Because 70 percent of home accidents occur in the bathroom, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bath safety is at the top of the list of home modifications that may become necessary as we age. As stairs become more difficult, having a full bathroom on the main floor can also become key to maintaining healthy living at home.
In many homes, a few key products, like a bathroom safety seat for the tub, strategically placed grab bars, non-slip mats and a raised toilet seat, will do the job without a costly remodel, which can range from $2500 to over $29,000, according to AngiesList, depending on the aesthetics and features.
Being sure to manage water pressure and implementing anti-scalding controls like a thermostatic valve on sink and shower heads are considerations, especially for older homes. For people who are still mobile, all of these modifications often adds a sense of security and makes it easier to attend to activities of daily living.
Bathroom Injuries Increase with Age
Consider some of these statistics:
- An estimated 1 out of every 4 seniors will fall each year. [CDC]
- Falls are the second leading cause of injury-related death for seniors aged 65 to 84 years old and for those aged 85 years or older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths. [National Floor Safety Institute]
- Fall death rates increased 30% for older adults between 2007 and 2016. [CDC]
- In Nebraska alone, falls among adults 65 years and older cost $221 million in 2014. [CDC]
7 Most Important Things to Do to Remodel a Bathroom for Seniors
It's important to make modifications to the bathroom that help maintain safety but keep ease of movement in the most often-used room in the house. Kohll's has a number of videos explaining some of the key features of bathroom safety. There are a number of things to consider when modifying a bathroom for aging or mobility impaired adults:
Modifying a Bathtub or Shower for Safety
If entering and exiting the bathtub or shower is fairly easy, then additional safety features such as lever faucets handles, non-slip flooring, grab bars or hand rails and a shower seat can go a long way to significantly making your bathtub or shower safe and they are fairly inexpensive. Adjustable and handheld showerheads can also be a key feature to stay safe while maintaining easy functionality. Spray attachments for your showerhead are relatively easy to install. If your tub or shower has a higher point of entry, making it difficult or unsafe to enter and exit, then a walk-in tub or barrier-free shower could be considered, a much bigger expense, but one that provides long-term value.
Modifying a Toilet for Safety [Watch Our Video]
As we age or recover from certain injuries, standing from a seating position can become difficult and dangerous. Standard toilet seats are 15 inches high from seat to floor and comfort toilet seats that are ADA–compliant are 17 to 19 inches from seat to floor. Toilet seat lifters or bathroom safety seats with handrails are a fairly affordable modification and can be bolted on to a standard toilet. A new toilet that is ADA-compliant and easier to stand from can range from $300-$500 before installation. Combined with grab bars or hand rails and the proper no-slip surfaces, this is one of the affordable bathroom modifications. Kohll's also offers free-standing toilets — watch our video — that are adjustable, portable and can also be placed over your existing toilet.
Grab Bars and Hand Rails for Bathrooms
Navigating a bathroom — toilet, sink, bathtub, shower, drying area — safely should be a key consideration in your bathroom modification plans. Work with an expert like the Kohll's Rx Mod Squad to model the safest usage and paths within the bathroom. Wherever standing up requires some additional assistance, install grab bars set to the best reach of the user and vertically or horizontally based on the usage. Hand rails are essential to safely traversing the bathroom and their orientation and placement should be optimized for the user.
No Slip Floors for Bathrooms
Because we use so much water in the bathroom, most bathrooms have tile or hard acrylic floor surfaces. These surfaces can become slick when wet. Bath mats or bath rugs can be an easy fix. No-slip strips are also available for targeted areas. For longer term solutions, there are a wide range of no-slip flooring options that are also water resistant — from porcelain/glass and ceramic to vinyl and cork or bamboo.
Sink, Mirror and Towel Rack Height Adjustments
If it's becoming difficult or unsteady to stand at the sink, adjusting the height of the sink to maximize accessibility and comfort can be very useful for safety. For maximum access and neatness, make sure their knees can fit underneath when sitting on a seat or in a wheelchair, generally 27 inches of clearance. Be sure to adjust the faucet handles, mirror and towel racks to best work with this new position. Pedal faucets are also an option.
Alert Systems in the Bathroom
Everyone wants their privacy, especially in their own bathroom. Even the best bathroom modifications, though, can't guarantee an accident or fall. Installing some type of phone or alert system in the bathroom can give everyone in the family peace of mind, that if something were to happen, help can be found quickly. Making sure there's an option to unlock the bathroom door from the outside.
Light, Space and Storage Modifications to Bathrooms
Finally, look at the remaining fixtures and the bathroom space itself for opportunities to increase safety and convenience. Lighting is essential not only to every day usage, but highlighting edges, corners and water on the floor that can be hazards. Note how movement through the bathroom could be impacted if a wheelchair or other adaptive movement device is required. The ADA suggests a 50-inch turning radius to protect knees and toes while sitting down wherever possible and 34-inch wide door for wheelchair access. Bathroom doors should preferably open out, not in, and pocket doors are an option. Be sure counter and sink edges are rounded and preferably have a high contrast for the vision impaired. Sliding drawers can be a much more accessible storage use versus cabinets that require a user to lean in to reach for items in the back.
There's a lot consider when modifying a bathroom as you age or recover from injuries, so be sure to work with Omaha's local expert, with thousands of bathroom modifications completed.