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Adapting Bathrooms for the Elderly: Wet Rooms, Walk-ins & More

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

As a person grows older, they’ll often find that it becomes trickier to do things around their home. That can be because of stiffness due to arthritis, poorer vision, or just a lack of muscle and balance due to ageing, among other reasons.

When an older person begins to struggle with daily tasks at home, it can seem that a move to a care home is the next logical step. However, that’s not necessarily true. Most elderly people prefer to remain in their own homes, and often some simple home updates and adaptations can allow them to do so safely.

When it comes to these home adaptations, the bathroom is an important place to focus on. That’s partly because its slippery surfaces can make it a danger spot for older people, who are more at risk of falls.

In this post, we’ll discuss the best things to include in bathrooms for the elderly, ranging from minor changes to significant renovations. We’ll also offer some wet room and walk-in shower ideas for elderly mobility needs.

Non-slip mats and stickers

Let’s start simple. Anything you can to do reduce slipping in a bathroom for elderly people is a plus. And one of the easiest steps is simply to use non-slip mats and non-slip decals or stickers whenever possible.

A non-slip mat or sticker can be placed inside the tub or on the floor to reduce the slipperiness of tiles or a bathtub surface. It’s also a good idea to ensure any soft mats on the floor have a non-slip backing.

Moving things to be within reach

Here’s another easy change in a bathroom for the elderly – move or install shelves and hooks so that an older person never has to reach awkwardly to grab something they need, such as a bottle of shampoo or a towel. For example, maybe you need a shelf to hold soap that’s right at hand level, so that it’s easy to reach while standing and showering.

You can also purchase long-handled brushes, sponges or bath puffs to help an older person avoid having to reach awkwardly while showering or bathing.

Waterproof personal alarms

Our last step to improve bathroom safety without doing any remodelling is a waterproof personal alarm that can be worn while bathing.

A talking pendant alarm or wrist alarm ensures that an older person never suffers the trauma of falling while bathing and then being unable to call for help. These alarms typically offer one-touch functionalities that allow a senior to call for help with the touch of just one button – and with a talking pendant, a senior can receive reassurance and talk to someone directly through the alarm as they wait for help to come.

What’s more, many of these alarms also offer automatic fall detection, which means that if the wearer is unconscious, the alarm will still detect the fall and call for help all by itself.

Grab bars and rails

Grab bars and railings to hold on to can be great to help avoid falls and just to help an older person manoeuvre more easily, such as when they’re standing up from the toilet. Grab bars in and around the shower or bath area are often a good idea, as are bars next to the toilet if an older person has knee problems or just is a little unsteady when moving between standing and sitting positions.

In-shower seats

A seat within the shower can be helpful for numerous reasons in bathrooms for the elderly. It can help them to wash their legs and feet, it can make the showering experience less tiring, and it can reduce the risk of falls.

You can buy a waterproof shower seat to go in the shower, or you can have one securely attached to the wall. If you do opt for a shower seat, it’s probably wise to have grab bars next to it to help with the transition between standing and sitting.

Lever taps

Here’s an adaptation that’s not about falling, but more about ease of use for seniors with hand or wrist conditions. Seniors with arthritis in their fingers or wrists can find it difficult or painful to twist taps. A simple lever tap that can be pushed up or down to turn on or off is much easier and simpler to use.

Higher toilets

Higher or “comfort height” toilets are just what they sound like – they are higher so that they’re easier to use for seniors who have problems bending their knees deeply to sit on a lower surface. Older people who might need grab bars to stand up or sit down could often benefit from a higher toilet too.

A quicker and easier adaptation than replacing the entire toilet is just replacing the seat with a raised toilet seat, which achieves the same effect.

Walk-in shower ideas for elderly people

Stepping over the side of a bathtub actually requires quite a lot of flexibility and balance – which is why it’s so tricky for many seniors. Simply walking into a shower is often much easier and safer.

If you’re considering switching out your tub for a walk-in shower, you have a few options. You can simply install a typical shower stall, or you can go for a solution specifically designed for bathrooms for the elderly, with mobility components already included. This might even be a walk-in tub, which is a bathtub with a waterproof door. It combines the ease of entering a walk-in shower with the safety aspect of being seated to bathe.

Wet room ideas for elderly people

So far, we haven’t specifically mentioned elderly wheelchair users. However, many of the modifications we’ve already discussed are great for older people who use a wheelchair. Some, like grab bars and elevated toilet seats, are actually essential.

A wet room is another must-have for many elderly people who use wheelchairs. This is a bathroom in which the shower simply sprays onto the floor and drains from a grate within the floor. In other words, there’s no ledge that a wheelchair can’t cross, and there don’t have to be any shower walls that make it difficult for a carer to assist with bathing.

That’s not to say that wet rooms aren’t great for seniors who don’t use wheelchairs too. The ability to simply walk into the shower space without negotiating even a small step or a shower door can be very helpful for those with reduced mobility.

Often in wet rooms for the elderly, you’ll see one glass wall between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom to help prevent water being sprayed in those areas. However, the area within the barrier is still typically larger, and there’s generally no door to the shower area. Alternatively, if your bathroom is very spacious, there might be no need for a barrier between the shower area and the rest of the room.

Either way, a wet room for a senior who uses a wheelchair will need a shower seat and grab bars too to allow transfers between the wheelchair and the shower seat.

Dementia-friendly bathrooms and colour

Adapting bathrooms for elderly people with dementia is a complex topic, so we can’t cover all the details here. However, we’ll discuss a couple of main points.

Firstly, colour contrast is key for helping an older person with dementia find the important items in a bathroom. Therefore, a toilet seat should be a significantly different colour from the bowl and the rest of the bathroom. If the toilet itself is white, for example, a red or bright blue toilet seat would likely be a good choice.

Secondly, seniors with dementia can struggle to understand where to step up or down into a shower or bath. Therefore, a wet room is often best for them. The floor of this room should be a light colour, as they may perceive a dark coloured floor as a hole. It should also be all the same colour, as they may see different colours as being steps up or down.

Staying safe while bathing with SureSafe

Because falls are so common in bathrooms, it’s really smart to ensure that a bathroom for an elderly person has every possible adaptation to try to prevent them.

That being said, it’s never possible to eliminate all risk. SureSafe’s personal alarms for the elderly provide an important second layer of protection, ensuring that if a fall in the bath or shower does occur, help will be called immediately.

Which of our waterproof personal alarms is right for you? We’d be happy to chat with you on 0800 112 3201 about the variety of functionalities and styles available in our alarms. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch through our live chat, or you can request a call back.

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