January 2, 2018 Jeff Conner of Pacific Mobility
Is your bath set up for safety? Keep your senior safe with handicap access, and a combination of the right fixtures, lighting, security features, flooring, and more.
Your mobility devices and equipment can’t make your life easier if your home is presenting its own inherent accessibility challenges and risks. Work with contractors to ensure you have the fixtures and features needed to create a safer, senior-friendly space that is conducive to autonomy and overall quality of life.
Is your bathroom set up for safety? Consider the following:
When a business or contractor are creating a public space, attention is paid to the precise measurements and features that will provide equal-access for all visitors, regardless of physical disability or impairment.
Some safety elements are easily adapted to a home bathroom environment, and you may move forward without hiring a contractor. Other modifications, such as changing the dimensions or re-plumbing fixtures, may require professional intervention:
If you or a loved one use a wheelchair to improve mobility, work with a contractor or mobility expert to bring your bathroom up to par. Make sure that your bathroom meets the following specifications to ensure ease and access:
- Make sure the bathroom door is at least 36”-wide.
- Configure the bathroom door to open in to your bath, rather than into the hall space.
- Arrange the bathroom so that the toilet has enough room around it for your wheelchair.
- Opt out of enclosed vanities and, instead, keep the bathroom sink open or floating.
- Lower or decrease the threshold or curb around the shower to allow for wheelchair access.
These measurements and specs are valuable to know now- even if you don’t currently have a disability or use a wheelchair. Access and safety should be a priority of any new homeowner, home-buyer, or landlord.
Make sure that your toilet and shower-stall are safe for seniors- and those that need a little assistance. You can lift your toilet with a thick seat or buy an extender to raise it a few inches. In the shower, invest in a shower-head that can be detached and hand-held for ease. Switch out old faucets with modern lever-style fixtures, which are easier to grip and adjust with older fingers.
Poor lighting is to blame for many debilitating falls and subsequent injuries among the older population. This risk is increased when seniors have physical disabilities or mobility issues. Invest in ambient lighting and smaller task lights around the mirror, near the sink, and even near the tub and shower. Prevent a nasty fall by preventing shadows and dimness that could be dangerous when combined with a slippery surface and water.
Locks make sense for seniors seeking privacy when using the bathroom, but these fixtures can present a hazard when you are unable to help or access a senior that has fallen behind the locked door. Consider solutions such as hook-and-eye locks, which can be easily breached, or a lock with key that is kept conveniently nearby for just such an emergency.
Things like grab bars and rails simply increase the overall comfort and convenience of the home for those that may have physical limitations or that are older. Make sure that your bathroom is outfitted with a grab bar near the toilet, and another near the tub or shower. These are areas that could be the site of a potential fall without adding some security. These bars are easy enough to install, but don’t be fooled; failing to install these properly can increase the danger and potentially cause injury. Don’t risk it; hire a contractor or mobility professional!
Don’t forget about the flooring; while it may not be in the budget to install a brand-new, heated hardwood floor in your bathroom, you can make the floors a bit safer. Strive for non-slip surfaces and carpets, which will still allow a smooth surface for walkers and wheelchairs, and that won’t be slippery underfoot. Make sure to remove any area rugs, runners, or other items that could pose fall-risk, and repair or replace any frayed, torn, or weak flooring that could cause problems.
If you are looking at significantly altering the accessibility of your home, lifts make a lot of sense. There are many types, but in the bathroom, a tub-lift or shower-buddy is a practical option. For physically-disabled consumers that require home care, a ceiling lift can reduce the risks to both the senior and the caregiver during transports, bathing, and other activities of daily living.
To further amp-up the safety of your bathroom, consider subscribing to a medical alert service and implementing a device for emergency assistance, as needed. This may be the perfect way to put fears and worries of loved ones to rest when seniors choose to live independently or alone.
Don’t run the risk of taking a nasty fall in your bathroom, and use these tips to ensure a safer space for seniors. Reach out for mobility aids that not only make the bath more accessible, but that can improve overall quality of life for seniors using them.