According to the National Institute on Aging, one-third of seniors over the age of 65 slip and fall each year. With diminished vision, muscle weakness, and balance issues, seniors are especially vulnerable to injuries in the bathroom. Unfortunately, seniors are also at risk for complications from these injuries. A simple fall can hinder an individual’s ability to continue living independently. Thankfully, environmental modifications might reduce the risk and keep seniors living safely at home.

How can you stay safe in your home’s bathroom? Try some of these tips to reduce your risk of falling:

  • Update your bathroom with simple safety devices that can keep you from falling, such as installing grab bars and adding a non-stick surface to your bathtub and shower.
  • Improve accessibility to the things you need daily, and make sure you do not have to reach too high for anything.
  • Remove any obstacles that impede your maneuverability.
  • Improve visibility, especially at night. Install a night light in the bathroom, and make sure that your medications are clearly labeled to avoid confusion.
  • Prevent burns by clearly labeling the hot and cold water faucets.
  • Consider changing your bathtub to a walk-in shower.
  • Talk to your doctor.

If you are concerned about your bathroom safety, talk to your doctor to discuss what types of medical equipment may be available to help you stay healthy and active.

How Can Medicare Help?

Your Medicare coverage may help you pay for devices that can keep you safe at home. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers medically necessary Durable Medical Equipment (DME) that your doctor prescribes for you to use in your home. Only your physician can order the medical equipment, and it must meet the specific criteria, including:

  • It must be durable (can withstand repeated use)
  • It is used only for a medical reason
  • It is not useful for someone who is not sick or injured
  • It is to be used in your home
  • It has an expected lifetime of at least three years

You may be eligible to receive Durable Medical Equipment that makes it easier for you to move around your home, such as a cane or walker, but most equipment designed to make your bathroom safer is not considered “primarily medical in nature” by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Grab bars and raised toilet seats, for instance, are considered convenience items and you will have to pay out-of-pocket for these safety devices. Commodes will be covered under Part B’s Durable Medical Equipment benefits if the patient is confined to a room without bathroom facilities.

If your doctor does prescribe Durable Medical Equipment, you will need to get it from a supplier that accepts assignment. If your doctor or suppliers are not participating in Medicare, you may be responsible for the full cost of your equipment. If you have Original Medicare, you will likely pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for the equipment. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, you will have at least the same coverage, but many MA plans offer additional benefits. Contact your plan directly to ask about the cost of DME.