By Felice Eckhouse MA, OTR/L, CAPS
We can all agree that bathrooms are an important part of the home. Safety is the biggest challenge in our bathrooms as we Age in Place. However I am here to offer many solutions.
As an occupational therapist I often make home visits. The following photos are from my visits and highlight several safety problems and solutions in the bathroom.
There are two main options to consider when making changes for safety to your bathroom. These choices are typically made with budget in mind, as well as a plan about how long I will stay where I am.
1. Retrofit: This method of design involves adding new features to older bathrooms and finding solutions to existing problems. You can do this in order to improve your safety, and save money.
2. Complete Remodel: To solve more complex problems that cannot be fixed through the retrofit option. Gut your whole bathroom and start from scratch using universal design when building.
Here is a picture of a common problem found in bathrooms.
Here is what is unsafe:
• He is holding on to the center of the seat with his hand
• He is holding onto the sink counter
• He is sitting too low on the toilet.
Here are the SAFE solutions to get on and off the toilet:
The following photo shows a safe seated position and posture on a raised toilet seat with arms on each side. This allows the user to push down on the arms and not need to reach to hold on to the sink.
The following photo shows an easy solution to prevent the need to reach up or around to grab toilet paper. Due to severe arthritis in her shoulders, this lady is using a floor toilet paper holder to which she only had to make a slight reach to get the paper she needed. This is also an affordable solution.
Another common problem in the bathroom is difficulty climbing over the side of the bathtub to get in or over the step in the shower.
The following photos offer the SAFE solution to get into the shower and bathtub.
Transfer benches allow you to get into the shower or bath tub without climbing and a safe place to sit.
This transfer bench needs to be installed in the wall. The beauty of it is that it can be lifted up and out of the way so another user could stand to shower or sit down in the tub. This is an affordable solution to not climbing in and out of the bathtub.
Complete Remodel of a Bathroom
The following photo is a complete gut and remodel of a bathroom because the user/owner had severe rheumatoid arthritis and could not enter the bathtub, use the toilet, or get to the sink.
This toilet has a Touch free flush. Notice the no flush handle, you can stand next to the dial/button and the sensor will flush the toilet.
The toilet paper holder- doubles as a Grab bar. It was installed in the support beams behind the tiles to support your weight as you come to stand from the toilet seat.
This next photo is of the redesigned counter which now accommodates a wheelchair or a walker with a seat.
• The drawers are to the left of the opening for storage and to allow easy access under the counter.
• The new faucet is easily reached from a seated or standing position
• Lever handles on the faucet allows easy on and off with arthritic hands
• The countertop is spacious and you can reach to open the mirrored medicine cabinet easily.
• New lighting to this interior bathroom which has no windows to see task
• Grab bars that double as towel holders as seen in the mirror reflection. These grab bars were installed in the supports behind the tiles to allow safe use for holding, balance and towel use.