point where it risks causing harm – then, as a caregiver, you are responsible to step in and provide the care that is needed.

When it comes to neglect, ignorance of the crime is no excuse. It is essential for family to be proactive, if the burden is too great or the family is unwilling they should seek outside assistance through in-home care, assisted living, or a nursing facility. Leaving an elder to languish on a recliner in the living room is horrendous regardless of the motivations of the people involved.

Elder Abuse

Laws vary from state to state but, by definition, Elder Abuse is any act, intentional or negligent, that causes harm or serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone physically abuses a vulnerable elder by causing physical pain or injury, or by depriving them of a basic need.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone who has taken responsible for the care of a vulnerable elder abandons them.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone inflicts mental pain, anguish, or distress on an elder through verbal or nonverbal acts.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone attempts non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone steals or misuses the funds, property, or assets of a vulnerable elder.

Elder Abuse occurs when: someone who is responsible for the care of a vulnerable elder refuses or fails to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection.

What factors make the elderly especially vulnerable to abuse?

  • Isolation – Most seniors have either lost or are in the process of losing their social circles. They have fewer people to turn to for help and often feel disconnected from those contacts they still have.
  • Physical Weakness – Most seniors are physically weak due to old age and illness. They are not as able to take action to defend themselves from abuse and are slower to recover from physical abuse.
  • Cognitive Decline – Many seniors experience cognitive decline leaving them less able to recognize abuse and take action to care for themselves. Seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s are even more vulnerable.

What kind of monster would do such a thing?

Most of us have heard shocking stories of elders subjected to immense cruelty by those responsible for caring for them. These stories often feature a villain, a monster of a person motivated by rage, greed, or sadism. The alcoholic son-in-law who screamed obscenities, the daughter who gambled away all of dad’s savings, or the nursing home staff who enjoys brutally manhandling clients. These “villains” do exist and must be guarded against – but they are not the only perpetrators of elder abuse.

The fact is that if we’re only expecting a monster to be abusive we can overlook obvious signs of abuse committed by friends, family, or dedicated staff, decent well-meaning people who cross the line. How could decent well-meaning people do such things? Frustration, burnout, and desperation can also motivate Elder Abuse. The son who, already late for work, cursed out his dad for soiling himself again and who screamed that he wished he would just die already. The staff, the sole breadwinner for her family after her husband lost his job, who tricks her client into paying her twice so she can make ends meet. The husband who roughly shakes his wife, suffering from dementia, and knocks her to the floor breaking her hip. Even loving caregivers can push themselves too far and become abusive, often without even realizing the full implications of what they’re doing until its gone too far.

The most common perpetrators of elder abuse are family. Don’t make the mistake of refusing to recognize obvious signs of elder abuse until you see a monster; even loving caregivers can cross the line. Always act in the best interest of the victim. Stop the abuse. No excuses, no rationalizations, no justifications. Stop the abuse.

What are signs of Elder Abuse?

  • Signs of Physical Abuse: Any type of unexplained injury.
  • Signs of Neglect: Filth, pressure sores, malnutrition, dehydration.
  • Signs of Emotional Abuse: Sudden unexplained changes in behavior. Difficult to determine in cases of dementia.
  • Signs of Sexual Abuse: Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases and bruises around genital areas.
  • Signs of Financial Abuse: Unexplained changes in finances, unexplained changes in wills or trusts, and loss of property.


What are some concrete steps Caregivers can take to avoid becoming abusive?

  • Caregivers should: take care of their physical, mental, and financial health before accepting the responsibility of a caregiver.
  • Caregivers should: seek help for personal problems that may impact the person they are caring for; some common problems are anger management, substance addiction, depression, and debt.
  • Caregivers should: join support groups and invest in a supportive community.
  • Caregivers should: share the burden so that it does not become overwhelming. Be realistic about their needs and limits.

How can Seniors protect themselves from Elder Abuse?

