Make Your Bathroom Comfortable for Now - And Later
Easy Projects for Taking Your Bathroom from Hazard to Haven
By Anita K. Parran, AARP Missouri Associate State Director for Public Affairs
What is the most dangerous room in your home? You guessed it - the bathroom! With its slippery - and often, wet -- surfaces, bathrooms were the scene of the crime for 234,000 injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms in 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Not surprisingly, bathroom-related injuries are often more severe the older we get. Nearly one-third of the fall victims who were 65 or older were diagnosed with fractures.
It's imperative to increase the safety of your bathroom, but it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice beauty or comfort. With these easy projects and tips, you can create a bathroom that is comfortable, luxurious and safe, for now and the future.
1. Change out the handles on your faucets.
Installing lever handles on sink, bathtub and shower faucets ensures that you will be able to grab handles easily, with little effort. Easier to grip and just as strong as knob handles, the lever design takes less pressure and fewer movements to operate -- making it less likely you'll throw yourself off balance.
2. Skid-proof your floor to prevent slipping and sliding.
Use non-skid mats or non-slip strips on bathtub and shower floors to prevent falls in the bathroom. Use only rubber-backed floor coverings that stay firmly in place, or secure them with double-sided rug tape or rubber carpet mesh.
3. Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, and toilet areas.
Falls are a leading cause of injury and hospital admissions among older adults. Grab bars minimize the potential hazards in the bathroom by providing better stability in the tub or shower. Grab bars come in a plethora of designs and sizes that can complement almost every style.
4. Set your hot water heater at 120? to avoid scalding.
Each year, approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths occur in U.S. homes due to scalding from excessively hot tap water. Adjusting your home's hot water heater to 120? prevents water from becoming too hot. Also consider installing anti-scald faucets -- which limit the faucet's temperature -- on bathtubs, showers and lavatory sinks.
5. Install a higher toilet seat.
A low toilet seat will make it harder to sit down and stand up, increasing the risk of a slip or fall in the bathroom. Install a toilet seat extender or consider buying a toilet with a higher seat to increase safety and comfort.
6. Add a handheld or adjustable-height shower head.
Handheld shower heads offer a more convenient way to shower, especially for people who have difficulty moving. The longer hose gives you more flexibility and independence, and most modern shower heads allow you to adjust water pressure and flow patterns for maximum comfort and safety.
7. Have a seat in the tub or shower.
About 70 percent of in-home accidents occur in the bathroom, mostly due to unavoidable wet and slippery surfaces in the shower or bath areas. Installing a bath seat or bench in the tub or shower allows you to sit while bathing, reducing leg and back strain and the possibility of slipping and falling.
8. Let there be light.
Good lighting reduces the risk of tripping and falling. Make sure all lights have the highest wattage bulb allowed for the fixture. Install a night-light, or replace the light switch with an illuminated switch that can be seen in the dark.
9. Unplug small electrical appliances.
To reduce the risk of electrocution, make sure to unplug all electrical appliances (hairdryers, curling irons, shavers, etc.) when not in use. In addition, never use electrical appliances near a filled sink or bathtub. Bonus: Unplugging appliances while not in use will also save you money on your electric bill.
(CONTACT: Anita K. Parran , AARP MO I Associate State Director for Public Affairs, Direct: 816-360-2202 (72202), Toll Free: 1-866-389-5627, Fax: 816-561-3107, Mobile: 816-308-0649)