Seniors with mobility issues often continue to live independently by making changes to their house — particularly in the bathroom. These seven home renovation tips for caregivers will help you transform your loved one’s bathroom, ensuring that it’s safe and tailored to her specific needs.
1. Plan for the Future
Home renovation is costly, so even if your loved one is independently mobile, it’s safest to plan ahead. Assume that she may rely on a walker or wheelchair for mobility at some point, consider the tools and additions that could be of use to her during that time, and work those tools into your renovations.
2. Alter the Doorway
Start by ensuring that the entrance to your senior’s bathroom is wide enough for a wheelchair to fit through; this usually means a minimum of 28–32 inches (36 inches is typical). Since swinging doors can be difficult for someone in a wheelchair or walker to open, consider widening the entrance and installing a pocket door. These doors afford your loved one greater ease of mobility and access to privacy while also providing extra bathroom space.
3. Create a Five-Foot Radius
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public restrooms to contain a five-foot radius. This enables a person in a wheelchair, with his feet fully extended, to make a 180-degree turn. Be sure to build this 60-inch turning circle into your loved one’s bathroom to permit him to maneuver with ease.
4. Install Sinks to Accommodate Wheelchairs
Install new sinks that allow for plenty of clearance in your loved one’s home; a wheelchair-bound senior should be able to comfortably slide beneath them to wash her hands. ADA guidelines recommend that sinks be placed at least 17 inches away from the wall, at a height of 29 inches from the floor. If a sink is set into a counter, it should be no more than two inches from the edge. Suitable sink designs include a kneehole sink (which features a cutout in the vanity and drawers), a wall-mounted sink, or a pedestal-style sink. Be sure any exposed water pipes are insulated and padded to protect your loved one against burns or cuts.
5. Extend the Commode Area
When renovating an older adult’s home, allow for a 60-inch-wide commode area with enough clearance on one side so a wheelchair can be brought parallel to the toilet. The increased space also affords room for a person with a walker to safely transfer to the commode, or for a caregiver to assist someone in transferring. Place grab bars and a tissue holder where the user can reach them.
6. Build a Walk-in/Roll-in Shower With a Seat
Construct a barrier-free shower that eliminates curbs that are difficult to navigate for people with mobility issues. Install a handheld wand in addition to the regular showerhead, plus an upper and lower soap/shampoo shelf. Be sure the valves for hot and cold water are placed at the entrance to the shower so a caregiver can turn the water on and off without getting wet.
7. Seal Tile Floors With a Slip-Proof Finish
Use slip-resistant coatings and finishes for tile floors to help prevent falls in the bathroom, which is where many accidents occur. In addition, ensure that there are no leaks, spills, or obstacles that could cause your loved one to slip.
By following these tips, you can prolong your loved one’s independence and help him maintain maintain a safe, healthy home.