Remodeling a Bathroom for Elder Safety: 7 Things to Include

Did you know that falls among seniors happen more often in the bathroom than in any other location in the household? There are simply too many hazards that can trip up a senior. From slippery floors, bath mats, tall tubs, to dim lighting. These features must be altered for the safety of everyone in the household, especially seniors. By exploring some simple changes, you can help your entire family feel more comfortable in the space as a result.

Walk-In Ease

Install a walk-in tub or alter the shower curb to a lower point on the floor. Today’s bathroom options are vast, and they cater to the senior crowd. By removing the high curb around the tub or shower, you can reduce the risk of falls. These falls are all too often accompanied by a period of immobility on the floor as well. Unfortunately, many seniors who fall without any injury cannot pull themselves up and have to wait for help. Allowing seniors to walk into the tub or shower improves the safety and decreases the risk of falling.

Strategic Grab Bars

Grab bars installed along the inside and outside of the shower and near the toilet improve the safety of everyone using the bathroom. They proved a sturdy handhold when stepping into and out of the tub, or getting on and off of the toilet. These bars should be connected to the wood beams called studs hidden within your walls. Properly installed grab bars secured into the studs, provide excellent support and improve safety when moving around in the bathroom.

The positioning of grab bars can be customized based on your height, comfort level, and space.

Raised Toilet Seats

Crouching down to sit on a regular toilet seat is often difficult for many seniors. Several options exist to improve safety with toileting. Two of the most common are comfort height toilets and raised toilet seats. Both will increase the height of the toilet and decrease the distance needed to squat down to a seated position. Besides being uncomfortable, you may not have the strength to safely place yourself on the seat or get back to a standing position. Adding a comfort height toilet or a raised toilet seat to the bathroom is an improvement that can be well worth the money. Maintaining the ability to go to the bathroom unassisted helps with confidence and safety and prolongs the ability to age in place.

Ample Lighting

Being able to see in the bathroom might be a challenge to seniors. Darkened- areas become hazards as a misstep can lead to a fall. A few simple options include the following: connecting all of the lights in the bathroom to a common switch, installing a motion-sensor, and installing LED night lights. The key is to make the bathroom as light as possible, with as little effort as possible required from the person entering the bathroom.

Lightweight Rugs Removed

Falls frequently occur when you are hurrying into the bathroom. You aren’t paying close attention, or racing due to urgency, which can lead to tripping on rugs or carpets. To minimize these occurrences, remove any lightweight rugs. These decor options may be inexpensive, but they’re too loose as flooring choices. If you must put down a rug, choose a heavyset type with a rubber backing that doesn’t move or curl at the edges, or use a heavy duty double sided tape to help keep the mat in place.

Temperature Control on Water

Scalding water can burn if not correctly adjusted when installed. Take the hot-water hazard out of the household by installing a temperature-control sensor at the hot-water heater. Set the temperature for a warm shower, but without an option of a higher setting, which may cause injury. Seniors who cannot sense temperature as well as they used to can be perfect candidates for this bathroom upgrade.

Handheld Shower Nozzles

Standard showerheads may be too tall or cover too small of an area as seniors try to rinse off their hair and bodies. Consider a simple installation of a handheld showerhead. The shower head slides off of the clamp and can be used standing or sitting to ensure you are able to rinse everywhere safely.

Before starting any remodeling project consider your goals and your budget. Often times there is no need to pull apart the entire bathroom to make important safety improvements. If you need help determining what needs to be improved or upgraded to maximize safety and efficiency, Occupational Therapists and Certified Aging in Place professionals can evaluate your space and provide you with options. By being proactive and aware of the factors that contribute to falls in the home, you can best prepare to age in your home for as long as possible.

Carylanne Crowne is a contributing writer and the media specialist for Re-Bath. She regularly writes for home renovation and senior citizen blogs.

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