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 inside and outside of the house. When this happens, living spaces like bathrooms are typically not wheelchair-friendly and can unintentionally become an obstacle. Things like daily hygiene and grooming routines will become much easier when the bathroom is updated to be wheelchair-friendly.
The biggest hesitation in making these upgrades is usually cost. It’s no surprise that a bathroom update can be an expensive endeavor. However, if the renovations can help your aging parent stay in their own home and out of a facility for longer, the bathroom update is often the more affordable option. Aging in their homes is also the preferred choice for most seniors, and if needed, an in-home caregiver can provide additional support to help them do so.
When taking on the project of making a bathroom more wheelchair-friendly, the following things need to be considered:
Make doorways wheelchair-friendly
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.
Check out the flooring
While most modern bathroom floors are covered in tile or vinyl, many older homes still have carpeting. 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 your loved one’s bathroom is carpeted, consider installing a hard surface flooring instead.
Make adjustments to toilets
It can be difficult for seniors in a wheelchair to shift from the chair 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. Installing grab bars on the wall by the toilet can provide support for the elderly person during the transitions. Don’t forget about raising the toilet paper holder for easier access!
Purchase a wheelchair-friendly sink
The biggest issue with bathroom sinks 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. To remedy this, install a wall-mounted sink or pedestal sink with space underneath it to accommodate the elderly person’s legs.
Upgrade to a wheelchair-friendly shower
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. You could also consider 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.
While most contractors can handle this project, check for companies or individuals who offer aging-in-place specific services. They’ll be able to advise you on all of your options and may also save you money in the long run. Taking on a bathroom upgrade may seem daunting, but it’s worth it to ensure your parent’s safety and comfort.
Want more tips on how to make aging-in-place updated to your parent’s home? Check out this related post: Home Tech for Seniors to Help Age in Place