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How to Create a Bathroom That is Safe for the Elderly

August 24, 2021

Whether you are a family member, loved one, or CDS caregiver to an elderly person, you may one day find yourself needing to create an elderly-person friendly bathroom. There are several factors which need to be taken into account when preparing the bathroom to ensure optimal comfort, accessibility, and safety. In this guide, we will go through the most important factors to take into account when making a bathroom safe for the elderly.

Key Elements to Setting Up a Safe Bathroom For an Elderly Person

As you begin to prepare the plans for the bathroom, there are certain key elements to take into consideration before undertaking any installations and placements. This includes speaking with the elderly person, inquiring on health conditions and physical impairments they may have, and whether they use a wheelchair.

Taking into Account Their Physical Capacities

When designing a bathroom safe for the elderly, you should begin by asking the elderly person or family members of theirs to find out if they suffer from any particular ailments. For example, if the person suffers from poor sight or blindness, installing sight-impaired-friendly railings and devices is crucial to best accommodate the bathroom to their needs.

Asking Them if They Need Anything in Particular

If you are in contact with an elderly person, having an open and honest conversation about what they would like to have or what they need in the bathroom is a great way to optimize the bathroom’s design. Bathrooms are private and intimate places which anyone should feel comfortable in, especially an elderly person.

Checking to See Whether They Use a Wheelchair

Whether a bathroom has to be wheelchair-friendly makes a significant difference in the way the bathroom has to be constructed. When inquiring on whether the bathroom must be wheelchair-friendly, make sure to ask about the dimensions, brand, and type of wheelchair that is being used so you can best accommodate it in your layout plans.

 

Bathroom Doors

Bathroom doors for elderly people need to be large enough to fit a wheelchair if necessary, and easy to open and manipulate. They must be light enough to handle but durable and stable to make sure they are hazard-free. Here are some tips for choosing the right door for an elderly person’s bathroom.

Wheelchair Accessibility

If you are installing a wheelchair-compatible door for the bathroom, you should follow the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, meaning the door should be at least 32 inches in width with a maximum opening depth of 24 inches. Although it is not required for private homes, we recommend using these regulations as a guideline to best fit a wheelchair.

Sliding Doors

Sliding doors are a great option to consider when selecting bathroom doors because they do not require much force to use and do not run the risk of slamming behind or onto someone. It is also recommended that the sliding door have a width of at least 32 inches.

Lever Knobs

Lever knobs are much easier to use than regular knobs, as they do not require as much of a grip or force applied to open. For someone with arthritis, for example, it is crucial to have easily-graspable door knobs because of weak hand articulation. This is also the case with other common diseases such as with parkinsons.

 

Bathroom Floors

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are millions of people aged 65 and up who fall each year. Twenty percent of these falls lead to serious injury. The risk of falling increases with old age, as vitamin deficiency, decreased vision, and general lowered body weakness become more common. Having the right bathroom flooring for an elderly person  is important to avoid any unnecessary and potentially dangerous falling.

Should be Made of Non-Slip Material

It is absolutely essential to use non-slip materials to best protect the elderly person as they use the bathroom. Good, non-slip and durable flooring options include ceramic, cementitious boards, epoxy, and rubberized floors. This may be one of the most important parts of creating a safe bathroom, so make sure to spend time doing research on the best non-slip flooring available near you.

Floor Color

Given that elderly people often suffer from poor or limited eyesight, making sure the color of the flooring you choose to install is in contrast with the color of the wall is very important when designing your bathroom. For example, if you are installing a beige-colored wall, try to find a darker grey color for the floor.

Are Rugs Appropriate for Elderly-Friendly Bathrooms?

Because of their soft and potentially slippery material, rugs are not ideal for elderly-friendly bathrooms. That said, if installing one is necessary for your bathroom, it is important to only install rugs which have rubber on the bottom, such as in the form of suction cups, to ensure optimal stability.

Toilets for the Elderly

When looking for toilets for the elderly, it is important for them to be secure, at an appropriate height, and 100% safe. While there are many options for senior-friendly toilets, here are some tips to keep in mind when selecting the perfect one:

 

●       Whether it complies with the ADA height recommendation of 17 to 19 inches

●       Whether it has an automatic flushing system

●       Whether it has a comfortable, round bowl

 

The best toilet for a senior person is higher than the average. When installing, you must ensure that the toilet is tightly attached to the floor and wall. Another key aspect to consider when looking to install a toilet is making space for a grab bar next to it, which we will be going through in the following section.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are essential to senior-friendly bathrooms. In fact, they are useful for just about any bathroom used by people with mobility issues. They are extremely useful and regularly save lives by avoiding dangerous falls from loss of balance.

 

There are several places where grab bars should be placed in an elderly person’s bathrooms. This includes places with lots of movement, in which elderly people are more prone to falling. When designing the bathroom, make sure you add grab bars to:

 

●       Next to the toilet

●       In the shower

●       Empty places on walls

 

The ADA recommends grab bars to be mounted 33-36 inches above the floor and should measure at least 36 inches long. Although these requirements do not apply to your private home, by following them you can rest assured your bathroom will be as safe as possible for the elderly person using it.

 

The Best Faucets for the Elderly

 

There are several different types of faucets which are senior-friendly. Generally speaking, you want to aim to find a faucet which requires little movement to activate. The best faucets have electric sensors, which do not require any manipulation or gripping, making the water activation process easiest.

Shower Box

Shower boxes are the best option when it comes to a washing station for elderly people. Bath tubs are not recommended due to the danger of falling, tripping, or drowning which can occur from a loss of balance.

 

Broadly speaking, a shower box is just a regular shower made from panels held together to close an area. They often are floor-level and are not elevated, making them ideal for people suffering from limited mobility. When looking for a shower box, it is important to consider whether:

 

●       It has room for a second person such as a caregiver

●       It has multiple shower heads, which can be helpful for caregivers

●       It comes with a collapsible stool


It is also important to check that the shower is curb-less for optimal safety. Checking that there is enough room for a grab bar is crucial, as the elderly person may slip while showering. Another key addition to have near the shower box is an emergency button in case of an accident.

Emergency Buttons

Emergency buttons and alarms are important to have in any elderly person’s bathroom in case of dangerous accidents or problems which may arise. Having emergency buttons and alarms located near the toilet, washing area, and door will ensure the highest possible safety for the person using the bathroom.

 

Conclusion

No matter if the elderly person has serious physical issues or not, making sure their bathroom is safe and prevents all potential injury is crucial to make sure they are as safe as possible in their home. Remember to stay in open and honest communication with the elderly person as much as possible so they can consent or raise concerns about layout plans.

 

By using this guide, you are sure to cover all of the basic necessities in protecting the person using the bathroom. If you are unsure about certain measurements, or want to take extra precautionary measures when making the bathroom, we recommend checking out the ADA’s extensive regulations on accommodating infrastructure to people with low physical capacities or disabilities.