Adapting a bathroom for disabled and elderly access
Bathing becomes more difficult and time consuming the older you get, yet it is a necessary part of day to day living. For young and healthy people, bath time or shower time can be a leisurely and relaxing activity, used to ease away the stress of the day, however for older people or disabled people it can become a daily struggle, which can be dangerous if the bathroom is not properly adapted for the elderly or for disabled use.
By a sudden change of circumstance, you may be required to take care of an elderly or disabled relative at short notice. This cannot be taken lightly as many things that we as able-bodied people take for granted every day, an elderly or disabled person may find incredibly hard to do. It is therefore important that you take the necessary measures to ensure that life is as easy as possible for your new house guest.
Because of the confined space combined with wet and slippery surfaces with little to no handlebars or support, bathroom accidents are one of the most common causes of injuries in elderly people at home. Simple tasks such as getting in and out of the bath may be second nature to young and able-bodied people, but become far more difficult if you have less strength or mobility in your legs and arms.
Often the only solution to ensure that your elderly or disabled relative is safe in the bathroom is to undergo a complete bathroom renovation. Converting a bathroom into a wet room for easy and safe bathing can be straight forward if you call in specialist in adapting existing bathrooms to give level access or replacing the bath with a walk in shower.
Although it can be costly and time consuming, there are a number of small changes you can make to your bathroom to make sure that your new guest has no difficulty using the facilities, however if your elderly or disabled relative is going to be staying for the long term, it may be beneficial to look at completely renovating and adapting your bathroom for their use. After all, you can adapt to the situation, they can’t.
There are two different ways to install hand rails for easy access and to prevent nasty falls for your elderly or disabled relative. If the home stay is simply a temporary solution while your relative transfers care homes or their own home is being renovated, there are suction grab bars which can be purchased for short term use. These can be pretty powerful and actually just attach to the wall with no need for screws.
However if your elderly or disabled relative is staying for the long term or indefinitely, a more permanent solution will be best as with wear and use, suction grab bars will deteriorate and can put unnecessary stress on the wall behind. Testing the strength of your walls is important as your relative will rely on the strength of these hand rails to help them up and prevent them from suffering any nasty falls. If you believe your relative is staying at your home for the long term, it is better to have professionally installed handicap grab bars.
Raised Seats/Lowered Basins, Switches and Handles
To prevent your relative from having to raise or lower themselves too much, lowering the heights or placement of things such as basins, door handles and light switches can really help. This prevents your relative from having to move about too much, which will reduce their risk of falling or suffering an injury while in the bathroom unattended. Plus it gives them the freedom to take care of themselves if nobody else is available, and makes it generally easier for them to use the facilities unaided.
Raised seats also help when transferring relatives from a wheelchair to the toilet, with various clamps on seats or installation seats available. Certain toilet seats even have arm rests to prevent your relative from slipping from the seat while they are using the facilities.
For long term stays, the safety of your relative is imperative. Although they can be costly, accessible baths are always recommended for those who have trouble getting around. These are specifically designed baths that allow your relative to safely bathe without having to worry about lifting themselves into or out of the bath.
There are assisted baths which are standard bath tubs with a built in swivel seat lift. It is imperative to ensure that your bath has enough room to accommodate the seat, as this will be used to assist your relative with getting in and out of the bath. Assisted baths can be manual or power traverse.
Walk-in baths are more specifically designed baths with a built in moulded seat and a bath door. Instead of having to lift their legs over the edge of the bath, your relative can simply walk in through the door. With the door then closed the bath can be properly filled at the start and emptied at the finish of the bath. When considering walk-in baths it is also good to install an overspill as walk-in baths can be subject to occasional leakage, which will be dangerous for both you and your relatives if left unattended.
Covering Corners and Non Slip Flooring
Corners can be a nightmare for elderly relatives, particularly those that may be confined to a wheelchair. While we so easily brush past corners and hard surfaces every day, a simple knock can sprout a nasty looking bruise for the elderly or incapacitated, so it is important to take the necessary safety measures to prevent this.
Rubber corner guards can easily be purchased to ensure that your relative doesn’t injure themselves on cupboard or counter corners and these can also make it easier for relatives to grip onto counters. Non slip flooring is also essential for older relatives, as a simple fall from standing height can cause injury. There is a variety of different non slip flooring mats available so take a little time deciding which one would be the best for your home.
Whether your relative is only staying at your home for a short time or their stay is more permanent, it is your responsibility to do all that you can to ensure that their stay is as pleasant as possible, and making just a few changes to your bathroom could help improve their ease of life and prevent otherwise avoidable injuries.