I was commissioned by Bathing Solutions to write about how to make a bathroom more accessible for grandparents and those with mobility issues. Having parents well into their 70s myself, this got me thinking. Grandparents – what would we do without them?! Not only are granny and grandpa a huge help when we ourselves become parents, and are struggling to learn the ropes of parenting, but also become the best (and free) babysitters for those rare nights out. But more importantly, they become 'best friends' and 'companions' for our kids, and a huge inspiration for us.
But… we have to accept that age is a factor, and with age comes mobility issues, slower movements and a lot of seemingly easy-to-do things are suddenly well, not so easy-to-do. And if you have them living with you be it a few times a week, or a few months in the year (if visiting from another country), then making the house more grandparent friendly is a must. It is all about making slight structural or adaptational changes, the bottomline being making everyday access to things easier for those with reduced mobility. Here are a few tips to get you started, on making a bathroom more accessible and old-age friendly…
Walk-in showers and baths
Walk-in showers and walk-in baths make the process of having a bath so much simpler for older people. Not only is it safer and more comfortable, but it doesn't change the aesthetic appeal of the bathroom either. in fact, it adds value as walk-in showers are quite the in-thing in modern bathrooms. These can be seamlessly fitted in place of the current shower or bath, thus involving minimal structural change to an existing bathroom.
Easy access baths can also be made wheelchair-friendly, if mobility is a serious issue.
Other accessories for safety and comfort include grab rails attached to the walls, a comfortable shower seat and adding a sprayer attachment to the shower-head, eliminating the need to stand while bathing. If there is a serious handicap, and one cannot move without assistance, then sliding transfer benches and bath lifts are an option as well.
Raised toilet seats
Toilet seats can also be made higher (and therefore easier to sit on) for those who find it difficult to bend low. One option is to install a new higher toilet or a special raised toilet for people with disabilities or restricted movement. However, if you are not looking to make big structural changes, then purchasing a thicker toilet seat or a special raised toilet seat that can be fitted onto the existing one, are great (and cheaper) options. If you want additional support, you can get seats with arms attached as well.
This is a must for those with painful backs, arthritis or fractured pelvises.
Anti-slip tiles/ flooring and bath mats
Being practical is more important than being stylish, when it comes to designing a bathroom for the elderly. Go for tiles that are anti-slip rather than glossy. Another alternative is non-slip vinyl flooring.
Placing a non-slip bath mat in the shower and a non-slip rug on the floor outside the shower also helps prevent slips and falls.
Elevated or lowered sinks
Depending on whether the person is wheelchair-bound or has a particular disability, it is also possible to elevate or lower the sink for optimum comfort and ease.
Keep the bathroom clutter-free and store items within easy reach
Clear out whatever isn't needed, be it around the sink area, in the cabinet, in the shower or generally around the bathroom. The more the clutter, the more difficult it will be to find things or manoeuvre a wheelchair or bath lift, for instance.
Keep regularly used items such as handwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet roll within easy reach. Seniors should be able to access everything without having to stretch or bend.
With just a little extra thought and all the amazing options available in the market, it is possible to make a bathroom 100 per cent grandparent-friendly. Not only does it give them the ease, comfort and confidence to do things themselves, it also puts your mind at rest.