Various products can enhance your bathroom to be more accessible and increase safety. According to the World Health Organization, 28-35% of adults over the age of 65 fall each year. One-third of those falls are due to environmental hazards within the home. Nonetheless, falls account for 40% of injury-related deaths among these individuals, and a fall also increases the probability of an individual having to go into a long-term care facility. Renovations of a bathroom can decrease the risk of falls and injuries. Here are a few products and solutions that you should consider when remodeling or designing your bathroom:
1. Modify the Entrance
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the doorway entrance must be a width of 32 inches at a minimum. However, most standard bathroom doorways range from 24 inches to 36 inches. Builders do not have to comply with ADA standards when building a residential home, but they do have to comply with ADA standards for commercial buildings. Builders also have to comply with building codes, which vary from state-to-state. Widening your doorway will allow for easy access when using a mobility device such as a wheelchair or walker. You can broaden a door entrance through various ways, such as using swing-away hinges, changing the jack studs, installing a header bracket, removing the doorstop, and enlarging the opening for increased clearance. Furthermore, doorknobs replaced as lever handles allow for a more accessible entrance. Lever handles are an easy switch to make and allows for feasibility.
2. Grab Bars
Standard bathtubs require an individual to step over a ledge to enter. When someone mentions grab bars, many people will picture the classic silver grab bar seen in hospitals and bathrooms in the community. However, grab bars can be customized to fit the home’s style and character and range from various sizes, designs, and colors. Grab bars can be mounted horizontally, vertically, or in diagonal configurations. They can also be a toilet paper holder or a towel bar.
Grab bars increase safety and assist an individual during movements. They are most commonly seen in the bathroom since a bathroom is one of the most common places falls may occur. There are various locations for the placement of a grab bar. However, according to the NAHB, grab bars installed vertically upon entry of the tub or shower and horizontal bars installed within the enclosure are the best options (Refer to the picture below). However, keep in mind that there are various grab bars, and some grab bars are not safe and should be used only temporarily, such as a suction grab bar. You need to ensure that the grab bar supports 250-pounds of weight and has a non-slip material surface.
Grab bars should be mounted to the wall properly to ensure that it will be safe for you. If you are unsure what grab bar to get or how to install the grab bar, speak with an individual who is trained in the installation of grab bars. Ultimately though, you should be the one to determine where the grab bar is placed since you know what works best to improve your independence.
3. Barrier-free Bathtub or Shower
However, this can be difficult for an individual to enter if the person has had knee or hip surgery, has difficulty with balance, is in a wheelchair, or cannot get into the bathtub without assistance from others. Two products that can enhance independence and decrease the risk of falls or injury include a walk-in bathtub and a roll-in shower. A walk-in bathtub can come with many features such as a hand-held sprayer, hydrotherapy jet massage, removable seat and back cushions, and more. A barrier-free shower can allow for an individual to walk straight into the shower without having to step over a ledge. A front trench drain located at the shower entrance can decrease water from leaving the shower unit. Furthermore, a WaterStopper can also prevent water from leaving the shower. A WaterStopper is a rubber water dam that can be stepped on or rolled over but will immediately go back to the original position.
Barrier-free shower with a Front Trench Drain - Bestbath
Walk-In Bathtub - Bestbath
WaterStopper - Bestbath
Low-Threshold Shower - Bestbath
4. Bath Bench for Your Shower or Bathtub
Adding a bath seat within the shower or bathtub is a good option if you fatigue from standing while in the shower. There are various options for a bath seat, including color, padded tops for comfort, and design factors. A foldable shower seat can be used when needed and folded when not used to allow for more space. A bath seat in a shower or bathtub will allow an individual to sit and complete their bathing tasks if fatigue occurs. Having a bath seat will allow you to complete bathing tasks without increased fatigue from standing.
5. Handheld Shower Head and Glide Bar with Slider
A handheld showerhead should be considered in the bathroom, especially when using the shower while sitting so that you can bring the water closer. It also allows you to reach hard to reach places and a more effortless ability to rinse off soap rather than having to move around. Another consideration with the handheld shower is to install a glide bar with a slider. The glide bar allows the handheld device to be moved higher or lower. Instead of standing to reach for the handheld showerhead, having the slider set to a lower height will allow an individual to reach the device easily.
6. Light Sensors
The use of light sensors rather than switches can also be beneficial to have in the bathroom. A light sensor will automatically turn on when you enter the bathroom and turn off after a while or after leaving the bathroom. The light sensors can help decrease the need to find and reach the light switch to turn it on. Light sensors can benefit any individual with reduced mobility to move their arm to reach the light switch. Light sensors can also be useful at night when it is hard to find the light switch.
7. Bathroom Lighting and Color Contrast
Lighting is essential to have, especially in a bathroom. Adequate lighting provides safety when getting into or out of a shower or bathtub. Having a window can increase natural lighting within the room. However, this can create a challenge for controlling condensation. More than one light bulb in a light fixture is vital in case one light bulb stops working. Ensure that there is a ceiling light within the bathtub or shower enclosure to allow for better visibility when completing bathing tasks. Color contrasting can benefit you if you have a visual impairment or have difficulty seeing without glasses or contacts while completing bathing tasks. One way to color contrast is to make sure you do not have the same color of materials. For example, white floors and a white tub or shower can make it challenging to determine where the ledge is to step over, which will increase the risk for falls. Within the shower stall or bathtub, color-coded hot and cold water controls are helpful to improve visual acuity. Furthermore, color contrasting the corner and edge of a countertop will allow you to know where the edge is to prevent you from accidentally hitting the countertop. Having the countertop edge and corners rounded is an option to reduce injuries as well.
8. Raised Toilet Seats and Comfort Height Toilets
Morales, Rousseau, and Passini (2012) completed a study and found that all participants who were an average age of 87 years old added a raised toilet seat to their toilet to make them higher (refer to the picture below). The raised toilet seat can come with options such as added arms or without arms. Adding a raised toilet seat makes it easier to get on and off a toilet for individuals who are limited in mobility, older adults, or tall individuals. An added toilet seat will decrease the need to reach or grab on to other objects or countertops to help get off the toilet. If you do not want a raised toilet seat device but want your toilet seat to be a higher height, there are options to purchase a comfort height toilet, which is the same height as the Americans with Disability Act standards for accessible design. However, for an individual with short stature, the standard toilet seat may be of best fit.
Bidets are a common feature for toilets in Europe, South America, and Asia. In March 2020, bidet sales in the United States increased due to toilet paper being unavailable in stores. For individuals who have difficulty with toilet hygiene, a bidet can be a great option. Bidets can help any individual who has difficulty reaching behind or holding on to the toilet paper. There are many different options for bidets. Bidets can be added to the toilet or purchased as a toilet. Bidets can also come with features such as an adjustable seat temperature, automatic open and close, occupancy sensor, self-cleaning, and various wash functions.
About the Author
Jackie Baumgartner is currently a third-year Doctor of Occupational Therapy student from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. She is currently completing her doctoral capstone at Sparling Construction/GoUniversal. Jackie will be graduating in the spring of 2021 and plans to begin her career as a traveling therapist with her husband. She is very excited to provide you with information regarding different topics about home modifications, disabilities, and ways to make your home more accessible.
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