Bathrooms can pose many a hazard within the home for almost anyone. However, the young and the elderly have a lowered resistance to accidents and any unsafe use in the bathroom can prove to be very dangerous to them.
Those considered most at risk are the already vulnerable, especially the elderly. Falling is a top cause of injury in older people, and falls can often lead to complications or even become fatal. Breaking a hip for example by slipping in bathrooms can result in loss of mobility, impacting on overall physical and mental health. According to research, most falls happen in the home and bathrooms are a prime concern. As well as slipping in the shower or climbing out the bath, elderly people are more at risk of falling when getting up to use bathrooms in the middle of the night - especially if the lighting is poor.
Falls are particularly dangerous to the elderly whose bones tend to be more brittle, and vision is also weak. But there are simple steps you can take to safeguard your safety or that of an elderly relative. Bathrooms can be made safer for everyone, not just the elderly if:
- You ensure there are no obstacles between the bedrooms and bathrooms, such as loose carpet or rugs - use non-skid backing on rugs if you must have one.
- Make sure if you wear slippers to keep warm, you wear rubber gripped soles - socks can be dangerously slippery on laminate or hard surfaces.
- Lighting is also crucial; investing in night lights in the hall or run up to your bathrooms will help.
- If your bathrooms involve staircases, make sure the stairs are clear of clutter and have a hand rail to aid the elderly.
- Stairs, however, can be a major difficulty for the elderly, if you can, consider installing a second bathroom downstairs or en-suit facilities if you have space.
- Installing grab bars near toilets and bathtubs can aid the elderly using bathrooms.
- Walk-in showers are easier to get in and out of than baths.
- Make sure your bathrooms have non slip rubber mats on the shower tray or bathtub and that these are cleaned daily to reduce soap scum.
Bathrooms can raise concerns for parents. Anyone who has had a child will know of the trepidation of bathing a newborn. Soap and water can be slippery, and getting a firm grip is crucial to keep your baby safe. It's recommended that parents don't use bathrooms initially, but buy specialist bath bowls to bathe their newborn. When you do bathe them, make sure your hand is firmly planted under your baby's arm (in the armpit), so you have a confident grip.
Toddlers come with their own set of problems - in fact, toddlers tend to attract accidents. Bumps and falls are a natural part of learning and growing up, but in bathrooms, a toddler can be in danger. They'll want to turn taps on and off, leaving them vulnerable to the risk of scorching. They'll climb all over the bath, increasing the risk of slipping and falling. They'll drink the bath water and any bottles lying around will be quickly inserted in their mouths. When you're bathing toddlers in bathrooms, make sure there are plenty of toys to keep them distracted from messing with the taps. Put down a slip-proof mat that's washed regularly - make sure it's firmly fixed before use. Move any bottles from the bath edges the toddler shouldn't be playing with, and stick to natural products where possible to avoid the risks of allergic reactions.
One of the crucial rules for babies and toddlers is to never let them out of your sight in bathrooms. And certainly, never leave children unwatched in a bathtub, and don't be tempted to ask older children to supervise. It can be tempting to answer a phone call, or nip off to do a few jobs, but they should never be left alone. It takes seconds to slip and drown - and there are countless tragic stories in the press of children who have lost their lives due to unfortunate accidents in bathrooms. As well as being careful at bath time, make sure your bathrooms are safe from exploring hands. Ensure all medications or cleaning products are stored under lock and key or out of reach, with child-resistant lids.
Toilets in bathrooms can also be a drowning risk - use toilet seat locks to safeguard toddlers. As well as the drowning risks, monitor the bath temperature with a thermometer (it's advised you use cold water and add hot rather than vice-versa). You should also take steps when you are using bathrooms to ensure toddlers are safe - if you use hair straighteners, for example, don't leave them out to cool in reach of a toddler and make sure any electrical products such as hairdryers are nowhere near the bathtub.