Remodeling your bathroom is one of the most effective ways to make your house safer for older adults. But what does that mean in practice? How can you remodel your bathroom to make it safer for an elderly relative? Thankfully, these are all relatively simple changes that make a lot of difference regarding safety, accessibility, and comfort.
Grab Bars in Shower, Tub, and Toilet
First, let’s look at safety in the shower and tub. You might assume that these are the most dangerous areas of the bathroom, but the truth is that most issues arise from the toilet. Having grab bars in the shower and the tub will make getting in and out much easier for anyone with reduced mobility. For example, if you are remodeling a shower, put bars on both sides of the shower and in the middle. If you are remodeling a tub, you may want to consider a tub to shower conversion, as many older people prefer to shower for safety.
Grab bars around the toilet will be dependent on the toilet’s placement. You may need a self-supporting support system that surrounds the toilet instead of installing grab bars on a wall.
A Handle on Everything
Another aspect of making everything easier to grip is adding handles to anything you can. Handles are very important in the bathroom since so many objects are too small to be gripped with fingers or that difficult to grasp with arthritic hands. Put handles on cabinet doors, drawers, and shower doors. Consider swapping out the faucet handles on the sink and shower or tub. Another good idea is to install a toilet paper holder that is easier to use.
Ensure Your Toilet Flushes Easily
If your aging grandmother has issues with her knees, hands, or balance, she might have trouble reaching the toilet. To prevent potential falls, you can install a toilet seat riser that brings the toilet higher to the person’s hips. This is a really easy way to make the toilet easier and safer for everyone.
If your grandmother has a mobility impairment, you can also install a toilet that is easier for her to flush. For example, you can replace the flush lever with a button that she can push with her foot.
Wide Doors and Walkways
The bathroom doors and walkways are important areas to consider, both for the toilet and the shower. Many people have trouble getting their bodies in and out of the shower. One way to make that easier is to widen the path between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. This can be as simple as removing the shower curtain and using a rod closer to the walls. Another option is to remove a wall or add a door. On that note, you should also ensure that the bathroom doors are wide enough to be used by a wheelchair or walker. The typical width of these devices is 28 or 29 inches, but many bathroom doors are too narrow to accommodate them.
A Handheld Shower Head
Finally, the shower head. This is a small but important detail. Many older people find that the pressure from a typical shower head is too strong. If your relative has arthritis, this can be especially painful. A hand-held shower head is a much lower-pressure option that is much more comfortable for many people. In addition to reducing pain and discomfort, a hand-held shower head is a lot easier for people with mobility issues. It is a simple change that will make a big difference in the bathroom.
Beyond Tubs and Showers
Beyond the tub and shower, there are a few other things that you can do to improve the bathroom. One is to change the light fixtures. People with vision impairments often have trouble finding a light switch in a new house since they’re not always where they expect them to be. Another option is to replace all the light fixtures with light bulbs with a light-emitting diode (LED) inside. New flooring may provide a more secure surface for older folks to walk while still wet from a shower. Installing a shower seat and a bench or chair outside the shower may make showering easier for an older relative who has balance issues or can’t stand for long periods.
Finally, the most important thing to remember when remodeling your bathroom is to keep it simple. You don’t need to go overboard to add every safety feature under the sun. Adding a few key elements will make a big difference in the bathroom’s usability and your grandmother’s comfort. Remember that your grandmother is probably not as agile or strong as you are. If she has trouble reaching things, has poor vision, or has arthritis, these easy changes will make her life much easier.