Making the Senior Bathroom Safe, Smart and Attractive
Falls are the cause of one-half of all accidental deaths in the home. The majority of these at-home falls occur in the bathroom, and the risk of falling increases with age. That’s why a home’s value can increase by upgrading the bath to a barrier-free room which is safe and accessible for everyone.
Here are some of the things you can do to create a “Smart Bath” in your loved one’s home, and we’re not just talking about smart technology, also about smart furnishings with various options. With a medical alert button nearby and smart watches designed for older adults, help can be summoned at a moment’s notice.
Let’s start with replacing or converting the toilet to one that, especially for people with limited mobility, stroke victims or paralyzed individuals, is easier to rise from without assistance. Toilets can be replaced with approved comfort-height models that provide safety and ease of use. A washlet can be added on top of an existing toilet and can be programmed to accommodate different users with a front and back washing and drying feature and hands-free flushing, all operated by remote control. There are comfort-height toilets that have a built-in bidet with the same features.
Standard tub/shower units may be uncomfortably high for the elderly and disabled to step over and too low to sit down into for bathing. They can be replaced with a customized wet room or shower to suit individual needs and preferences.
Seats can also be added to an existing tub or shower. (see photo). A portable shower seat is sometimes preferable for people with limited mobility when the shower area is limited. For the wheelchair bound, a wet room offers open space that permits a rolling shower chair to be placed anywhere in the shower area. Either design will provide safety and ease of use for the client and caregiver who might be assisting with bathing and grooming.
All grab bars should be properly installed and anchored into reinforced walls in order to support a minimum of 250 pounds of force when the anchors are at either end of the grab bar. Promenaid.com manufactures grab bars and rails that can be anchored anywhere along a wall and be customized to any length because anchors can be clipped into a track which allows for anchoring anywhere on the wall where studs are located. Grab bars are used for support in lifting oneself up or navigating a short distance, i.e. lifting one’s self up from a wheelchair and to stand and shower. Rails are used for continuous movement in a bathroom like moving from the tub to the shower because they provide safety, security and stability. (see attached photo showing a tub and continuous rail.)
Doorways should be widened to 915 mm or 36 inches wherever possible providing passage for all users regardless of abilities.
An interior designer who is also a Certified Aging Place Specialist (CAPS) provides expertise when designing or remodeling environments such as bathrooms for older adults.