5 Surprising Ways to Make a Bathroom Safer

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How ironic: The bathroom is the room for personal hygiene and, therefore, promotes good health. But along with the kitchen, it's the most dangerous room in the house. The top causes of bathroom accidents (some 200,000 a year): slips, falls, and scaldings.

Find out five safety basics -- and where people often go wrong.

1. Get a grip -- but not just any grip.

Installing grab bars next to the toilet and near or in the bathtub and shower is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to give anyone added support.

But avoid this common mistake: Assuming that any visible bar is a good grab bar.

A slipping adult who reaches for a bar on the wall is going to exert a lot of body weight on that bar. If it's poorly anchored to the wall -- as are many bars intended only to hold the weight of towels -- the person will continue to fall and possibly injure an arm, too. The grab bars should be solidly connected to the structure of the walls (and they can double as towel bars). Skip diagonally placed grab bars because if the grabber's hand slips, a fall is more likely.

2. Simplify the shower/tub entry.

Many new homes feature walk-in shower areas that don't require climbing into a tub, and/or sunken tubs that can be stepped down into, more like entering a swimming pool. Both of these innovations eliminate that precarious wobble over the rim of a tub.

But avoid this common mistake: Overdoing the fanciness of the design so that there are steps leading up to a shower or bath area. Steps are a slipping hazard. A level platform area around the shower or tub is better. It's also wise to avoid a curb at the point of the walk-in entrance. That way you prevent accidental trips and, if necessary, the design can accommodate a wheelchair.

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.


almost 2 years ago, said...

My husband cleans our walk-in glass-walled shower every time he uses it with a car window squeegee. And at tleast twice a week, I wipe all faucets, the flush lever, and the light switch plate with Clorox wipes. THey have some that smell nice now, so your bathroom won't be overwhelmed by the smell of bleach.


almost 2 years ago, said...

I agree with anonymous about the door hole. There can be security and privacy for bathers but in case the caregiver is needed due to an emergency there are locks that easily open if a simple tool is put in the lock releasing it and allowing entry. Of course, for all other attempts (for instance, by a visitor) it remains locked.


about 2 years ago, said...

Something else to think about with Bathroom doors - if the bathroom is small, the door needs to swing outward, rather than into the bathroom. This way a person on the floor will be unable to block the door from opening!


about 2 years ago, said...

FYI A bathroom door should have a hole in the middle of the door knob on the side that faces away from the bathroom. It's there for when it's necessary to open the door. Anything that will allow a long piece (nail) to go into the handle hole will unlock the door when inserted.


over 2 years ago, said...

The suggestions are helpful, and the cautionary notes about overdoing them in some cases are a welcome change from the common style. Let me add 1 suggestion about the commode. It is easy to mount sturdy rails that look like arm rests on each side of the commode. The rails attach to the seat hinge in the back; they rest on adjustable legs in the front. The rails make it easier to get on and off the commode.


over 2 years ago, said...

When my husband had a stroke, I realized that our bathroom doors needed to be replaced so that they opened outward, rather than in to the bathroom. The bathrooms are 5ftX8ft, each configured differently, but the same amount of space. The bathroom doors are also thick glass with a bamboo design, which gives some privacy. It was worth the cost.


over 2 years ago, said...

All very good recommendations - especially the sunken tub.


about 3 years ago, said...

USING LEVER TYPE FAUCETS FOR SAFETY OF BEING ABLE TO TURN OFF WATER


about 3 years ago, said...

Falls are a major problem for people of all ages but can spell the end of a life in the case of an older person. I would like to have seen something about using and buying correct footwear for older adults and on anything that would provide better traction or grip on flooring types.


over 3 years ago, said...

99 percent of your articles are very useful as far as I'm concerned


over 3 years ago, said...

Many UD features would be very expensive to install in an existing home. Please, consider suggestions suited to limited budgets.


over 3 years ago, said...

I found this article helpful. I would enjoy additional articles and places some of the items you suggest can be purchased. Thanks. AB


over 3 years ago, said...

To read as an article on one or two pages vs spread out over many pages. Perhaps a link with just the article and links to other related articles. Not sure now if I can download for printing purposes.


almost 4 years ago, said...

On my blog I described the safety changes that we made at home, along with pictures of the various accommodations. Initially we thought of them as necessities for our aging parent visitors, but we quickly realized that these changes were important for us, too. You can read Making Our House Safer: For Aging Parents and Ourselves at http://asourparentsage.net/2010/01/15/making-our-house-safer-for-aging-parents-and-for-ourselves/


almost 4 years ago, said...

Some what. We have talked to manager about putting safety bars in my bathroom and so far have install them. What can we do about?


about 4 years ago, said...

Very good info on Bathroom Safety


over 4 years ago, said...

the grab bar fot the shower and toliet, i am going to do to help my mom get on and of the toliet


over 4 years ago, said...

I was interested to read about the glass shower doors and how to be safe with them.


almost 5 years ago, said...

my husband is blind, and he couldn't see what's on his plate at the table.He made lots of mess on his lap and the floor. Now I put his food in a melamine pie pan, also cut the meat into pieces. I use mostly plastic cups, plates, mugs for him. And I am hearing impaired. When he yells for help, I couldn't hear him, I had to check on him constantly. One time I fell in the kitchen from a broken chair, and hollered for him, he couldn't find me where i was. he is starting to go deaf. So far we are independent and own home. No rugs on the wood floor, and no stairs to climb. we both are frustrated, but still feel blessed. amen here.


almost 5 years ago, said...

I am knowlegeable about the bathroom accidents.. I have had 4 joint replacements. we took out the tub and replaced with a walk in shower. the bathroom is very small, about 5x6..also put on an elevated toilet seat. But one of my fear, is that we have a glass sliding shower doors.. Maybe we should consider removing it and replace with a plastic shower curtain???


almost 5 years ago, said...

If someone is likely to fall or pass out as my father is, you can remove the door and put up a curtain. We used a short shower rod and a shower curtain. Dad's bathroom is such that if he passed out he'd be behind the door and we wouldn't be able to get to him. Having the curtain up provides some privacy (really, as much as a door does ) and allows us access to him should he need help.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Everything discussed in these articles was very helpful especially since my mother is elderly (and I'm also quickly getting up there in age - LOL).


almost 5 years ago, said...

This article was helpful. One problem we encountered in the kitchen - my husband (91 yrs old)was standing getting something out f the refrig when he got weak and started to fall. As he fell, he grabbed the refrig door and it started to tip over him as he fell to the ground. Luckily I was next to him (I am 80) and I was able to push the top freezer door of the refrig back and it went to an upright position. Another couple of seconds and it would have tipped too much for me to do anything. Guardian angels must have been working overtime! He is okay - floor was a mess!