How can I make my bathroom safe for my kids and elderly relatives?

View comments

We know that accidents in the bathroom are a valid concern, especially when vulnerable populations like children or the elderly are performing daily routines. So whether you’re re-working your home’s bathroom or helping create a safer bathroom in the home of your parents or other elderly relatives, knowing that they are safe is essential. These cost-effective improvements for the bathroom will decrease the risk of accidents and give you peace of mind.

Safer Bathtubs And Showers

It is no secret that the bathtub or shower is one of the hot zones for falling risks especially for children and for seniors with limited coordination. The National Safety Council suggests installing a grab bar rather than relying on a weak shower door or towel rack for support. Towel racks in particular can't support your bodyweight—one yank to try to stop a fall and instead it will go crashing to the floor along with you.

Permanently installed grab bars are good for preventing slipping in the shower as well as help with balance and strength when getting up from the toilet for the elderly. There are many great online resources for many of these helpful products as well as detailed buyer guides to help you make the best choice. You can find many different types of bars, but it's important to choose those with a textured or brushed finish, which provides users with a better grip.

More complex than installing grab bars, making the switch to a walk-in tub in a senior’s bathroom has many safety benefits. This type of bathtub has a very low threshold, a watertight door to prevent leaking and slip resistant flooring, making it very easy to get in and out while allowing for safety and independence. A much less expensive alternative is a tub seat or chair that lets you sit while you're under the showerhead or use a handheld showerhead; there are various models that fit bathtubs or stall showers.

Amid the chaos that can sometimes ensue during bath time with children, water temperature can be an easy thing to forget about. An important tip to prevent scalding everyone's delicate skin is setting your water heater to only heat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit; this way you never have to worry about the water getting too hot. It will also save you some money on heating bills—a double bonus!

Caution: Slippery Floor

Slips don't only occur inside the confines of the tub or shower—they can happen on a slippery bathroom floor surface as well. Choosing the right type of flooring can make a huge difference in preventing accidents. Although beautiful ceramic tile is highly desirable flooring, not all tiles are slip resistant. Research tiles that are certified slip resistant and meet quality standards before you buy. Many smooth wall tile designs also come with a textured finish for use on the floor.

Vinyl is a popular flooring choice for bathrooms and many are slip resistant, cheap and easy to install. However consider having vinyl sheets installed instead of tiles—tiles have a tendency to curl at the corners and become tripping hazards.

Other flooring choices include cork and rubber. Cork gives good traction underfoot and is both renewable and environmentally friendly. Look for rubber floors made with interlocking squares that are easy to install. They are extremely slip resistant and give a bit of extra padding to the floor, should a fall occur.

Wood floors are popular in just about every room of the house. If you're tempted to put wood in the bathroom, consider engineered wood, which is more water-resistant than solid planks.

Let There Be Light

No matter who's using the bathroom, it is always important that the space be well lit. Adding extra lighting fixtures is never a bad idea—and the trend of accenting the bathroom ceiling with a contemporary chandelier is still popular. Also consider installing a night-light or motion sensor to avoid fumbling around in the dark and possibly having an accident. TotalHousehold’s contractor database is a great resource if you are looking for a lighting expert in your local area.

We know your loved ones are important to you, so whether you are having bath time with your children or preparing a bathroom for an elderly relative, making the right improvements will not only allow for more independence, but will also give you peace of mind that everyone is safe while performing daily bathroom routines.

—Carrie Pope