Simplifying Life for an Aging Adult
Helping an aging adult live independently as long as possible can be a simple process if you keep safety and accessibility in mind and think long-term as you make plans to renovate an existing home or just parts of the home.
Since mobility may be a problem, as well as balance, one easy place to start is in the bathroom. The bathroom is the one room in the home where the most accidents occur, especially slip-and-falls. Anyone, no matter the age, can slip on a puddle of water, or trip over the lid of a standard shower or bath tub. But with a few adjustments, you can decrease the chance for such an accident and make life a little easier.
Safer Floors & Walls
Start with the floor. Make sure anything you can get off of the floor is off. Clean floors are a must, if you can. Depending on the type of remodeling project you’re willing to take on, you may want to install a pedestal vanity. Below, we’ll talk about non-skid mats you can put down if you decide not to remodel your bathroom to help an aging adult live independently, but you may want to consider carpeting the entire floor. This type of renovation will ensure that water does not pool on the floor, which could cause someone to slip and fall.
On the walls, you should install grab bars, which can help someone stay balanced as they move around the bathroom. Certainly, you should install grab bars near the toilet and the shower/tub itself. Make sure you install the grab bars in drywall, and make sure that they are firmly anchored into place. One surefire way to cause someone to slip and fall is if a grab bar someone is holding onto comes loose from the wall.
Safer & Easier Appliances
Look at the appliances you have in the bathroom. Electricity and water don’t mix, so anything with a plug should be replaced with battery-operated appliances.
Another easy fix is replacing any knobs in the bathroom (like on a cabinet) with pulls. Pulls are easier for someone with limited mobility to use, as opposed to knobs, which must be twisted. Someone with arthritis may find knobs difficult to use. Something as simple as pulls is an easy way to help someone.
Also, look at the lighting in the bathroom. Is there enough lighting for someone to see if there is water on the floor, or where the lip of the tub or shower is? Consider adding lights above the toilet and above the shower.
Perhaps the most important renovation you can do is to replace your existing tub or shower with a walk-in tub. Such a tub provides not only peace of mind but also a safe space in which someone can clean themselves. With no lip to step over, you minimize possible slip and falls. You may also want to install a seat in the shower, so that someone with limited mobility does not have to stand while showering. If you cannot install a walk-in tub, then consider installing at least a seat.
If you choose not to replace your current shower or tub with a walk-in tub, then you should, at the very least, put in place non-skid mats on the floor, perhaps several, and definitely one by the tub or shower. A mat will not only give someone using the tub or shower a fairly dry surface on which to stand (you may want to take it off the floor in between showers or baths, if possible), but it will also help someone using the shower or tub stay balanced as they get into and out of a standard shower.
Helping someone retain the ability to live independently is something that is important to do as well as simple to do, if you take into account all the ways in which someone may get hurt in the bathroom. A few changes can go a long way.