Of all the rooms in the family home, one room needs more attention than any of the others for anyone who plans to age in place.
The bathroom is the culprit. This makes sense given the risk of slips and falls while bathing or showering. Hard surfaces such as ceramic tile floors and showers are not bone-friendly. Here are some suggestions for minimizing the risks while increasing comfort in this essential room.
The changes required to make a bathroom age-friendly can be divided into two main groups as follows:
Design & Contractor work
All of these suggestions are typically best handled by a contractor unless a family member is particularly skilled
Before using a bathroom conveniently it is necessary to have clear access. Anyone who is aging* in place will probably require a wheelchair or walker now or at some point in the future. Installing a wheel-chair accessible doorway is a basic design feature for bathrooms. Also, the transition piece between floor surfaces such as a hallway and bathroom should be will flat to eliminate bumps and trip hazards. This is especially true if the person has had surgery such as a hip replacement. A small bump that would not bother a younger person becomes a pain point for the patient at home.
Another design feature that improves home safety is a “zero clearance” shower entrance or bathtub cut-out. Both methods eliminate or reduce the chance of tripping when entering or exiting a tub/shower.
Simple Add-ons (self-help)
All of these suggestions can be handled by a family member, friend or handyman.
Access: Replace the locking door handle with a simple, “passage set”. This speeds up the help process if the person has a bathroom emergency. It is best to install a straight-handled version, not a round door-knob since handles are easier to manipulate than rounded knobs, especially if the person suffers from arthritis.
Add a strong nite light, a motion-detection light and possibly a battery-powered push light in the hallway. A 2-watt nite light “made in China” is not sufficient. Replace original, incandescent vanity lights with bright LED lighting. Chances are your loved one may also suffer from diminished vision now or in the future, if they are aging-in-place.
Install grab bars at strategic points such as next to the toilet and in the shower or tub. It is possible to use suction-cup grab bars (vacuum mounted) in some situations, eliminating the need for drilling and mounting. Amazon has a variety of these products available. Do not expect to use towel racks as grab bars since they cannot support the weight of a falling person.
Cover hard surfaces with rubberized mats, both in and out of the tub. Use adhesive-backed tub decals to supplement the mats.
install a raised toilet seat, toilet frame and shower seat, as necessary.
The following video incorporates some of these suggestions in a clear demonstration of practical tips. Since this post is being published on July 1st (Canada Day), this video features a local Canadian organization (Saint Elizabeth) that has been helping seniors for 110 years.
What resources would you like to suggest for helping seniors?
* You may notice some Canadian spelling in these posts. The words may look odd but that’s how we spell them. We’re used to it.
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Unless otherwise credited, all posts are happily authored with a quill pen …
Paul Ferri, Broker, ASA (Accredited Senior Agent)
RE/MAX Unique Inc. Brokerage*, Toronto, Canada
*Each office independently owned and operated.