11 things that will make your bathroom accessible and safe for all
Prevent slips and falls with these easy-to-install accident preventers
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It's just a part of life: Slipping and falling happens sometimes. It can happen wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and no matter your age, but it’s more common for the aging population: One in four adults over age 65 experiences a fall each year—and in the bathroom, especially, where an estimated 234,094 falls occurred in 2008, according to the CDC.
But prevention is possible. These simple modifications to a home bathroom can make aging in place safer—and more comfortable.
1. Bright lights so you know what’s in front of you
Some falls occur due to a simple, preventable issue: poor lighting. Ensure the bathroom is well-lit and no bulbs in there are missing or burned out. And add a nightlight on in the bathroom—and in the hallway to get there—to light the way after dark. One great option is this one from Eufy, which automatically turns on when it detects low light.
“These little lights are fantastic,” writes a reviewer. “They light up the dark areas of the house without being blinding. As the light is being reflected off the body of the device, you are never looking directly into a light source. This is perfect for my dark hallway and staircase.”
2. A shower caddy so everything you need is within reach
Bending down to pick up things like shampoo and soap isn’t an option for everyone—and the trouble magnifies while standing on a wet, slippery surface. Ensure bath supplies are within easy reach with a showerhead-mounted caddy. Amazon reviewers like this one from iDesign, which has rust-resistant coating and suction cups on the back to keep it secure.
Writes a reviewer: “The suction cups and rubber stopper keep it from sliding down like our old one did. It has plenty of space for bottles, a little shelf for bars of soap and things, a place to hang two razors, and two hooks for hanging washcloths.”
3. A handheld showerhead for greater water control
Cleaning up is a lot easier if you can make the water come to you, rather than the other way around. A handheld showerhead allows the showerer (showeree?) to sit or stand and aim the stream right where it’s needed it. Our favorite showerhead is is the Hydroluxe 24-function Ultra-Luxury, which has two shower nozzles, both of which can be used for overhead and handheld showers. It also has five flow settings: Power Rain, Massage, Stay-Warm Mist, Water-saving Economy Rain and Pause.
“I am disabled, and [the showerhead] makes my shower a true pleasure, instead of an awkward chore,” writes a reviewer. “Installation was a snap. Water pressure is great, if you are only using one head at a time. It is decent with both heads running. You really can't beat this product, especially for the price.”
4. A non-slip mat for a secure base when bathing
The CDC recommends putting a non-slick mat on the bath or shower floor to prevent falls. One great option is the Gorilla Grip mat, for either a shower stall or tub. It has hundreds of suction cups at the base to stick firmly to the shower’s surface, small holes at the top to allow for water drainage, and a cushy rubber feel to keep feet comfortable. The mat is machine-washable, too, so all that’s needed when it gets grimy is to toss it in the laundry, then let it air dry.
“I needed something safe, and this is it,” writes a reviewer. “It fits so well in my shower, and the suction is tremendous!! All the water quickly drains through the holes so I’m not standing in any water.”
5. A bath step for easier entry
For a standard bathtub or walk-in shower with a high lip, a simple step stool can make entry and exit much smoother. This four-inch stool has a textured rubber base and a stable, lightly cushioned surface that makes stepping on and off easy and comfortable. It’s not limited to the bathroom, either—some reviewers say they use the step stool to get in and out of bed, too.
“Very light-weight, but amazingly sturdy,” writes a reviewer. “Soft, comfortable thin layer on top allows kneeling over the tub for hair washing, or rinsing after a dye job. The size is ample, but easily used in a tiny bathroom. This is the best engineered molded plastic device that I've ever seen.”
6. A tub-wall grip for extra support
Having something to hold onto in the shower can make all the difference between taking a spill and staying upright. Amazon reviewers reviewers love the Vive metal grab bar, which screws into the wall and is available in 12-, 16-, and 24-inch lengths.
“I recently had back surgery and this has been a lifesaver,” writes a reviewer. “I feel confident in taking a shower without assistance and getting out of the tub is assured. If you're looking for independence, this is the one for you!”
