March 6th, 2013 at 10:10 am
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Remodeling a bathroom for elders: Think safety and function

by Dorian Martin

We just had a bathroom remodeled.

Why should I be telling you about this in a caregiver blog? It’s because a large part of the reason that we opted to do the remodel was to make it easier for Dad to bathe. He has chronic pain in his back and difficulty with his balance. And as he’s aged, he’s increasingly struggled with stepping over the side of the bath tub.

Out with the old bath, in with the new shower

Because of Dad’s situation, we decided to totally take out one bathtub and install a step-in shower with a sliding glass door. And we made some other decisions to improve the safety of the bathroom for Dad. These additions include:

  1. Grab bars: We installed two bars in the shower so that Dad won’t be grabbing on the glass door to maintain his balance as he enters the new shower.
  2. Anti-scald feature on the shower fixture: This feature should prevent sudden bursts of hot water from coming into the shower and hitting Dad when someone flushes a toilet or uses a large amount of water while he is in the shower.
  3. Shower fixture with options: The new shower fixture also has two shower heads, one of which is a handheld option. We thought this would be important so that Dad can use this shower head to wash while he’s seated.
  4. Raised toilet: We also took out the old toilet and had a plumber install a taller toilet. This raised toilet should make it easier for Dad to stand after using the toilet.
  5. Bath chair: Dad has one that he’s been using in the bathtub, but it never seemed to feel really stable. We’ll be moving the chair into the shower so that he can sit down while showering. This also gives him somewhere to sit if he starts to feel lightheaded while showering.

More ideas on safety for elders

There are still some purchases I need to make for the new bathroom in order to improve its safety. For instance, I need to buy a new nonslip mat for the shower as well as a new bath rug with a grippable surface to place on the floor outside the shower. These items are important since it’s very easy for elders to slip and be injured getting in and out of the shower.

I also plan to buy a fixture that has a magazine rack and a toilet paper holder that can be bolted to the wall. Dad likes to read while in the bathroom so this purchase would make sure that magazines he’s reading don’t end up on the floor where he could slip and fall on them.

Finally, I plan to make sure that the shower is cleaned regularly so that there isn’t any soap scum or mildew that can turn into a slippery film on which he could slip.

Taking steps like these can make elders feel safer while bathing. To find more ideas for caregivers on keeping seniors safe, you can refer to the article Watch your step: a guide to elder fall prevention. Also, my previous blog post looks at some research on how to help elders avoid falling and how you can do a safety assessment of your own home environment.

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One Response to “Remodeling a bathroom for elders: Think safety and function”

  1. Sarah

    These are all great ideas to help reduce potential injuries to our elder loved ones. They are all definite must haves for either their own home (if they are still independently living) or in your own home (if you are caring for them within your own home). I love the no-slip shower mat idea and the extra grip bath rug, both of which are inexpensive improvements that are necessary and easy to do. Thanks for the ideas!

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