Having a safe and easily-accessible bathroom can go a far way in enabling the elderly to age in place and to do so with dignity. Therefore, using a safe and accessible bathroom design is instrumental to the process of seniors living independently for longer. This includes making accommodations for things like unsteady balance, medical equipment, walkers and wheelchairs. Doing this will heighten the safety and independence of the elderly.
For seniors, fall are the leading cause of visits to the emergency room and unfortunately, bathroom conditions can create the perfect storm where falls are concerned. Certain motions like getting up and sitting down, bending over at the bathroom sink, stepping in and out of the shower or bathtub are not always safe for the elderly. When wet conditions are added to the mix, the bathroom can become quite a dangerous place. Below are some guidelines that can be followed to create a bathroom design that is safe and functions optimally for seniors:
Having a senior-friendly bathroom is not an indication that it has to look like something straight out of a hospital. Depending on the needs of the user, there are countless possibilities to create a fresh, modern bathroom design that is accessible as well. There are modern designs that can be made to feature several amenities suitable for the elderly and to facilitate the changes which some go through as they get older. These include:
• Wheelchair accessible sinks that enable users to wheel up underneath it. This requires at least 27 inches of clearance.
• Adequate space underneath the faucet, outfitted with lever handle to easily manage water flow.
• Resilient and smooth flooring to safeguard users from falls
The shower should be highly accessible and suitable for walk-in, roll-in and transfer situations. A bench is always a great addition to a senior-friendly shower and a bench that folds up can provide extra space for wheelchairs; therefore, this is something that could be considered. For a floor that creates no obstacle to entry, a smooth, curb-free surface can be considered. Installing a grab bar will assist with transfer from a wheelchair to a shower bench. It will also assist the senior in more easily transitioning from a standing to a sitting position. Installing the shower valve at a height that is accessible from both a seated and standing position is also a good idea. Additionally, the showerhead can be attached to a sliding bar, making it possible for it to be detached from the bar for enhanced accessibility or positioned and fixed at a desired height to suit the user.
It is vital that the dimensions of the senior-friendly bathroom are made to accommodate the needs and likely needs of the individual. The door should be at least 34 inches wide to provide space for a wheelchair. Levers should be installed in place of doorknobs and a sliding door can provide an accessible and stylish replacement for a regular door.
If at all possible, use the Americans with Disabilities Act requirement to create a 5-foot turning radius in the bathroom. For electric wheelchairs, they turn more easily and as such, if there is not adequate space, a less than a 5-foot turning radius could still work. Furthermore, the top of the sink should ideally be between 32 and 34 inches from the floor. It is also important to tilt the mirror from the top, after hanging it low enough for visibility.
Finding a Useful Contractor
The contractor chosen to design, or execute the new bathroom design, for an elderly person should have referrals, a good track record and his or her contractor’s license must be current. Similar to the majority of skilled professionals, a useful contractor can be located reliably via a community network of referrals. In addition, senior services providers or local alliances on ageing are typically good sources as well. Furthermore, the website of the National Association of Homebuilders provides a state-by-state directory of contractors who are certified as specialists for ageing designs. These certified bathroom contractors have been trained and are qualified in the unique challenges of home construction for seniors. They are also well-versed in enhancing accessibility and are capable of providing good value for money.