At some point, many of us will need to welcome a parent or loved one into our home. Providing an environment that is both comfortable and safe for their needs requires planning. Since many elderly people struggle with mobility and balance, the bathroom can be particularly challenging with its hard, often wet surfaces.
When retrofitting your bathroom, you should consider:
- How difficult is it for your family member to bend down?
- Do they struggle with getting up and down from a seated position?
- How high can they reach their arms above their head?
- How is their overall balance?
- What is their general level of awareness for their surroundings?
- Are they able to navigate independently?
Designing a bathroom that is functional, comfortable and safe for your loved one requires a bit of work, but there are some minor modifications you can make that require little effort.
Add a raised seat to the toilet.
For people who have difficulty sitting down or standing up, adding a few extra inches of height to the toilet seat can help. It locks right onto to your standard toilet and the attached handles provide extra stability for the transition on and off the toilet. The seat is infused with Microban antimicrobial protection which helps it resist mold, mildew and germs. (Disclaimer: These antimicrobial properties are built-in to protect the product. This product does not protect users or others against bacteria, viruses, germs, or other disease organisms. Always clean this product thoroughly after each use.)
Keep a reacher nearby.
Avoid having your loved one reach for towels or other items that are either too high or low to access comfortably. Provide a high-quality reacher. It adds 31 inches of extra reach plus an easy-to-grip handle, allowing them to access what they need - without always having to ask for help.
Install an assist bar.
If your loved one occasionally feels unsteady in the shower, a quick to install assist bar may be a good fit. The suction cups make the bar easy to place where you need it; no drilling through tile or walls. A convenient lock indicator makes it clear when the lock is engaged and secured.
Mount a sturdy grab bar.
The assist bar works well for just a little steadying, but what if your loved one needs a handle to grip for more support? A sturdy, well-placed grab bar is a better fit in those situations. Anchored directly into the wall, it allows your loved one to grasp it firmly and support more of their weight (up to 250 lbs.). These are straightforward to mount, but if you haven’t installed one before, work with a contractor to be sure it is securely and appropriately attached.
Use a bath or transfer bench.
If your family member finds it difficult to stand for the duration of their showers, a bath bench can help make showering more comfortable. The sturdy bench has slip-resistant rubber feet to help keep it in place on a wet tub or shower floor. The bench is also lightweight, and when not in use, can be disassembled quickly to tuck away in a cabinet or closet.
If your shower is part of a tub unit, a transfer bench can help make the transition in and out of the tub go more smoothly. Because the bench bridges the tub wall, your loved one can sit and move across into the shower easily. The bench can be assembled with the back and side armrest on either side of the bench to accommodate your tub’s layout.
Install toilet safety rails.
Safety rails provide extra support when using the toilet. The soft rail grips are comfortable on the hands. The rails are on legs that can be raised or lowered to provide optimal height for ease of use. The legs have non-slip tips to help keep the rails in place when in use.
Remove obstacles from the path.
Clear the walking area in your bathroom. Take out rugs, trash baskets and any decorative items that could be tripped over. Maximizing the floor space can help your loved one navigate easier, especially if they need to use a cane or rollator for support.
Move the necessities a little closer.
If your loved one is unsure about getting to the bathroom alone or in the middle of the night, a portable commode they can use in their bedroom just may be the solution. Easy to assemble, it allows them to address their needs without leaving the bedroom.
Consider talking to a design accessibility professional.
A professional designer will have additional ideas and recommendations for making the bathroom work better for your loved one. They can also provide insight into what might be involved in making more structural types of changes to accommodate evolving needs. In the meantime, the addition of a few supportive elements and a few simple changes in your bathroom can go a long way towards creating a safe and comfortable home environment for your loved one.