Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"The Bathroom & Kitchen Share A Dubious Distinction"

The bathroom and kitchen are the two most popular rooms in the home. Go home shopping, watch any of the home improvement or decorating shows on TV, search the home decor sites on the web, talk with a real estate agent or builder, and the common focus is kitchens and baths. This is understandable. There are more activities conducted here and more moving parts in these rooms in terms of fixtures, appliances, and features.

In addition to being the most popular two rooms in a home, they also share another distinction - they are the most dangerous. In the kitchen, we have to be ever vigilant. There are sharp objects in many forms that can cut us (knife blades and numerous sharp-edged objects for starters), hard ones that we could drop on our feet (such as cans and frozen objects falling from the freezer shelf), things that can burn us (when we touch them or ingest them), and many other ways that we can subject ourselves to injury or discomfort in the kitchen. It should be posted as a hazardous work zone.

As dangerous as the kitchen is to us when we are trying to be careful, imagine the perils that exist for children or people with cognitive difficulties that are not constantly aware of their surroundings or act a little carelessly around objects that can harm them. Diligence is demanded in the kitchen. It can provide many pleasurable experiences for us, but there is potential harm constantly lurking for us in the kitchen.

Then we move on to the bathroom. The bathroom is generally a smaller space in the home with less seemingly risk. There is no heat source such as a cooktop or oven, but there is hot water.  There is no food preparation, so generally there is a low risk of getting cut or having heavy objects fall on us. Nevertheless, we can cut ourselves while shaving, by bumping into the sharp edge of a mirror, by running into a sharp corner, or by inadvertently kicking or an object.

The real danger in the bath is falling. More injuries occur in the bath than anywhere else in the home, and more of them are serious. This is particularly tru for seniors. Many falls lead to permanent disability or death. It is not to be taken lightly.

While the kitchen may provide more opportunities for potential harm because of the many activities that occur there and the variety of tools, appliances, and packaging that is used there, the bathroom turns out to be the riskier room in the home.  

It's unfortunate that the two areas of the home that are the most interesting to us, where the greatest attention is paid, where more decorating and design opportunities exist, and what captures our attention in looking for a new home or considering how to adapt our current living space, are the two areas that cause us the most difficulty in terms of potential injury - even very serious injury.

We need both of these rooms, and we certainly require the functions and activities that occur in each. The challenge is making them safer to use. This can happen many ways. First is just a general awareness that falls, cuts, and other injuries are possible - even that they are likely to occur. Knowing this lets us take extra precautions.

Additionally, we can engage in less risky behavior to the extent possible. We can be diligent about conducting our activities in a safe way. Accidents can still happen. Looking for where, how, and why they can happen will help remove some of the risk.

We want - and expect - our homes to be comfortable and enjoyable. We don't need or want them to cause us harm or injury. Being extra careful - especially in the kitchen and bathroom - and looking for ways to help insulate our clients from this additional risk should be a primary focus of ours.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.