Many aging family members deal with the challenges of illness, injury or simply limited mobility due to age-related issues. It’s not uncommon for seniors to have a wheelchair in their later years to help them get around, both in the house and on outings. When this happens, their previously adequate living spaces, like bathrooms, can unintentionally become yet another obstacle to overcome.
Instead of struggling to perform simple tasks like using the toilet or getting into the shower, seniors can find more success in their daily hygiene and grooming routines when the bathroom has been upgraded to be more wheelchair friendly. There will definitely be some cost associated with a bathroom upgrade. However, many people look at it as a less expensive option for the aging family member to stay in their own home longer. It’s all part of a home care plan to help seniors age in place with the help of a home care assistant, rather than going to a care facility full time.
Here are a few things that family caregivers and their elderly family members need to do to transform a bathroom into a wheelchair friendly space and provide the best elderly care possible.
The first challenge for a senior in a wheelchair may be getting into the bathroom in the first place. Many doorways are not quite wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. There are several solutions, from putting the door on offset hinges for a few more inches of clearance to completely removing the doorframe and installing a wider one. Pocket doors and barn-style doors are also good options to provide the elderly person with more clearance to fit a wheelchair through.
While most modern bathroom floors are covered in tile or vinyl, there are still many out there that are carpeted. This can be particularly challenging for those in a wheelchair, plus carpet is much more difficult to keep clean and dry in a bathroom. If an elderly loved one’s bathroom is carpeted, consider installing a hard surface flooring instead.
It can be difficult for seniors in a wheelchair to shift from that to the toilet. Raising the toilet seat by three to four inches is possible using parts specially designed for this purpose makes the process much easier. Also, installing grab bars on the wall by the toilet can provide support for the elderly person during the transitions. Finally, don’t forget about raising the toilet paper holder for easier access.
The biggest problem with bathroom sinks and wheelchairs is that most are mounted on a cabinet-style setup. This means that the elderly person cannot get up close to the faucet or the basin. The solution is putting in a wall-mounted sink or pedestal sink, with space underneath it to accommodate the elderly person’s legs while in a wheelchair.
Depending on the current setup and the needs of the aging adult, the shower upgrade can vary in cost, style and substance. Simple options include using shower chairs and installing grab bars for an easier transition. Installing an adjustable shower head is a must for any senior. A more intensive remodeling could include a wheel-in shower with a collapsible water retainer or a shower with a low threshold so the elderly person can step from the wheelchair to the shower chair with minimal struggle.