  • Seniors should: plan for their own future by choosing a trustworthy power of attorney and writing a living will.
  • Seniors should: consult someone they trust who has nothing to gain before signing any documents.
  • Seniors should: stay connected with friends and family. Keep engaged in a supportive community.
  • Seniors should: understand their legal rights and be proactive in defending them.

How to fight Elder Abuse?

  • Watch for the signs of elder abuse, regardless of who the caregiver is.
  • Report suspected elder abuse to local law enforcement.
  • Proactively keep Seniors involved socially. Follow up on their well-being.
  • Support and utilize local agencies like Meals on Wheels.

10 Ways for Seniors to Keep Cool

It is hot this summer. Heat Stroke and Dehydration are serious problems for everyone during this hot season, but Seniors are especially at risk. Here are some tips on how to help them stay cool.

  1. Seniors should eat light meals with water saturated foods in the summer. Over 20% of body fluid comes from food, so serve foods like Watermelon, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Berries, and Soups.
  2. Seniors should drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydrate and heat stroke this summer. Water is best but fruit juices and iced teas are also good.
  3. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, this means that they promote water loss in the body. If a Senior drinks a caffeinated or alcoholic drink in the summer they should also drink some other fluids as well to offset the loss.
  4. Perspiration is one of the best ways for the body to cool off. Forget deodorant and towels, let sweat air dry as nature intended and it will carry body heat away with it.
  5. Letting the body air dry after a shower or swim will carry off body heat in the same way as perspiration. Misting the arms lightly in water and letting them air dry will also do the same.
  6. Did you ever wonder why they like it spicy down in New Orleans? Hot spicy foods promote sweating which is, as listed above, one of the best ways to cool off.
  7. Seniors should dress for the heat by wearing light-colored loose-fitting clothing. This will protect from the sun while allowing sweat to air dry. Include a light wide-brimmed hat for added shade.
  8. Even in an air conditioned house fans circulate air and help to keep the room feeling cooler. Consider putting a bucket of ice cubes in front of box fan for an added kick of coolness.
  9. It’s easy to forget how many heat sources fill out modern lives. To keep cool, turn off the computer, monitor, lights, and use the microwave instead of the oven. If possible, switch incandescent light bulbs out for cooler and more energy efficient compact florescent bulbs.
  10. Mint tricks our nerves into feeling cooler. Help a Senior to feel less overheated with a nice mint skin lotion massage or a cool glass of mint ice tea.

Warning: It is possible for individuals with serious heart, liver, or kidney problems to over-hydrate. If an elderly loved one has serious health problems ask their Doctor how much fluid they should drink each day.

10 Steps to Better Protect Elderly Loved Ones Online.

My Grandfather loves Youtube; he spends hours looking up folk songs, nature videos, and other little treasures. Despite the fact that he only uses his computer for Solitaire, Email, and light Web Browsing he has repeatedly been the victim of particularly nasty viruses. On more than one occasion he has lost everything on his computer then paid several hundred dollars to get it working again and, supposedly, safe. That was all before I moved back to the area…

The Internet is a chaotic new realm that holds many treasures, like Elder Depot, as well as many dangers. Having grown up in the era before cyberspace, many Seniors are frightened away by talk of viruses, identity theft, and fraud. That’s a shame as the Internet offers great opportunities for Seniors to stay engaged, connected, and aware; the fears are justified but with a few precautions the dangers can be greatly lessened.

It is important to keep things as simple, stable, and streamlined as possible so…when in doubt, automate.

1 ) Keep the Computer Fighting Fit

Computers are frustratingly flawed marvels of technology, as time passes design and programming mistakes are discovered that need correction. Sometimes those flaws are found by designers but, more often, the designers only become aware of the flaw when a new virus appears exploiting it. Enable Automatic Updates on the Computer, this will ensure that gaps in the computer’s defenses will be patched as soon as possible.

How? That depends on the operating system.

