By Brooke Chaplan
For most elderly adults, the bathroom is one of the most dangerous areas in their homes. The combination of water and slippery surfaces such as tile poses a serious risk for falls. Seniors may also find it hard to steady themselves as they lower themselves to sit on a toilet or try to climb into a bathtub. Now that your loved one is getting older, you may need to make these four changes to his or her bathroom to protect him or her from injury.
Install a Comfort-Height Toilet
Older adults tend to struggle with health issues that make it hard to use the bathroom. For instance, seniors with arthritis will find it harder to lower themselves on to a toilet and stand back up. A comfort-height toilet reduces the strain on your loved one’s lower legs so that he or she is less likely to lose his or her balance while changing positions.
Do a Tub-to-Shower Conversion
Bathtubs often have high ledges that are hard for seniors to step over. Trying to step into the bathtub can also cause a senior to slip on a wet surface and fall. Tub-to-shower conversions are an effective way to instantly make your loved one’s personal hygiene routine safer. Roll-in showers eliminate any ledges that could cause your loved one to trip and fall. When you are planning your bathroom remodeling project, be sure to mention if your loved one has mobility issues. Your remodelers will have experience working with a variety of needs and may have other suggestions for improving mobility and safety.
Consider the Ease for Cleaning
As you plan the tub-to-shower conversion, be sure to think about the types of surfacing that you want in this new bathroom feature. Although tile is pretty, it requires grout that can be hard for seniors to keep clean. Consider having the shower installed with a smooth, grout-free surface that your loved one can easily wipe down. This eliminates the need for them to stand on a wet surface for an extended period of time. Of course, as people age, it becomes harder to bend and kneel to clean, so also consider ensuring that someone other than your aging loved one has to clean the floors in the bathroom.
Make Sure to Add Handrails
Your loved one may still lose his or her balance on non-skid surfacing. Seniors may also be apprehensive about showering if they have ever experienced a fall. Handrails give seniors support as they move around the bathroom. Be sure to add handrails near the toilet and in the shower so that your loved one always has a safe place to grab onto if he or she feels unsteady in the bathroom.
Making a few changes to your loved one’s bathroom is well worth the effort. With a safe bathroom set up, you can feel confident encouraging your loved one to live independently in his or her home. Once the bathroom is complete, just ask your loved one to let you know if he or she encounters any new challenges so that you can immediately respond to his or her needs.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan