It seems that more and more Australians are spending less time living in aged care homes, despite their longer lifespans. According to experts, the trend will continue to rise, as financial factors and a growing use of home care options are pushing the average age of entry into residential aged care to 83. The decision is often influenced by the seniors’ effort to preserve their independence and dignity. When remodelling a bathroom for the elderly, it is important to take certain safety precautions as well as to make the amenities more accessible. These are the most important adjustments.
Grab bars installed throughout the bathroom will help elderly stay safe when walking over the wet floor and treacherous mats. Fix handrails next to amenities that require sitting and standing up, such as the toilet, bathtub or shower. Another useful feature can be a telephone line or an alert system in the bathroom. The ability to contact someone quickly can prevent accidents from getting worse.
Even small differences in the sink or toilet height can mean a big difference for senior’s comfort in using them. If the person using the bathroom is in a wheelchair, the sink should be raised to 30-34 inches from the floor, with enough knee clearance below for the chair to fit. If the person has trouble bending over, the sink should be raised to the height of 40 inches.
Expanded doorways can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers more easily, as well as people with mobility issues. Wider doors mean allowing two people to pass through at the same time, but altering the existing doorways can be challenging. The problems that may occur include carrying the structural loads from floors and ceilings above, as well as rerouting wires or mechanical systems that are located in the walls. Also, once you remove a part of the wall, you need to patch up the new floor space.
Many bathrooms refitted for the elderly already have built-in shower seats, yet many people don’t use them as intended, by placing them too far from the showerhead and controls. A moveable seat is a much better solution. Adjust the placement according to your needs, or remove it to maximize the manoeuvring space. To make the most of your shower seat, consider a handheld shower handle that you can move instead of moving yourself to fit under it.
Door handles and knobs
Seniors may have trouble grasping small components so make sure the bathroom door handle and lock, as well as cabinet knobs are large enough and easy to use. If the shower faucets are prone to sticking, replace them with those that turn easily.
Walk-in vs. built-in baths
For many seniors, having a relaxing warm bath at home is the next best thing to visiting a spa centre. Walk-in tubs have been vastly popular among senior citizens, due to their many safety features like bars and railings, seating and non-slip floors. However, walk-ins have their disadvantages. First, they have to be entered while empty, after which the door is sealed so one has to stand or sit inside and wait until the tub fills up. The same way, one has to wait until the tub drains completely before they can open the door to get out, which reduces comfort somewhat. On the other hand, concealed baths are built into the tile work and can include steps for easier entry.
Once you have a bathroom in place, think of what else you can do in the home to make old age easier. Some ideas from the bathroom remodel might be useful for other areas, as well.