Safety Guide: Bathroom

Bathroom safety needs extra attention as we age: wet surfaces in a small space create a significant fall risk.

Modifications should ideally be done in consultation with an occupational therapist or physical therapist. If authorized by your doctor, Medicare will typically pay for a home safety evaluation.


  • Use a textured, slip-resistant flooring surface: Avoid traditional flooring, like hard tile, and opt for softer options like vinyl. There are many good vinyl floor options available – Harvey Maria’s luxury vinyl floors are slip-resistant and waterproof and come in a variety of patterns. It’s best to stick with a design that is simple and light so that it’s easy to see the ground.
  • If tile is a must, go for textured: If you prefer tile, find something with texture, like a matte finish or sand-containing glaze. Smaller tiles with grout lines often contain better grip than larger tiles.
  • Remove mats and rugs: Bathroom mats are easy to trip on and should be avoided. If you need something to dry your feet while getting out of the shower, go for a low-pile, rubber-backed mat.


  • Make sure every area has light: When evaluating bathroom lighting, make sure every space gets good light, including the sink, toilet, and bathing areas.
  • Test visibility to avoid a glare: You want a well-lit bathroom, but if it’s too bright, it could cause a glare that makes it difficult to see a wet surface clearly. Adjustable light switches like the Lutron Sensors and Dimmer allow you to set brightness and fade levels.
  • Add light to the vanity and shelves: If you have cabinet space, we recommend adding motion-sensor lighting, like these cabinet lights from LEPOTEC, to each shelf and underneath the sink.

Sink & Vanity

  • Keep a security device: The bathroom should be connected to whatever home security system you’re using. One easy solution is to have an Amazon Echo on the counter: you can use it to make calls as long as it’s properly configured.
  • Find the right countertop height: The countertop height should be 32”-34” from the floor and have a knee clearance of 27”. A wall-mounted sink is a good option if you need to use an assistive device like a wheelchair; in this case, installing shelves underneath is not recommended.
  • Watch out for clutter: Keep only the essentials you reach for every day on the countertop, like soap and a toothbrush.
  • Add an organizer to cabinets: If you do have cabinets, consider getting a shelf organizer. Companies like ShelfGenie will professionally install them, or a lazy susan can also be an easy, inexpensive solution.
  • Get easy-to-grip knobs: Get cabinet knobs with texture, like this Andrex Offset Cabinet Knob. 
  • Look for a shallow sink: Look for a shallow sink that is less than 6”. A touchless sensor faucet with motion detection can be a good option for memory impairment.

Shower & Bathtub Design

  • Work with a professional: The majority of falls happen in the shower or bathtub. If you’re concerned about yours, the best thing to do is to find a contractor with experience building for aging in place. BestBath makes excellent, accessible bathroom products for older adults. You can find a dealer who carries them near you on their website.
  • Get a walk-in, barrier-free shower: The shower should have no barrier or raised edge when walking in; ideally, it would be level with the ground, though this isn’t always possible if a threshold is needed to keep water in. You should have a 5 ft. turning radius in the shower.
  • Go for tempered glass: We recommend a tempered glass door instead of curtains because they provide support if you need to hold on to something in the shower. Be sure to get tempered glass vs. standard glass, like these Delavin Frameless Shower Doors, which are less likely to shatter in the unlikely event it breaks.
  • Find a universally designed bathtub: If you’re open to getting a new tub, look for something universally designed that has a door to enter in, like this Walk-in Whirlpool Tub. The low-step entry makes it easy to get in and out, and they can normally be installed in your existing space. If you’re looking for a lighter solution, you can add a bathtub transfer bench to your existing tub, like this one from Carex.

Stability in the Shower

  • Add a shower stool: If minimal seating support is needed, you can add a well-made teak shower stool, like this Teak Shower Bench from AquaTeak, which is a good option for someone resistant to adding support to their shower. But if you’re in need of a more supportive option, we recommend a standard heavy-duty shower chair. For a more permanent option, a wood or tile shower bench can also be built into your shower.
  • Install grab bars: It can be helpful to have 2-3 grab bars in the shower. Be sure to get drill-installed grab bars instead of suction bars and have them installed professionally so they are mounted securely in the wall, ideally aligned with studs. We like the options from Vive Store.
  • Prevent in-shower slips: Keep the shower flooring level with the overall bathroom flooring, and then paint on SlipDoctors Fiberglass Bathroom Coating, which helps make the shower non-slip without a mat.

Shower Items

  • Get a flexible, handheld shower head: We recommend having a flexible, handheld shower head built in at an easy-to-use height. Ideally, the shower controls should be positioned near the shower entrance in case you need assistance. They should be at a height where you can operate them without having to bend or reach for them.
  • Look into an anti-scalding device: Burns in the shower or bathtubs are not uncommon, so another good addition is an anti-scalding device. GROHE’s CoolTouch Thermostatic Shower System is a state-of-the-art system that regulates temperature to prevent scalding. A less expensive option is a handheld showerhead with a built-in thermometer that displays the temperature like this model from YOO.MEE. There are also inexpensive aftermarket devices that can be attached to your old plumbing.
  • Avoid clutter: Make sure your shower is not cluttered, and keep the few items you need on a built-in shelf, which is the sturdiest option, or in a shower organizer. Never keep items on the floor. If you’re going for an organizer, we recommend one that is mounted to the wall and easy to reach in the corner of the shower.


  • Find the right height: The proper height for a toilet is 17” to 19” from the floor, including the seat. Your feet should comfortably touch the ground.
  • Add space under the toilet bowl: There should be 9” of clearance from the floor to the bottom of the toilet bowl.
  • Install grab bars on both sides: Add professionally-installed grab bars to both sides to help you get up as needed. In the event you need more support than grab bars, you could add a free-standing toilet frame. If you need to make the toilet taller, you can add a raised toilet seat.
  • Keep the toilet paper holder close: BestBath recommends having the toilet paper holder on the nearest wall at a minimum of 19” above the floor and a maximum of 36” from the back wall. A partial in-wall holder can also help keep space clear.
  • Explore high-tech toilets: Popular in Japan, high-tech toilets like this EPLO smart toilet can be a good option. Many come with a built-in night light and a foot sensor for flushing.

Doorway & Cabinets

  • Create a wider doorway opening: If you’re renovating the bathroom and altering the door, it’s best to go wider than usual and opt for an opening that’s at least 32” in width so that any assistive device can get through.
  • Add assistive grab bars: In addition to having grab bars near the toilet and in the shower, there should also be 1-2 near the doorway to make it easy to get in and out of the room.
  • Make sure the door is easy to open: Make sure the door is easy to open; levers are typically easier to open than knobs. You can retrofit the door to open to the outside or consider installing pocket doors. You can also install an automatic swing door opener.
  • Avoid sills: Door sills or thresholds can make the transition from the bathroom to the next space more dangerous. If possible, have them removed to keep floor height consistent.

Extra Amenities

  • Wall mount the hairdryer: For someone who dries their hair often, this is easier than digging into a cabinet. This Conair Wall-Mounted Dryer is an inexpensive option.
  • Add underfloor heating: Though it can be pricey, a heated floor is a great luxury to make the bathroom more comfortable.
  • Consider a heated toilet seat: Adding a heated toilet seat like this Brondell seat is a less expensive way to add warmth. As a bonus, these typically come with a nightlight.
  • Warm towels with a heated rail: If you’re redoing a bathroom, this can be another good addition to make it more comfortable. Many come with automatic switches that shut off when they’re not in use.