2 ) Equip the Computer to Defend Itself

Most viruses work by tricking users into activating them or by taking advantage of security exploits. It’s likely that your loved one’s computer will be infected, perhaps by something as simple as opening an email attachment from a friend. Antivirus defenses are necessary to defend the computer from accidental infections.

Here are a handful of Antivirus options that we recommend.

  • Comodo : Free Windows Protection
  • McAfee : Windows Protection from $39.95.
  • Kaspersky : Windows and Macintosh Protection from $59.95.

Antivirus programs work by checking suspicious programs against a list of known viruses and taking action if there is a match. It is very important to update this list as often as possible, most Antivirus programs can do nothing to stop a virus if it is not on their list. Enable Automatic Virus Definition Updates on the computer and be aware that this is considered a service by most Antivirus companies. Comodo will allow you to download new Virus Definitions for free but McAfee and Kaspersky charge an annual fee – if the fee is not paid then the Antivirus software will only protect against older viruses and the computer will be left vulnerable.

3 ) Shut Peeping Toms out of the Computer

Spyware is a rampant problem fueled by groups from companies looking for marketing information to con artists hoping to steal an identity with a good credit rating. These groups have no qualms invading your loved one’s privacy and it’s up to you to defend that privacy. Fortunately there are several tools that will help with this struggle.

The first line of defense against intrusion is a Firewall; a filter that only allows in the connections that you approve.

If the computer is using Windows, download and enable Windows Defender. Windows 7, 8 and 10 have Windows Defender enabled by default but double check that it is enabled.

Windows Defender is a good start but given the range of malware out there it’s best to give it some backup. Ad-Aware is widely regarded as the best free anti-malware program available and in conjunction with Windows Defender it will protect a computer from most of the spyware out there.

If the computer in question is a Macintosh the most viable defense available is MacScan.

4 ) Keep Passwords Safe Under Lock and Key

For years “Use several different passwords” and “Use stronger passwords” has been the mantra of computer techies. This counsel, while good advice, is often less than helpful for the Elderly. What is the point of ‘stronger’ passwords when they can’t be remembered?

Fortunately, Password Managers offer a nifty solution. This Software offers several advantages; only one password needs to be remembered, a unique password can be used every time, passwords are protected from many spyware techniques, and all stored passwords are encrypted.

  • KeePass : This password manager has a wealth of features and is completely free.
  • RoboForm : This commercial password manager was CNET software of the year in 2008.
  • LastPass : This password manager is a web service that can be over any Internet connection.
  • Kaspersky : This password manager can be purchased separately or with the Internet Security package.

If your elderly loved one insists on writing down their passwords on a notepad, at least convince them to keep the notepad hidden in a secure location.

5 ) Use Stronger Passwords

Spinning off from the last point, what exactly is a ‘stronger’ password? Generally, a strong password is longer than 6 characters, uses lower and upper case letters, contains a few numbers, and possibly a few symbols. sd37$hWnd is a fairly strong password but it’s not easy to remember at all.

It is possible to make a strong password that is easier to remember. Just use personal information that isn’t commonly known. For example, did your elderly loved one play sports in High School? What was the name of the team? What was their jersey number? The name of the coach? Warriors#34O’Brien is a strong password that very few people could guess and that would resist a hacking attempt better than sd37$hWnd. Here’s another example; what was the first car they owned? How much did it cost? Who did they buy it from? Coronet$2110Miller is another fairly strong password that is easier to remember but that would be all but impossible to guess.

Don’t use these as part of a Password

  • Names of Family Members or Self
  • Zip Codes
  • Listed Phone Numbers
  • Sequential Numbers (123…)
  • Sequential Letters (ABC…)
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Personal Identification Number (PIN)

Consider using these as part of a Password

  • Dates of Personal Events*
  • Names of Old Neighbors, Friends, or Pets
  • Old Unlisted Phone Numbers
  • Personally Meaningful Numbers
  • Symbols like #, $, %, &, +, and -.
*First Kiss, Favorite Vacation, Best Promotion, Saw Ginger Rogers on an intercontinental flight, etc.

