Homes should be safe havens. But each year injuries in and around the home contribute to millions of medical visits and many fatalities each year. Although anywhere in a home can be the scene of an accident, bathrooms tend to be the most dangerous room in the house. Slippery tile, the presence of water, stockpiled medications, and many sharp and hard edges in a small space pose several different hazards in the bathroom, particularly for young children and people age 65 and up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says falls, which can result in serious injuries like hip fractures and head trauma, are the cause of 80 percent of all bathroom accidents. Many bathroom accidents are preventable with some easy modifications.
1. Reduce slippery surfaces. Wet tile is a recipe for slick conditions. Bath rugs with rubber backing can provide traction in the bathroom, as can nonslip mats placed on the floor of the bathtub or shower enclosure. Water-resistant flooring made from recycled rubber is another option. It is softer, less slippery, and more forgiving than traditional tile flooring.
2. Install lever-style fixtures. Round knobs in the bathroom can be difficult to grasp, especially for the elderly or those with arthritis. Lever-style fixtures are easier to maneuver and can help alleviate scalding from not being able to adequately adjust the water temperature.
3. Utilize transfer benches and shower seats. A transfer bench can help reduce injuries that occur when trying to climb over a tub wall. Benches are placed outside of the tub and a person sits and then swings his legs over the ledge. Transfer benches also can be used in conjunction with shower seats. This is a chair or bench that allows people to sit while they shower.
4. Discard old medications. Clean out the medicine cabinet of old or expired medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. This reduces the likelihood of medication confusion, and does not put potentially harmful pills and syrups into the hands of children.
5. Install grab bars. Properly installed grab bars around the shower and toilet area can provide leverage and stability. AARP says many injuries to seniors occur when they are attempting to sit or get up from the toilet. Grab bars or an elevated toilet seat can help.
6. Install motion-detecting lights. These lights turn on automatically upon detecting movement, making them beneficial for people who routinely visit the bathroom in the middle of the night. Adequate illumination also can help reduce fall risk. Bathroom safety should be made a priority. Various modifications can make bathrooms safer for people of all ages.