More surprising ways to make a bathroom safer
3. Don't lock the door.
We associate the bathroom with privacy -- but it can come at a price. In the event of an accident such as a fall or a medical crisis, you or a loved one might not be able to exit the bathroom on your own. If the door is locked, help can't get in, either -- and might not realize you're in trouble. This problem can happen to anyone of any age; older adults, who have more chronic illnesses and more problems with balance, are especially vulnerable.
But avoid this common mistake: Don't overlook safety regarding the door to the shower. While shower doors don't lock, they can be blocked if the person in the shower collapses and it's a door that opens in to the shower, as opposed to out into the room. Shower doors should always open out to the room.
4. Lower the temperature for vulnerable skin.
A hot shower is a luxury -- but on younger and older bodies with thinner skin, hot water can become much too hot very quickly. Often a temperature setting has been the same for years; be sure to revisit it if there's a new family member in the house or if you notice yourself turning the lever well away from the hottest end of the hot-to-cold spectrum. Below 120 degrees is a safer setting. The National Kitchen and Bath Builders Association recommends installing pressure-balanced and temperature-controlled valves in the bath and shower to help prevent scalding.
But avoid this common mistake: Don't ignore what the temperature controls look like. Knob-style fixtures add to the scalding danger. Better: lever-style fixtures. Often accidents occur because users can't manage to turn off the water if they lack a strong grip.
5. Right-size the commode
Older adults often begin to have mobility issues relating to arthritis and other conditions, or problems with hips, knees, or back. Stooping low to sit on many standard-model 15- to 17-inch commodes can be a challenge. Two simple fixes are molded plastic seats that raise the seat as many as four inches, or adjustable seats that attach to an existing seat. You can also have a plumber install a new model or one that's hung from the wall at the appropriate height.
But avoid this common mistake: Know that a tall toilet isn't right for everyone just because of age or condition. A small woman, for example, may feel insecure sitting on one where her feet barely touch the ground. That presents a falling hazard. Also, if you use an adjustable seat, be sure to attach it securely. One that slips can lead to a dangerous fall.