Always use a combination of information for a password with upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. In the past some sites restricted passwords to just letters and numbers, most sites now allow the use of symbols and increasingly more sites are requiring upper and lower case letters. Here are a few more example passwords; Mac@Omaha1944, 1954RR&Clay, 7/20/1969@Jean’s, and 10Pounds!1976Jon.

6 ) Loose Lips Sink Ships

When it comes to Identity Theft a touch of paranoia can be healthy as long as it doesn’t become debilitating. It’s very important to keep personal information private. Most people know that Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Information, Banking Information, Insurance Information, and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) should be safeguarded; fewer know that Addresses, Dates of Birth, and Telephone Numbers should also be safeguarded.

Most legitimate online businesses have security measures in place that keep personal information safe. For example, all personal information sent between a customer’s computer and the Elder Depot server is securely encrypted to prevent eavesdropping or tampering. So it is safe to share Addresses, Credit Card Information and Telephone Numbers with sites like Elder Depot; but it is important to verify that e-commerce sites are legitimate businesses before trusting them with personal information.

Sharing an address online is an open invitation for anyone who reads it to come ‘visiting’. Even if the home is secure sharing an address can give a criminal all the information they need to steal mail and with it identity. This happened to an Uncle of mine, someone ordered a credit report in his name, swiped it out of his mailbox when it arrived, and then used that information to steal a significant amount of money from his savings account. Addresses should only be shared online with trusted parties and then only in private through a secure method.

Phone numbers should not be shared online unless they are unlisted. Looking up a phone number can reveal a lot of information on a person that can be used in scams and fraud.

The best guidelines to give to an elderly loved one is to stick to sites that you verify are safe and never share personal information with sites that you have not verified.

7 ) Upgrade to the latest Web Browser

Over a quarter of Internet users still use Internet Explorer 6; a piece of software with several critical security holes that can give viruses, malware and hackers easy access to a computer. For the best stability, security, and compatibility always upgrade to the latest available Web Browser.

For most programs there is little reason to update to a new and potentially confusing version, but Internet Browsers, Email Clients, and Antivirus programs should always be updated to the latest version for security reasons.

8 ) Use Aliases for Online Socializing

When creating a new email, twitter, or similar account for your elderly loved one, use an old nickname or maiden name instead of a legal name. Choose something that friends will recognize but that scam artists won’t be able to garner any information from. For example, Marion Mitchell Morrison would be smart to sign up for email as JWayne or for Twitter as TheDuke.

Social Websites with a higher level of privacy, such as Facebook, frown on colorful aliases but promise safe registration for real names. These sites are generally safe but it is essential to remember the next point…

9 ) Choose Friends Carefully

In general, the elderly are either too trusting or too paranoid about online friendships. Sites like Facebook are designed to leave privacy up to the user but it can be hard for someone new to cyberspace to judge who can be trusted.

Have your elderly loved one ask themselves a few questions before “adding a friend”.

  • Do they know this person?
  • Do they want to know this person?
  • Is this person who they claim to be?
  • Is this a safe person to be in contact with?

If they are not able to ask these questions and take appropriate action based on the answers, consider managing their “friends” for them. It shouldn’t take much effort and can save them a lot of trouble.

10 ) Use Automated Filters

These days just wandering the Internet or opening email from a friend can be hazardous activities. Remember our rule from the beginning, when in doubt automate.

Yahoo Mail and Google Mail both automatically scan email attachments for viruses. Many Antivirus programs can do the same by plugging into email cilents like Outlook Express and Thunderbird.

K9 Web Protection is a Internet filtering service that is free for home use and was designed for parenting in an Internet age. It offers protection from coming across malicious or pornographic material during a simple web search. This automatic filtering out of questionable material makes the Internet safe again and gives your elderly loved one freedom from worrying if clicking on a link is going to show them something appalling or attempt to infect their computer with something nasty.