How to Design a Safe, Modern Bathroom for the Elderly & Physically Disabled
Holidays are not the only time of year when guests may stay over, and aging doesn't make the traveling process (or anything for that matter) any easier. This includes bathing, something incredibly simple but also potentially dangerous for the elderly and the physically disabled. Accordingly, one of the most welcoming and valuable additions you can make to your home is in your bathroom, where several senior-friendly modifications can be made fairly easily.
We're not kidding: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of three seniors aged 65 and older fall every year and medical costs directly related to those falls amounts to $30 billion annually as of December 2014. If you are elderly or your household hosts elderly guests, then making one of your bathrooms senior-friendly is a beneficial home improvement project to undertake.
8 Tips for Creating a Senior-Friendly Bathroom
The reason bathrooms are a focus of this stems from the fact that they are private spaces, meaning your Aunt Mildred is isolated from help in the event of an accident, and because they can pose a hazard to anyone due to the ample amount of slipper surfaces they have. Here is how you can combat this:
1. Non-Slip Bathroom Mats
One of the least expensive and minimally invasive actions you can take is add non-slip mats inside and outside the shower. This prevents people from stepping on wet, slippery tiles and also helps provide a visual cue for elderly relatives who may have poor depth perception. You may also want to consider placing a non-slip mat or adhesive strips near the sink, as this is another area where tiles may become wet.
2. Grab Bars
Seniors who have poor balance may attempt to steady themselves by grabbing something like a towel rack, shower curtain rod, or wall-mounted sink, none of which are designed to hold a person’s weight. To give your relatives something sturdy to hold onto, you should install grab bars (which can be either permanent or temporary) on the shower wall and on the wall around the toilet area. Look for grip-resistant grab bars and make sure they are firmly bolted to the wall (rather than just selecting grab bars with suction cups). For tubs, look for grab bars that can be directly mounted onto the tub rim.
"[Seniors can] make their homes safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in their homes," (CDC.gov, 12/30/14)
3. Tension Pole
An alternative to grab bars is the tension pole, a floor-to-ceiling metal rod that can be installed near the shower or toilet in your bathroom to give elderly relatives another supportive structure. Many people with newer acrylic or fiberglass tubs choose to install a tension pole because tub-mounted grab bars can crack the tub.
4. Proper Lighting
Visiting relatives may not be familiar with the location of your bathroom light and may struggle to find it if they have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. To avoid this problem, make sure that you have installed a reliable nightlight (LED nightlights are a good choice). Make sure that you also have nightlights in the hallway to provide a clear path to the bathroom.
5. Raised Toilet Seat
If your visiting relative has trouble raising and lowering themselves onto a standard-height toilet, consider installing an ADI-compliant raised toilet seat. You’ll want to choose a seat with brackets or some kind of locking mechanism in order to securely attach it to the toilet rim. You may also want to choose a raised toilet seat with attached grab bars for additional safety.
ADA-compliant bathroom design by Design Builders, Inc.
6. First Floor Access
You don’t want to make grandma or grandpa walk up the stairs every time they need to make a bathroom visit, so your home should have at least one bathroom that they are able to use on the first floor. If you don’t have one, you may want to consider a remodel to add one or install a chair lift for easier access to the second floor.
7. Room to Maneuver
Seniors who have difficulty moving around will find the cramped spaces of many older bathrooms difficult to get around, and if there is a grandparent using a wheelchair, this can even make it impossible to use certain spaces without help. If you’re planning a remodel to help accommodate these new needs, make sure your bathroom is wheelchair accessible and there is enough space around the toilet, bathtub, and any cabinets or closets.
8. Shower Seat
If you only have a shower available, then consider installing a shower seat, allowing your guest to sit and focus on bathing without worries about falling over. Another way to make bathing easier is to include an adjustable, hand-held shower head, which can be brought down to sitting level if needed.
A custom bathroom remodel can make your relatives’ holiday visit safer and more comfortable, but an ADA-compliant bathroom design for homeowners in Maryland and Virginia can come down to much more. By making your home more livable for yourself or your relatives, you can improve your day-to-day life as well.