Using the bathroom should be a relaxing and pampering experience. But if you have mobility or balance problems, or problems with your grip, the bathroom can become a difficult and dangerous place. Wet and slippery services, combined with hot water can cause slipping and scalding hazards.
Luckily there is a huge range of products available to help you in the bathroom, so that you can continue to enjoy the time you spend in there.
When choosing bathroom disability aids, try to focus on comfort and safety. What will make it easier for you to both use, and enjoy, your bathroom experience?
General safety aids
Grab rails, bars and poles
One of the first aids that you might want to invest in is a grab rail or pole. These come in a range of different materials, shapes and designs. For example, plastic, chrome, coloured, plain, curved, straight, padded, ergonomically-designed.
There are so many different options, that you should be able to find something that both fits in with your décor and provides the support that you need.
Grab bars work by providing you with extra support as you move around your bathroom, and can be used anywhere really. For example, getting in and out of the bath or shower, getting up from the toilet, even near the basin in case you feel a little bit off-balance as you bend over to get washed.
There are different ways to attach grab bars. Some attach via suction, others must be attached to the wall by screws. You can get hinged ones, so they can be moved out of the way when they are not being used.
Some grab bars are dual purpose. You can get grab bars with an integrated shelf, which can go into the corner of your shower or bath, providing a place to put your toiletries as well as a source of support. I’ve also seen ones with integrated towel rails and soap dishes.
If you feel a little bit anxious stepping in and out of the bath, you might what to consider a bath grab bar, that attaches onto the side of the bath. This provides a sturdy aid to hold onto as you step in and out.
Another option is a security pole with an integrated grab bar. This can be used anywhere in the house, and is locked against both the floor and the ceiling. This gives a source of support for any purpose, for example getting up from the toilet, or a chair, or getting out of the bath or shower. They come with an attached grab bar, so you have something substantial to get hold of when you are using the pole.
When choosing a grab bar or rail, make sure that it is suitable for the purpose. If it’s for the bathroom, you will want one made of rust-proof or waterproof material. Also check that it’s the right size for the space where it’s going. I know I’ve stayed in hotels before where the grab rails have been too big and so have been in the way. More of a hindrance than a help!
Also check that tested user weight is suitable, and that the bar is fixed properly. You don’t want it coming off at a vital moment.
Even the thought of slipping can make using the bathroom an unpleasant experience. And unfortunately, many surfaces in the bathroom are smooth, so can be dangerous.
Obviously if you’re buying new bathroom fittings, you can choose those with non-slip surfaces, but if you aren’t changing your bathroom, there are still several options to make surfaces safer.
Options include rubber mats. These are available in a variety of sizes, suitable for both baths and showers. Look out for ones with good suction on one side, so that they don’t move when you stand on them.
One of the problems that I find with rubber mats is that they can quickly become mouldy. There are some with special anti-mould coatings, but these don’t seem to be effective for too long. I use a rubber mat in my shower, and to keep it pristine, I rinse it after showering, and then lay it flat in the airing cupboard until I need it again. It still looks like new and I’ve had it for months now.
You can also buy a range of self-adhesive strips and dots to attach to the bottom of your bath or shower to make the surface permanently non-slip. These are inexpensive and unobtrusive as they can barely be seen once they are fixed.
Another useful product if you’re not very tall is a bath shortener. This attaches to the end of the bath by suction cups, and enables a shorter person to push against it, so that they can get out of the bath more easily. It’s easily removed for taller family members!
You can see an example here. https://www.completecareshop.co.uk/bathing-aids/bath-cushions-and-pillows/bath-shortener
There are a range of options for bathroom flooring that are both non-slip and affordable. Vinyl flooring for bathrooms has a textured non-slip surface and is also waterproof. It comes in a range of finishes such as stone and wood effects.
Rubber is another option. It is more comfortable underfoot, but it can be slippery. If you opt for this, then you need to choose one which is highly-rated for slip resistance.
Engineered wood floors are another option. They look great, but do need some maintenance to keep them looking pristine. You also need to wipe up spills and splashes straight away, which may not always be possible if you have any access issues.
For a discussion about choosing bathroom flooring, see this article from Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine.
Avoiding scalding or flooding
If you struggle to get in and out of the bath, it may be difficult to quickly get out of the way if you start to step into a too-hot bath. An inexpensive way to prevent this is to use a floating bath thermometer. This has a large display and an inbuilt alarm. You set a maximum temperature, and when this is reached, the thermometer’s display flashes, alerting you to danger.
Another option is a safety sink or bath plug which can prevent both flooding and excessive water temperature. How it works is that you set a maximum water level, and once that is reached, the plug allows water to release.
The plug also includes a heat sensor, which means it changes colour when the temperature reaches 36 degrees Celsius. This alerts you that the water temperature is too high so you can avoid putting any part of your body into it!
Other useful items
Heated towel rails
A heated towel rail is a popular bathroom accessory, and they are a practical option for an accessible bathroom.
The surface temperature on a heated towel rail is fairly low, so there is no risk of burning yourself, even if you were to stumble against it. They also keep your towels nice and warm, which is lovely when you have finished showering or bathing.
A heated towel rail also prevents damp within the bathroom so that keeps surfaces non-slip. They are relatively slim line, so don’t extrude into your bathroom space. Oh, and they look pretty stylish too!
Most bathroom aids can be purchased without VAT in the UK, if you have a long-term condition that affects your daily living skills.