There are many things seniors can do to make their homes safe and accessible without busting the budget. Fortunately, there are hundreds of products on the market today to help aging seniors “age in place” safely. Because the bathroom is the place where we start and end each day and just happens to be the most dangerous area in the home– I will focus on small, relatively inexpensive options listed below.
1. Use slip-resistant flooring throughout bathroom and bathtub/shower. That means stay away from the glossy tiles that are typically slippery when wet and stick with matt finish tiles. The new vinyl sheet flooring is a great alternative for a bath floor that holds up great, is inexpensive and provides a soft and slip-resistant floor surface.
2. Add a removable or wall mounted shower seat to prevent long periods of standing while showering.
3. Add an adjustable handheld showerhead with 6 foot hose that allows for showering while standing up or sitting down.
4. Install grab bars to help with balance and to prevent falls. Install them at entry to shower / tub, to the side and rear of toilet and the entrance to bathroom.
5. Install a removable rubber curb ramp to eliminate the shower curb step in.
6. Take out a portion of the existing tub in your home and add a “Safe Step” opening which allows for easy access in and out of the shower. A door can also be installed for bathing.
7. Change out old shower and sink faucets to pressure balanced and anti-scald faucets to maintain safe and comfortable water temperature during sudden changes in water pressure. Thermal mixing valves should be installed on all garden tubs.
8. Locate towel bars and hooks within arm’s reach of the bathtub/shower. And while on the subject of towel bars – replace all towel bars with stylish and safe grab bars that minimize a fall if someone should need balance when grabbing for a towel.
9. Add a raised toilet seat to help ease transitions on and off the toilet.
10. Replace old round knob door handles with lever handles to make doors easier to grip. Install lever or wrist blade style handles to make faucets easier to turn. Replace cabinet and drawer pulls with D-shaped handles which are easier to grip.
11. Replace door hinges with swing clear hinges that give an additional 2” of door width. This helps when maneuvering wheelchair or walkers through a doorway.
12. Make sure lighting is sufficient; if not, switch to brighter lights or install additional light fixtures. Make sure bath/shower area has proper lighting.
13. Replace toggle switches with back lighted rocker style or commonly called ‘Decora’ switches.