Bathrooms can be a notoriously difficult place for older adults to maneuver. For those who suffer from limited mobility, poor balance or lack of strength, getting in and out of the shower, turning on the faucets or getting up and down from the toilet seat can be difficult to say the least.
Luckily, there are a host of new bathroom design features that can make it a far safer and more welcoming place for seniors. From bidet toilets and walk-in bath tubs to curbless showers, grab bars and motion sensored faucets, there are a host of new products that can make life easier in the bathroom.
1. Motion sensored sink faucets. Turning faucets can get more difficult as we age, due to arthritis, tendonitis or loss of strength. While lever faucets are better than knobs, motion sensored faucets are the best of all. Simply put your hands underneath the tap and on comes the water. It also has the added advantage of pre-setting the water temperature to avoid scalding. They're not as expensive as you think. Speak to a plumber to get some ideas.
2. Install grab bars. Perhaps one of the most important items you could add to your bathroom to help prevent falls. You should have a grab bar installed by your toilet, by the entrance to your bathtub and inside your shower or bathtub. Grab bars will help you get down and up from the toilet, step over the lip of the bathtub, and provide added balance when washing those hard to reach places!
3. Bidet toilets. This one may take some getting used to, but in other parts of the world, like Japan, it's a mainstay. Instead of using toilet paper to clean yourself, there are new toilet seats that can clean you with warm water - no hands or paper required. Not only has this proven to dramatically improve the hygiene of many seniors (reduced urinary tract infections, cleaner hands, etc...), it's also much more comfortable and easier to clean for those who might have trouble reaching due to limited mobility.
4. Raised toilet seats. While a grab bar next to a toilet will prove very helpful, a raised toilet seat can be another modification that can help prevent falls for older adults who have difficulty getting up and down from a toilet. The raised toilet seat means you have less distance to go, requiring your legs to support less body weight. Raised toilet seats can be easy to install as an adaptive device on a regular toilet, simply swapping out the old seat for a new one. Or you can install an entirely new toilet, the height of a standard chair, which is an easy job for a plumber to do.
5. Walk-in Bathtubs. If you need help getting over the lip of your bathtub, you may want to consider getting a walk-in tub before hiring a caregiver. Walk-in tubs have doors that allow you to "walk in" to the tub, without climbing over a lip. They also have seats in them, to make bathing easier, safer and more comfortable. Some even come with a full spa experience with jets, bubbles, removable shower heads, heated seats, grab bars, and non slip surfaces. The cost of walk-in tubs can be expensive, but if it avoids the cost of a caregiver, it may very well be worth the money.
6. Slip free mats. Falls are a major concern in the bathroom. To prevent slipping on wet surfaces, make sure the floor of your shower or bathtub is slip free. You can do this by adding a slip free mat. But also make sure that any mats in front of your tub or sink are slip free as well. On the outside of your tub, use mats that are fluffy under your feet, but have a anti slip rubber on the under side.
7. Handheld shower-head. A detachable shower head makes showering easier and safer. It allows you to sit while showering. Sitting while showering, avoids falls and allows many who otherwise couldn't wash themselves properly, to do so.
8. Shower seat. If you have a stand-up shower, or a tub, getting a seat can make a world of difference. It can allow you to clean yourself confidently, without worrying about getting off balance, slipping or falling. Sitting down while showering can also allow you to more easily clean areas of your body that are difficult to reach while standing. There are all types of seats from folding, to removable to fixed. Get the one that suits your space and needs.
The nice thing about all of the changes above is that they benefit both your loved one and the caregiver. In many cases, adding simple things like a grab bar, can give your loved one the confidence to continue showering and toileting safely on their own. In other cases, those supports can help shift some of the burden of supporting body weight from the caregiver to the adaptive device, making tasks like getting in and out of the shower, washing and toileting easier and safer for both parties.
What do you think of the bathroom modifications suggested above? Have you tried any? How did you like them?