Bathrooms are among the most common accident sites in your home. Especially if you have younger children and older (grand)parents. These demographics are vulnerable in separate but similar ways. As their primary caretaker, your kids’ and parents’ safety is in your hands.
Child-proofing or senior-proofing your bathroom doesn’t have to be expensive. Some safety solutions are DIY while others require professional plumbers. Audit of your bathroom.
Identify all the potential safety hazards. Armed with a list of prospective improvements, you can spot, assess, and implement ideas to make your bathrooms safe for seniors and kids.
Bathroom risks for kids
When we think of kids and bathroom safety, we’re not really dwelling on infants. They face more risks, so we’re reflexively more careful with them. We’ll get them bath caps to keep soap out of their eyes, even as we buy no-tears shampoo and baby bubble bath.
But as our kids start to toddle about, we forget they’re still pretty vulnerable, especially around water bodies. After all, a child can drown in shallow water. Why? Because unlike grown-ups, they don’t know how to keep themselves safe, and their reflexes could make things worse.
For example, if a child slips, their natural response is to flail out their arms and legs to regain balance. This could make them fall forward and hurt themselves on the sides of the tub. They may even hit their heads on the tub faucet, or topple over the side of the bath.
In this scary scenario, their mouth and nose may slip underwater, so they can’t even call for help. Plus, the shock of the situation could curb their response. According to pediatricians and other experts, the main bathroom risks for kids aged 10 and under include:
- Drowning in the tub
- Scalding themselves
- Slipping on slick floors
- Falling off wobbly surfaces
These incidences can all be life-threatening. And even if the child makes it, you might still spend the night in the emergency room and end up with an impossible medical bill. And yet these dangers are easily mitigated using the hardware you can find at the store. Examples include:
- Sturdy stools
- Bath mats
- Protective faucet spouts
- Child-sized toilets
- Removable grab bars
- Secure shelving
Bathroom safety ideas for kids
Keeping your children safe in the bath is as simple as finding the right bathroom accessories. As you browse the hardware store, check the installation guides on what you’re buying.
If you plan to DIY, buy user-friendly models. Otherwise, call a plumbing professional to help. Let’s begin with seven popular safety solutions for your children’s bathroom.
Children love to climb things, and they’re actually really good at improvising. In the bathroom, they might turn a bucket upside down and use it to reach the sink. Or they may scale the side of the tub and use it as a foot-hold to reach the ledge, window, or medicine cabinet.
If you’re in the room, you can help, but if not, things can go sideways really fast. Use weighted doors to ensure kids can’t get the bathroom door open unassisted. This way, they’ll never be in there alone. Sturdy stepping stools are good for brushing teeth and washing hands.
Invest in some strong ones with different heights and place them under the bathroom sink. These stools should be easy to wash. They should have bright colors, rounded edges, and child-friendly, non-toxic paint, just in case the kids start to nibble on the stool.
Scalding can go from mild to fatal in seconds, but you can’t always stop your kids from playing with the faucet. Shut it tight so the kids can’t easily get it open. Install specialty taps – some will reduce the flow of water when it gets too hot, so the scorching trickle does less damage.
Other faucets light up when the water gets too hot, so the child (or their guardian) can spot the LED warning and step away from the tap. A more pocket-friendly solution is heat-sensitive toys. These include rubber duckies that change color as the bathwater heats up.
As you run the bath for your child, place the rubber ducky in the water and watch. The child will soon learn to let Ducky test the waters for them, literally. They can easily remember, ‘If Ducky turns blue, stay away from the water!’ This ensures the water is always at a safe temperature.
Mats, sleeves, and bars
If a child falls and hits their head (or even their limbs), their injuries easily escalate. Bath mats with rubber surfaces and suction cups can be helpful, because they give the child extra grip. Place them at the bottom of the tub or shower, along with fun friction stickers.
These stickers will make bath-time more playful for your kids, while also reducing their chances of falling. Just in case they do slide in the tub, cover the faucets and sharp edges with a protective sleeve or padded spout. It softens the potential damage caused by the taps.
Finally, equip your bathroom with removable grab bars. They offer support frames that kids can hold on to if they fall. The bars also help them raise themselves out of the bathtub. Adjustable ones are ideal, because you can reposition them as the child grows, keeping it at a safe height.
Child-proofed cabinets and toilets
Children are naturally curious, and the moment you turn your back, they’ll start snooping. They’ll want to grab your razors and mimic your shaving patterns. Or they might pop your colorful pills, mistaking them for candy. So ensure your cabinet has a child-proof lock.
Stepping stools will stop them hurting themselves when they try to reach the medicine cabinet, while weighted locks will prevent them from slamming their fingers on shelf doors. But if you invest in kid-size toilets, they don’t need the stool to use the loo, so that lowers their falling risk.
These 11 inch to 14 inch toilets can be found in most hardware stores. You could have a plumber install it for you, or you could follow a DIY tutorial. Double-check whether the toilet is securely anchored. You don’t want it collapsing beneath your child and regressing their potty training.