For tool-free installation, try a bar with a suction attachment, like the Carex Suction grab bar. It also has a rubberized handle, so it’s a good option for people who don’t want to hold onto metal—just make sure to test that it's firmly affixed before each use to be safe, and get it professionally installed if necessary.
“This shower grip seems to hold very well. I'm 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds and it helps me maintain balance and feels very solid on my acrylic one-piece bath/shower,” writes a reviewer. “I tried putting all my weight on it, trying to pull it loose with no success. I've had it up now since I got it, and it's still stuck on just as it was when I first put it on."
7. A Squatty Potty for a more natural position on the throne
Propping up your feet when you go number 2 helps relax your muscles, which can prevent straining. It is for this reason that this humble plastic stool, known as the Squatty Potty, is one of our favorite bathroom products for anyone of any age or ability. Some Amazon reviewers say that, in addition to making BMs a lot more, ahem, moveable, it’s a great tool for people who use toilet seat risers (see below), but don’t like the way their feet dangle when they sit on one.
“I purchased this for my mother—she needed to have a three-inch toilet riser with safety handles so she could get up from the toilet, but this left her ‘perching’ with tiptoes barely on the floor,” writes a reviewer. “She was recently hospitalized, and bed-bound for seven days, with difficult bowel movements. We got the Squatty Potty today, and I helped her to the bathroom, and got her feet positioned, and voila! So happy to have solved the ‘perch’ issue!”
8. A toilet seat riser to make your toilet taller
Another way to improve on-and-off toilet safety is by adding a little height to the seat so there's less of a distance to lower down and come up from. This riser has a four-inch thickness and is easy to remove when not needed.
“This toilet seat rocks because it doesn't rock,” writes a reviewer. “I just had hip-replacement surgery and I would rate this seat as outstanding for the purpose of being higher to accommodate easier lowering and rising. Perhaps its best feature is the similarity it has to a standard toilet seat with ample size for all the parts that need to fit along with no undue pressure on the sides of the pelvis—this seat is level.”
If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can use your pre-tax money at the FSA Store to get a similar toilet seat riser with arms for added support.
9. Toilet safety rails for a handy grip
Another way to simplify the process of sitting down and getting up from the toilet: Get something to grab onto for stability. Amazon reviewers like this toilet safety rail, which has textured rubber handles and attaches to the toilet bowl with no tools needed (though you'll want to ensure it's sturdy before you sit on it).
“This ‘toilet safety frame’ is wonderful,” writes a reviewer. “Assembly was fairly easy. Here is what I like about it: It has two ‘padded extensions’ that rest under the toilet seat, so when you’re sitting there, it is very sturdy. The arms on each side are well padded, comfortable, and very sturdy when you have to push on them to haul yourself up from the seated position.”
10. A toilet paper aid to reduce the reach
People who have difficulty turning, reaching, and gripping things can find wiping after using the toilet tough. If that sounds like you or someone you know, you may want to get a "comfort wipe" handle, like this one from Fanwer. This 15-inch-long tool has one end for wrapping toilet paper or wipes, and a cushy grip on the other. Reviewers say it doesn’t require any torso-twisting to use effectively, so it’s great for anyone with mobility or balance struggles.
“As my mother gets older, she's noticing that she is having a hard time doing things on her own,” writes a reviewer. “I purchased the Fanwer Long Reach to help my mother become more independent. She has her fire and drive back!”
11. A shower chair so you can sit as you get clean
If standing for long periods of time is difficult, there’s no need to do so in the shower—just put a bench in there. One great option, according to Amazon reviewers, is the Drive Medical transfer bench, which has height-adjustable legs and suction cups at the base. It can be placed to straddle the side of the tub, so the user doesn't need to step over while standing up to get in—instead, they may sit down, raise one leg in at a time, and scoot into place.
“After I fell and broke my femur, one of my first major milestones was that first shower (heavenly!), which I couldn't have done without this bench,” writes a reviewer. “I've been using [it] for two months now and I'm very pleased with it. The minimal assembly to attach the feet was easily accomplished by my husband.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.