Independence and dignity is important to all of us as we age. Unfortunately, many of us will experience mobility issues as we get older. The bathroom, which has always been a routine location in the day, may suddenly become a dangerous place. Getting around the bathroom without slipping can become tricky, and entering the shower or tub can be risky. When this happens, anything that can help us to maintain our independence in the face of limited abilities is welcome.
These days, bathrooms are big, luxurious, and full of amenities. Fortunately, this approach to bathrooms works well when you’re considering safe bathing solutions for the elderly. Traditionally, bathrooms revolved around a shower/tub setup, but more and more people are stepping away from that setup in favor of barrier-free showers and other safe bathing solutions.
For many, a bath is a beautiful luxury. For the elderly, a bath can help to relieve arthritis pains and other stresses on the joints. But when you have mobility issues, stepping over the side of a bathtub presents the risk of falling and possibly becoming seriously injured. Walk-in bathtubs solve this problem by providing a door that opens for easy access. In addition to being easy to enter, most walk-in bathtubs include safety bars, seating, and non-slip floors.
Gaining in popularity, most walk-in tubs have inclusive luxuries like a whirlpool feature. And since they’re designed to fit a standard 3-foot-by-5-foot shower or tub unit, most walk-in bathtubs are easy to install.
Walk-in bathtubs do have a drawback, however, as you have to sit in the tub while it fills and drains. But these tubs are designed to fill and drain quickly, with 10 to 12 minutes as the average fill time, and a quick three minutes for draining.
Barrier-free showers are ideal for everyone, as they are simple to enter by walking or using a wheelchair. Without a threshold to trip over, seniors can feel safe entering the shower. Not only that, but barrier-free showers are a great way to modernize your bathroom. Stylish and modern, these showers are gaining in popularity with everyone, not just seniors.
Designers have developed modern and beautiful ways to combat the issue of water splashing and spilling out of the shower. You can have a trench drain included in your barrier-free shower, which is placed where the barrier would go. Or you can still include a traditional drain in the middle of the shower. Your floor will slope slightly toward the drain, while the tile from your shower will continues into the rest of the room, creating a seamless look that opens up your bathroom.
In addition, your barrier-free shower doesn’t need to have a door, and this allows for a more open look in your bathroom as well as more space for the design of the room. Without needing to account for the space a door takes up as it opens, a doorless barrier-free shower allows for more cabinet space or even a longer vanity. And without a door, you have less to clean and maintain.
Grab bars provide security and safety in a bathroom, and are necessary for seniors. Install a grab bar by the toilet, shower, and bathtub. They should be bolted into the studs of the wall so that they can hold a person’s weight. A towel rack typically isn’t an effective grab bar.
Shower seats provide a comfortable and safe place for people of all abilities to take a shower. You can use a portable shower seat, build one into the shower, or attach one to the wall as a fold-down seat. Consider how you’ll reach your necessities from a shower seat height, and make sure you install shelving that’s easily accessible from the bench. A hand shower that can be easily adjusted is also a good idea.
Several bathroom features exist to meet the needs of those wishing to age in place:
- Anti-scald water controls: Response times diminish as we age, and an elderly person could easily become burned if the water from the shower or tub is too hot. Turning down the temperature on the water heater, or using anti-scald water controls, will prevent this problem.
- Non-slip flooring options: Choose non-slip flooring options in the shower and the floor of the bathroom. If you use bath mats, make sure they are non-slip.
- Sink height: If you use a wheelchair, you’ll want your sink to be at a level you can easily reach, with space underneath the sink for your legs.
With the right bathroom adjustments, aging in place is possible for many people. Not only can you keep your bathroom safe for bathing, you can also keep it stylish and to your taste.
About the author: New Life Bath & Kitchen is a residential kitchen and bathroom remodeling company serving California’s Central Coast. The company also offers custom cabinet design and installation, cabinet refacing, zero-threshold showers and painting services.