How to plan bathroom safety for the elderly

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Bathroom remodels don't have to bust your wallet
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Bathroom safety for the eldery makes sure mom and dad are safe

Itís a fact too alarming to ignore. Eighty percent of older adults are injured in a place they canít avoid: their own bathroom. Thatís according to the National Institute on Aging. But the good news is that by planning bathroom safety for the elderly, you can protect mom or dad from becoming a statistic.

Injuries caused by losing balance, slipping on a wet floor, or tripping over a throw rug can be prevented when you take the right steps to plan bathroom safety for elderly parents. Those steps range from simple modifications to a professionally designed and full-scale remodel. Whichever path you choose, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.

Start With Some Professional Advice

Before you sign off on that $12,000 tub with a hydraulic lift, find out what the safety experts recommend. You might be surprised to learn how basic adjustmentsóraised toilet seats and grab barsócan make a difference.

Start online. Search for medical supply providers that offer bathroom safety resource guides that help you make sensible purchases. Some have toll-free customer service numbers if you prefer speaking with a live representative.

Then search for primers on bathroom safety written by credible sources. Some academic websites provide technical information, often from consumer advocates, explaining the why and how of bathroom adaptations. Better yet if they contain diagrams to help you visualize what needs to be done. For example, youíll find out that professional re-modelers donít recommend diagonal placement of grab bars in the shower. This increases the chance that hands and feet will slide, causing falls. So if home remodeling is your hobby or trade, these sites are a must-read before you undertake a major renovation. 

General Safety Remodeling

Many general safety remodels don't require professional installation.  

  • Install easier-to-open door levers. Doorknobs are difficult for some seniors to open, as they can strain weak or arthritic muscles.    
  • Widen the bathroom door frame to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs.    
  • Replace throw rugs on the floor with non-slip mats. Do the same in the shower.     
  • Purchase an emergency alert that can be installed near the toilet, tub, and shower.    
  • Replace the door lock with one that opens from the outside as well as from the inside. This way, youíll have no trouble coming to momís aid if she falls or otherwise needs help.    

Make the Bathtub and Shower Hazard-Free

Because the tub and shower are often wet and soapy, the risk of falls increases exponentially. Here are some precautions to take:

  • Install grab bars for both the shower and tub.    
  • Consider purchasing a lift if a parent has trouble stepping into and out of the tub.    
  • Attach a fold-down seat inside the wall of the tub area so a parent prone to dizziness can bathe sitting down.    
  • Reduce the need for a parent to move around too much in a slippery shower by installing a handheld shower head.   

Redesign the Sink and Counters

The purpose in these areas is to eliminate the need for mom or dad to have to stoop down to wash their face or reach high to grab toiletries. This is a key concept in bathroom safety for the elderly.

  • Replace knobs on the faucet with up-down levers.   
  • Increase the sink height so that seniors can wash hands and face without bending over too much.    
  • Make sure to position enough counters near the sink so that elderly parents donít have to reach far for items such as vitamins, shampoo, soap, and deodorant.     

Streamline Toilet Use

Using a standard toilet means seniors have to strain leg and back muscles and, in general, move around more than is comfortable. The purpose behind redesigning toilets is to make it easier to access them and the personal items that toileting requires.

  • Install a higher toilet seat that reaches no less than 17 inches from the floor.   
  • Place toilet paper within easy reach so that seniors donít have to stretch. If the holder attached to the wall is too far from the toilet, purchase a free-standing toilet paper holder. Store extra rolls of paper in a container or on a shelf near the toilet.    
  • Attach grab bars to both sides of the toilet. If youíre not available, your elderly parent will be able to get safely on and off without help.    

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