A Safe Bathroom for the Elderly
Live-in care is the ideal standard in elderly support. Your loved one gets full-time care in the confines of their own home. This allows them to maintain their normal routines and live independently. It’s increasingly associated with better health outcomes.
However, living at home may pose a range of risks to the elderly, most especially in the bathroom. If your loved one has balance and mobility problems, they may be more prone to bathroom falls and injuries. Luckily, you can embark on bathroom remodeling with the safety of your elderly loved one in mind. Read on for more insight.
Things to Take into Account for Setting up a Safe Bathroom for an Elderly Person
While preparing to set up the bathroom, there are several elements that you should mull over before doing installations and placements. For example, you should consider non-slip flooring options to prevent falls, particularly when wet.
You must also find out whether the elderly person has any physical impairment. For example, do they use a wheelchair? Knowing this information beforehand is significant because it affects the ultimate design and construction of the bathroom.
If the elderly person uses a wheelchair, you must inquire about the brand, size, and design of the wheelchair. This will ultimately allow you to incorporate wheelchair compatibility in your design plans.
Here’s how the bathroom should look like:
The elderly should have an easier time accessing the bathroom without any dangerous barriers. Shower gels, toothpaste, and drugs, for example, may crowd the room, especially in a small bathroom space. Most times, these products end up getting knocked over to the floor.
When this happens, you will need to bend over and pick up the item, which is not easy when you’re aged. Such activities may result in loss of balance.
Loose rugs or shoes around the bathroom may also lead to fall accidents. To be on the safe side, make sure the bathroom is clutter-free and has ample room for walking around.
· Clear Demarcation
Consider demarcating different sections of the bathroom using contrasting colors. Don’t use high-gloss paints as they cast a bewildering glare. Instead, opt for matte ones to enhance visual perception.
· Proper Lighting
Overhead lighting is often mistakenly considered the best form of bathroom illumination. The problem is that it casts shadows and doesn’t illuminate all areas equally. For example, spaces behind shower curtains, underneath cabinets, and so on. This poses a huge problem for the elderly that may not have good eyesight.
Include multiple lights for proper bathroom lighting. Ideally, add separate lights adjacent to the shower, mirror, sink, and especially the pathway leading into the bathroom.
· Flat Entrance
Make sure the bathroom/shower entrance doesn’t have any hump or limp that the elderly person has to step over before entering or going out.
When picking the ideal bathroom door for your aged loved one, consider these three tips:
· Wheelchair Accessibility
An elderly person in a wheelchair should be able to access the bathroom without much difficulty. If you’re wondering about the ideal dimensions for a wheelchair-compatible door, you should refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. It stipulates that the door should be at least 32 inches wide with a maximum opening depth of 24 inches.
· Sliding Doors
Opt for sliding doors as they don’t require a lot of force to open or shut. They also don’t slam behind. Ideally, the sliding door should measure at least 32 inches in width.
· Lever Knobs
The elderly will have an easier time using lever knobs compared to twisting knobs. This is because they don’t need much force applied when opening. For persons suffering from arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to install door knobs that they can grip easily due to fragile hand articulation.
Falls account for the majority of disability cases among the elderly. More than one-third of people aged 65 years and above are involved in fall accidents every year. And at least half of such incidents are recurring. The hazard significantly increases among those with a history of preceding falls or cognitive impairment. Having a safe bathroom floor helps avoid the risk of dangerous falling for the elderly.
Here’s how you need to set up the bathroom floors to avoid falls:
· Non-slip Material
The majority of falls happen when getting in and out of the shower or bathtub. This area is often exposed to plenty of soap and water and thus a very slippery spot. This is the ideal spot to put an anti-slip mat. Other areas include the bathroom entrance or in front of the toilet seat.
A permanent solution would be to replace your existing bathroom floor tiles with slip-resistant tiles. Some of the best non-slip flooring options include:
· Cementitious boards.
· Rubberized floors.
· Floor Color
The elderly often grapple with poor eyesight. This means you have to create clear color contrast between your choice of flooring and wall color. For instance, opt for a darker color for the floor to contrast your white-colored wall.
Rugs are not recommended for elderly-friendly bathrooms due to their soft and slippery material. However, if you deem them indispensable for your bathroom, consider installing the ones with rubber underneath to ensure maximum stability.
Toilets for the Elderly
Height is an important factor when looking for the right toilet for your elderly loved one. According to ADA height recommendations, a toilet with a height of 17 to 19 inches is preferable.
A higher than average toilet seat does away with the need to squat the additional distance. During installation, make sure the toilet is securely attached to the floor and wall. Also, the right toilet seat should leave a bit of space on the sides, where you can install a grab bar.
The ability to remain balanced when using the toilet or taking a shower is an aspect that you don’t stop to think about. However, this capability diminishes with age. This is why grab bars come in handy.
The importance of grab bars for elderly bathrooms cannot be underestimated. A key safety installation is well-placed grab bars that are attached to the wall using suction cups or metal studs. They help avoid fall incidents due to loss of balance. Your aged loved one simply needs to grab the well-placed bars, which can support their full weight.
So, what are the best areas to install grab bars?
· Adjacent to the toilet seat.
· Along empty wall spaces with lots of traffic.
According to ADA recommendations, grab bars are best installed between 33 and 36 inches above the flooring. Plus, they should be at least 36 inches lengthwise. While these regulations don’t apply to private homes, they guarantee the utmost safety for bathrooms being used by the elderly.
When it comes to faucets, you have a variety of options that are elderly-friendly. Because of mobility issues, you want to choose a faucet that doesn’t need hand manipulation or gripping to activate. In this regard, choose the ones with electric sensors as they make the process of water activation trouble-free for the seniors.
The best washing station for seniors is a shower box. A bathtub isn’t a good option because of its inherent dangers, including tripping, falling, and drowning.
A shower box is an enclosed shower made from panels that have been joined together. It is mounted at floor level with no form of elevation. This makes it ideal for persons struggling with mobility issues.
Here are some of the features of a good shower box:
· Provides ample space for a second person like a caregiver.
· Features several showerheads, which gives a caregiver an easy time when helping an elderly person to bathe. To enhance the bathing experience even further, you can incorporate a handheld shower featuring a long nose to help with easy maneuverability and less need for bending.
· A collapsible stool, if possible with rubber leg tips. This allows your aged loved one to sit and enjoy long baths.
· Getting rid of a curb makes the shower enclosure an equal opportunity space for everyone from grandparents to grandkids.
· It should allow ample space to mount a grab bar to prevent slip and fall incidents among seniors while showering.
· Also, consider installing an emergency button next to the shower enclosure in case of an accident.
Even with the abovementioned safety installations, the elderly could still suffer accidents in the bathroom. In case they do, the presence of emergency buttons or alarms comes in handy to alert the caregiver or other family members for quick first-aid action. Consider placing the emergency buzzer near the shower, toilet, and door for the elderly using the bathroom.
The Bottom Line
Failing eyesight, diminished muscle strength, and several other physical ailments that affect the elderly make bathrooms a highly accident-prone space. With the aforementioned bathroom changes, you can significantly reduce the risks of accidents and afford peace of mind to your aged loved one.
Essentially, it will help them live autonomously and confidently within their own home. Remember to share your bathroom remodeling ideas with the elderly person so that they can agree to or raise any objections about the design plans.