Not long ago, I was watching a television show featuring an extravagant multi-million dollar home. As I watched, I fantasized about what it must be like to live in such a lavish home, with no expense spared on every detail. Then the camera panned across the master bathroom and my fantasy ended abruptly. While this bathroom was the size of a small house, it was a disaster waiting to happen in terms of safety. As is all too often the case in bathroom design, many high-end fixtures and finishes were combined without much thought given to how people would actually use the bathroom safely every day. With the vast array of products currently on the market, a bathroom can and should be beautiful, functional and safe.
Falls account for 34% of all accidental deaths in the home and many of those falls occur in the bathroom. With slips, falls and scalding from hot water the most common accidents, it’s apparent that safety should be front and center in bathroom design. Bathroom safety features are for all homes, not just for households with older adults. Here are some safety tips to consider when designing or updating a bathroom:
- Flooring should be slip resistant. Marble is beautiful but is very slippery when wet. Run a bare foot over a sample of the floor material being considered as a test. Also, be sure there are no sharp edges in the flooring. Slate, for example, has ridges which can be sharp enough to cut your feet. Choose bathroom flooring wisely.
- Adequate lighting is a must in the bathroom. Be sure lighting is bright enough to see clearly and that water resistant light fixtures are used in the shower and tub areas. Dimmers are useful in the bathroom, too. Each bathroom should also have a night light.
- The control valves for the shower should allow you to turn the shower on without standing under the flow of water.
- Free-standing pedestal tubs are a popular bathroom trend but can pose a real safety hazard, as you have to straddle the edge to get in and out of the tub. Consider a model that will let you sit on the edge while you enter and exit the tub. A floor mounted “convenience bar” can also be installed.
- Steps leading up to a tub pose a fall safety hazard and should be avoided.
- All rugs and bathmats should have a non-slip backing.
- To avoid scalding, install proper bathroom faucets. Valves in the bath and shower should be pressure-balanced and temperature-controlled. Water controls should be installed so you don’t have to stretch to reach them.
- Shower enclosures should always have shatterproof glass.
- Electrical switches and outlets should be a safe distance from a water source. Install ground fault circuit interrupters on all outlets, switches and light fixtures to prevent electrical shock.
- Grab bars in showers and near tubs are not just for seniors. They greatly improve safety for everyone. Grab bars do not have to look institutional. Many grab bars are stylish and attractive enough to make a design statement. Be sure they are anchored to framing studs, not just screwed into wallboard.
We begin and end each day in our bathrooms, so it’s only fitting that we make this room a special space that promotes our health, relaxation and safety.