Bathroom risks for seniors
Elderly parents and grandparents face issues with their mobility. Their limbs aren’t as flexible, so they can’t comfortably climb stairs or walk long distances. Their movement is slower and more labored. And when they do hurt themselves, they take longer to recover from injury.
At the same time, their psychological health is compromised. You want to set up your bathroom in a way that helps them retain their autonomy. Once they start to feel helpless, their zest for life goes down, and it’s hard to restore their pep. Bathroom challenges for seniors include:
- Falling and hurting themselves
- Being unable to access the bathroom
- Exhaustion from standing too long in the shower or bath
- Difficulty navigating the bathroom itself
- Inability to bend over comfortably
Fortunately, these issues are just as simple to resolve. And unlike children, elderly household members can manage on their own – just as long as they have the right bathroom tools and accessories. These ‘bathroom helpers’ include:
- Adhesive sticker threads
- Side grip grab bars
- Shower seats and bath benches
- Raised toilet seats
- Low-rise bathtubs
- Elder-friendly flooring
- Senior lighting
Bathroom safety ideas for seniors
In certain homes, owners try to cut corners. They may suggest towel racks or step ladders as a solution to senior bathroom moments, but that’s not suitable or safe. Take the time (and money) needed to keep your older family members safe at bath time. It’s worth the effort.
Begin with a home monitoring app like Walabot Home. It uses WiFi and thermal imaging to tell when someone has fallen anywhere in the house. It then sends an emergency signal, prompting you to check on the injured family member. Let’s explore a few more low-tech solutions.
This begins with rubberized bath mats. Their top surface is textured for extra grip while the bottom side has suction pads or ribbing to make it non-slip. Bath mats rarely cover the entire surface of your bathtub or shower, so you can combine them with adhesive sticker threads.
Arrange the stick-ons on either side of your bath mat, broadening your protective surface. If you’re willing to undertake something more drastic, you can refurbish your bathroom and nearby corridors. Widen the hallways to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.
At the bathroom door and shower entrance, remove ledges or steps that could block wheels or trip up walkers. Lay a gentle ramp, allowing your seniors to ride wheelchairs straight into the shower. But lengthen the shower cubicle, ensuring the wheelchair won’t accidentally slide out.
These bath benches are removable, so if your bathtub or shower cubicle is a shared space, other family members can remove the chair when they need to shower, then put it back in when grandma or grandpa want to freshen up before dinner.
Place nightlights in the corridor and bathroom. These will stop your seniors from stumbling around in the dark. You can also put touch-sensitive lights along the hallway so that your elderly housemates can easily turn them on and off at will. Use multiple lights in the bathroom too.
This may seem like a waste of electricity but remember, your elderly parents’ eyesight weakens over time. So standard fluorescent bathroom lights can cause harsh shadows that may disorient your seniors. Combine the main lights with softer sidelights to help them see more clearly.
Glow-in-the-dark décor is another helpful bathroom tool. It could take the form of butterflies on the wall or stars in the ceiling. After sunset, these stickers give off a gentle (usually green) reflection that can help your senior navigate in the dark without feeling useless.
Side grips and comfy toilets
Kids need shorter toilets, so they can stand or squat unfettered. Elders have a hard time bending over, so if you can shorten their trip to the toilet seat, it’s immensely helpful. Raised toilet seats mean your seniors don’t have to scoot as far down before they can sit and do their business.
These ‘higher toilets’ come in the form of add-on seats that can be clamped on top of regular toilets and removed at will. They’re securely attached though, so they won’t fall off willy-nilly. Get a seat that has handlebars for added support. They also keep seniors from tipping over.
Apart from the side-supports on toilets, you can (and should) install grab bars on the sides of the toilet, shower, and tub. You can buy straight bars that screw directly into the wall, or clamped bars that can grip the sides of your bathtub. They help seniors stand up and get down.
Benches and walk-ins bathtubs
The sidebars we mentioned provide a strong surface that your seniors can hold onto when they’re lowering themselves onto the toilet, getting out of the tub, or walking along the bathroom wall. But even with side railing, getting into the shower or tub can be difficult.
Walk-in tubs and showers are open on one side, so your elderly parent can walk right into the tub or shower without having to lift their feet over the side of the tub or scale their shower steps. The ‘gap’ can be ‘closed’ after they enter the tub, and glass shower doors can slide shut.
Once they’re inside the shower or tub, elders soon get tired, and if they fall, they’ll hurt themselves. So, install a shower bench or bath chair in your bathroom. They have secure non-slip feet that sit firmly on the shower floor or the base of the tub. Both seats are waterproof.
Simple safety solutions
Bathroom injuries can cause pricy medical bills and reduce the quality of life for your kids and seniors. It’s easy to avoid them altogether or at least to limit the possibility of bodily harm. Textured floor mats and grab bars can prevent falls and reduce the chances of drowning.
Thermometers prevent scalds while benches trim fatigue. Kids need stepping stools and lower loo seats, while their grandparents need elevated toilet seats and age-friendly flooring.
Finally, nightlights are helpful for both dark-fearing children and their barely seeing grandparents. Which of these bath safety options relate to you? Tell us in the comments!