Nobody's thinking about danger while relaxing in a warm shower. Yet potential danger, even the fatal kind, is all around you in a bathroom. According to a 2007 research report by the Home Safety Council, preventable home injuries are the fifth largest cause of death in the U.S. And safety researchers point to the bathroom, along with the kitchen and stairs, as the most dangerous zones in the house.
1. Water, water everywhere
The most basic part of the "water closet" -- the water in the sink, tub, and shower -- is probably its number-one danger. More people are injured, even fatally, in bathroom falls than in any other room in the house. Trouble is, water doesn't always stay where it should. Poorly fitting shower curtains and simple wet feet are two of the biggest causes of water winding up on the bathroom floor.
A better way: The ideal shower has a shatterproof glass door, rather than a curtain. Failing that, you can minimize leaks by hanging a curtain liner that falls inside the tub and a second, decorative curtain that falls outside. To stop slips, try tiles in the shower with a slightly uneven surface (such as bumpy smaller tiles, rather than large, smooth squares) that feet can grip onto. A cheaper alternative: strips of adhesive nonslip decals on the shower or bathtub floor.
Keep a nonskid rug on the floor next to the shower/bath exit and in front of the sink. Basic scatter rugs are themselves a tripping hazard; look for one made to absorb moisture and stay in place on the floor. And if you're renovating, be sure to use nonslip tiles on the floor.
2. Bathroom danger: Slick tub or shower bed
Modern Americans use lots of products in the shower and bath. Trouble is, all that shampoo, conditioner, body wash, exfoliant, bath gel, shaving cream, and bubble bath collects as residue on the sides and floor, making them slippery.
A better way: Soapy buildup should be cleaned off regularly. Giving the shower or tub a quick wipe down with a washcloth after each use helps minimize slickness. A strong adult may be able to withstand the residue, but someone with balance problems, such as a frail older adult, can slip just enough to lead to a fall.
Be sure, too, to install well-anchored grab bars wherever slips are likely.