When it comes to planning a bathroom for an elderly person, there are many factors that need to be considered. A simple run-of-the-mill bathroom could be troublesome, unfeasible or even dangerous for a person in advancing years.
Usability, safety and comfort are key when it comes to bathroom planning for the elderly. The bathrooms size, ideally, should be large enough for a wheelchair to gain entry and move around with ease. This means that the door may need to be extended to around 88.5 cm - or closer to 100 cm if there is a severe disability. Bathroom suite items have also been developed to make life easier for the elderly user such as low level shower trays and high toilets that make them more accessible to people with mobility issues.
What do you need to Consider when Creating a Bathroom for an Elderly Person?
What Aids are Needed and What Help is There?
Unfortunately as the body ages, the bones can weaken and inabilities to do certain tasks can start to creep in more and more. Bathing is likely to be the first area of an older person's physical life that presents a challenge. In order to physically get into the bath a person needs to have good arm strength and be fairly agile, something which older people tend to have difficulty with.
There’s a wide range of products when it comes to helping an older person in the bathroom and some are great solutions, whereas others aren’t as necessary. The items that you should not overlook are grab rails, bath lifts and bath boards. The ability to wash independently is one of the core elements that people wish to hold on to as they age. A sense of ‘I can do this’ as well as feeling as though you still have dignity is highly important.
The aids that are available can cater to elderly persons every need. Whether it’s reduced mobility, physical difficulties or long-standing injuries, there’s usually a bathroom solution that will find a way around this. However, knowing exactly what you need and where to obtain it can be difficult. One thing highly unadvisable is to hand over money and access to your home to someone who's called out of the blue to your door. As with any purchases, you should seek out the supplier not just trust anyone who comes to the door. For age-related home improvements there’s an abundance of advice, as well as often funding, available and it isn’t difficult to find.
The First Steps to Creating a Safer Bathroom for the Elderly
There are charities and local authorities who can provide you with an assessment of the most appropriate bathroom aids for you, to eliminate the risk of you being charged unnecessarily for items that won’t have any real benefit. In addition to this, many companies who specialise in bathroom equipment for the elderly will have showrooms where you can try the products for size. Some even offer to bring the equipment to your home in cases of more severe disabilities.
In cases where a GP has made a referral for occupational therapy then it is likely that a grant will be permitted, meaning that you won’t have to lose out financially to achieve a decent standard of living. It is always worth the while to gain some advice from an occupational therapist or to indeed visit a disabled living centre before any adaptations are made to the bathroom. Your needs will be assessed independently and the first steps for the elderly person and their bathroom can begin.
What Alterations Can be Made to Create a Suitable Bathroom for Elderly Users?
Usually bathroom adaption will begin with the basics, such as grab rails, slip-resistant flooring solutions and bath seats. Grab rails are the items that are a must for an elderly persons bathroom, and there is a huge selection available. They prevent a person losing balance and subsequently slipping as well as making moving much simpler i.e. from sitting to standing. They also aren’t terrifically expensive, beginning at around £5 and going up to around £40. The most important thing about a grab rail is that it is both positioned and affixed safely and to the persons individual needs. A grab rail which suits a person of 6 stone and 5” high, won’t be ideal for someone 6”3 whose 15 stone and this is why both weight and height, as well as a persons individual abilities and strengths, will need to be taken into account. Where the rail is placed is also very important, which is why you should be present to try the rail in different locations and at different angles, prior to it being implemented.
Often the decision will need to be made of whether an existing bathroom can be simply adapted or if a whole new suite needs to be installed. There are several hundred documented bathroom accidents reported by British hospitals each year and the people most likely to be injured are those who are vulnerable such as children and the elderly. Many accidents are minor and don’t result in significant injuries, however, when it comes to an elderly person, what could be seen as ‘minor’ may have much more serious consequences - which is why careful consideration is needed when it comes to the safety of a bathroom. If there’s no alternative to a full renovation then there is no alternative, regardless of inconvenience or expense.
It could be that an elderly person may have to forsake a soak in the bath and have the bath replaced with a walk in shower - creating more space as well as making washing more manageable. New sinks and toilets may be needed, that are taller, wider and more accessible and a whole new flooring type could be required. Non-slip lino is much safer than tiles or wooden bathroom floors and can even be cushioned for extra comfort.
Small Changes you can Make
There are ways in which an elderly persons bathroom can have improved safety, whilst not making a huge difference to the person’s life. For example, the simple installation of an extractor fan, which will remove steam more quickly resulting in a reduced risk of slipping, can cost very little but make a big difference.
The use of bath oils can reduce the effectiveness of non-slip mats, especially those placed in the bath, which will have direct contact with the oils. When they're not 100% effective, they’re not 100% safe and cannot be relied on to reduce the risk of an accident, so it’s best to use natural bath products such as non-perfumed soap bars.
It doesn’t have to cost the earth to create a bathroom for an elderly person, but do check if you can get help. It is important to create a bathroom that creates better independence for an elderly person, as being able to bathe and toilet independently can mean so much to those elderly people who still have some mobility. Here at Bella Bathrooms we have a good selection of items in our easy access range that can help make the bathroom more usable for elderly people.