Using a bathroom safely and effectively can become more difficult as you age. It may be hard to get up from the toilet, get in and out of the shower or use the faucet.
For people who have lost their strength and mobility, it is even more important to have an accessible bathroom that poses no safety risk. Unfortunately, injuries in the bathroom are more prevalent in senior populations. It is therefore very important that bathrooms for seniors are accessible and safe.
The good news is much progress has been made in senior-friendly bathrooms in recent years. Remodeling ranges from simple things like replacing a showerhead with a sprayer attachment to more complicated tasks like installing a walk-in bath. You may be able to do some of these remodeling jobs yourself, but others need to be done by professionals. The changes you need to make depend on the mobility and strength of the person using the bathroom. Work out what remodeling adjustments you need to make by reading the following.
Remodeling for DIYers
Remodeling a bathroom to be accessible can be expensive. However, there are a number of improvements you can do yourself to make a bathroom easier and safer for the elderly to use. Even if you need professionals to install larger modifications, you can still save some pennies by doing the following:
- Install Grab Bars – Bathrooms are more easily accessible to seniors if they are fitted with grab bars to hold on to. By installing grab bars in the shower, in the bathtub and next to the toilet, elderly people can stay steady on their feet.
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- Install a Transfer Chair – As people get older, it will be harder to get in and out of the bathtub. One solution to this is to purchase a transfer chair and place it directly next to the tub. This allows the bather to sit on the chair and then move into the bathtub with ease. In addition, good transfer chairs have legs with rubber tips to prevent slipping. Some are designed to swivel, for additional ease of use. Transfer chairs or benches can also make using the shower easier.
- Change the Door Handles – It can be tricky for older people to grasp small components of door handles and knobs. This does not just apply to the bathroom door, it is important to have the right knobs on cabinets and other items too. Large, easy-to-use knobs or handles are best.
Remodeling for Contractors
It is best to hire a professional for other bathroom remodeling features unless you happen to be particularly adept at DIY. Professional help may be particularly useful if you need to make adjustments to your home for a disabled senior. Here are some ways a contractor can make a bathroom more accessible and safer:
- Widening Doorways – This allows easy access for people with walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. Doors should be widened to between 32 and 36 inches.
- Install a Walk-in Shower – If a senior finds it difficult to get in and out of the bath, then it may be best to replace it with a shower. Even if there is already a shower in the bathroom, you can make it more accessible and safer by replacing it with a walk-in one. Installing a curbless shower is also a lifesaver for seniors who cannot lift their legs. This type of shower often comes with a shower seat, so it is simple to move from a wheelchair into the shower.
- Raise or Replace the Sink – If a senior is in a wheelchair, then a sink can be raised or lowered so the chair can fit below it. The sink needs to be open and wide and the height should be between 30 and 34 inches. In addition, if the user of the bathroom has trouble bending over, then the sink could be raised even higher to about 40 inches. Some elderly people may find it easier to use a lowered sink, especially if they are unable to straighten their backs.
Remodeling for Professional Contractors and Skillful DIYers
Depending on your proficiency in DIY, there are some other bathroom remodeling jobs you may be able to do. However, it is best to hire a professional contractor if you have any doubt in your abilities or are unsure of any procedures. Here are some modifications you or a contractor can make:
- Raising the height of a toilet can make all the difference to seniors. Even a small height adjustment like three inches can create greater ease for elderly people. Typically, toilets are heightened by five to seven inches though. This makes it much easier to stand up after using the toilet. There are two options for raising the height of a toilet. It can be replaced with a taller toilet or the toilet seat can be replaced with an adjustable version.
- Nonslip surfacing or resurfacing. If the bathroom has a floor made from glossy tiles, marble or another slippery material, it is a good idea to replace the flooring with a nonslip surface. This allows seniors to stay upright and out of harm’s way. Placing a non-slip mat in the shower is also crucial.
- Installing lever faucets means elderly people do not have to struggle with turning and twisting taps. There are lots of different styles available, including faucets that can be operated by foot. Installing a new faucet is a lot easier than it used to be but if your plumbing skills are not up to it, hire a professional plumber.
- Adding a sprayer attachment to the showerhead is a good idea as well. Bathing is much easier when you can detach the showerhead and hold it in your hand. It also means seniors can sit down while showering, which allows them to be more independent.
- Installing a walk-in bathtub means elderly people have easier access than with traditional tubs. There are many different types of pre-fabricated units on the market. Once you purchase the style you want, it can be installed by a professional.
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