Tips for Designing Bathrooms When Aging at Home
If you or a loved one plan on aging in the home, it is important to think about the bathroom when remodeling to age in place. Every year, about 235,000 people visit the emergency room from injuries in the bathroom. Furthermore, people over 85 experience more than half of their injuries near the toilet. To prevent this from happening to you or your loved one, think about the following things when designing a bathroom to age in place.
Safety and Convenience
Safety and convenience are the two most important things when designing a bathroom for aging in place. You need to move safely to each part of the bathroom, such as the toilet, bathroom, and linen closet. Moving from one area to the next should be convenient, so you are not tempted to do unsafe things like reaching too far or walking without assistance. The next thing to think about is how accessible each area of the bathroom is. Most likely, you will need to make modifications.
The first thing to think about is the height of your toilet. The proper height makes a difference in the safety and convenience of your bathroom. A simple way to address this issue is to buy a seat extender. Another way is to replace the toilet altogether. Either way works, it just depends on what is most comfortable for you.
Once your toilet is installed or adjusted, take a look at where the toilet paper holder sits. Can you easily reach it from a sitting position? If not, it needs to be moved so you can safely reach it from the toilet. Consider a toilet/bidet combination for a more convenient way to handle hygiene. Think about what will be easiest for you, and what option does not involve too much bending, moving, or leaning.
Grab bars instantly increase safety in the bathroom. When placed in convenient locations - such as where standing or walking assistance is needed - they can help prevent falls. Grab bars should be placed both in and out of the tub/shower area. Be sure to place grab bars near the toilet to aid in sitting and standing from the toilet.
At a minimum, grab bars must be able to support 250 to 300 pounds. Make sure the ones installed have the appropriate weight limit. They also should have a texture for easy gripping.
Shower and Bathtub
The bathtub and shower should be accessible, which means easy to get in and out. Shower seats and anti-slip coating should be added for safety and convenience.
Add an adjustable shower head to the shower as well. This is a showerhead that moves to the height and position that is most convenient for the user. These can be added to your existing shower, or to a brand new shower — it just depends on the status of your remodel and what you decide.
The sinks in your bathroom should have a space for your knees or wheelchair underneath the counter. This allows you to sit as you use the sink which reduces the risk of falling. When it comes to the faucets, choose faucets that have lever handles as they are easier to use. Some faucets have pedal controls. If you feel comfortable sitting and using a foot pedal to control the faucet then check to see if that is available to you.
Accessible First Floor Bathroom
If you have two floors, is the main floor bathroom accessible? While some houses have chair lifts, this can be hard to wait on if you or a visitor have a bathroom emergency. The main floor bathroom should be accessible for safety and convenience as well.
The doorway in your bathroom most likely needs to be widened. For the easiest access, the width of the doorway should be 36 inches. The handle should be a lever so it is easier to open and close the door. If you install a new door, make sure it opens out - as opposed to in like traditional bathroom doors. If someone falls against the door that opens out, they are less likely to block the door.
Cabinets and Counters
If you are remodeling your bathroom, think about storage. You want things easily accessible to reduce moving too far, which can throw off balance. This is especially true when deciding to store your medicine. Find a place dedicated to your medicine and make sure it is easy to reach without bending over. This will make sure you can still take daily meds and reach them safely.
The edges of the counter should not be sharp. In case you or a loved one does fall, you do not want them hitting their head on the corner of a counter. The counter should also be a contrasting color to the floor for those who have diminished eyesight. Bath tiles come in many colors, so if you can find a color or design that is contrasted against the countertop to distinguish them from each other.
When it comes to the floor in the bathroom, it should be free from obstacles, and it should not be slippery. Consider anti-slip bath tiles for flooring. Rugs can be a good option as well, as long as they do not get stuck on walkers or wheelchairs.
Be Comfortable Aging in Place
Aging in place can be more comfortable as you are surrounded by memories. Make sure your bathroom is designed for aging in place with safety and convenience in mind during your remodel. Taking the time to find what is best for you will allow you to stay in your home longer and allow loved ones to visit comfortably.