As you age, it becomes more and more difficult to move with ease—especially in the bathroom. You know that your children and loved ones worry that you might slip on the wet floor or fall when you get out of the bathtub. Frankly, you worry a bit yourself.
If you are concerned about your limited mobility, it may be the right time to invest in a bathroom renovation. Renovation experts know how to turn a bathroom into a safe, accessible place while preserving the beauty of the space. And remember: what was once an expensive, lengthy process has now become simple, easy, and relatively inexpensive.
An accessible bathroom makes life more convenient for you and gives your family peace of mind. Below, we’ve listed the most useful renovations that make your bathroom easier to use.
Wide Doors & Open Space
Experts recommend that doors in high-accessibility homes be at least 32–34” wide so that a wheelchair or walker can comfortably fit through the opening. Doors should have levers instead of door knobs, and they should have locks that can be unlocked on both sides, just in case of emergencies.
You may also consider installing a door opener, a device which monitors movement outside the door and opens it automatically. This feature increases ease of access, especially for those in wheelchairs.
Inside the bathroom, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a 5’ turning radius for wheelchairs and other transportation devices. Renovators can usually create that space by rearranging cabinets, sinks, and other bathroom features. Some wheelchairs, particularly electric models, turn quite tightly, so the entire 5’ of space is not necessary.
Remember to equip your new, larger space with nonslip flooring, texturized bathmats, or throw rugs to prevent slips or injuries.
At first, it may seem a little strange that your new shower doesn’t have a curb (a raised surface around the border of the shower to prevent water from flowing to other parts of the bathroom), but you’d be surprised by how effective curbless shower stalls can be.
European showers have been open for years—in this design, a slightly declined floor leads to the drain and prevents leaking. Renovators usually create shower stalls that are at least 3” deep and 5” wide.
Most of these easy-access showers have a pull-down seat or net shower chair with wheels, so you can easily transfer from your wheelchair or walker and sit comfortably while showering.
Handheld Shower Head
Renovators can easily install an overhead shower head for full body washes, but many people find a handheld shower head easier to use as they sit.
These shower heads can slide up and down a bar or can be removed and handheld for more flexibility. Choose a temperature-controlled, pressurized head so you don’t accidentally get scalded.
Walk-in tubs are no more than a few inches off of the ground, so you won’t have to step far when getting into your tub. A door on the side of the tub makes it easy to slide in and make yourself comfortable before you turn on the water, and many tubs have temperature-controlled valves so the water is warm and pleasant while the tub is filling.
Many people worry that their privacy will be invaded as they become older and less mobile. A walk-in bath ensures your independence while you bathe, because it is so easy to get in and out of. Grab bars, nonslip flooring, and easy-access faucets add extra precautions so you feel safe.
Place shelves and cabinets at an easy-to-reach height, and consider leaving them open. Open shelves give you easy access to towels, soap, medication, and even your toothbrush. Don’t worry that your doorless cabinets will look cluttered—sliding trays and storage containers keep your shelves organized and attractive.
If you feel strongly about having doors on your cabinets and shelves, avoid difficult-to-open door knobs and latches. Choose cabinets that can be easily opened with a closed fist.
Consider installing grab bars around the bathroom, and particularly against the walls near your toilet. These support bars should be about 36” apart with the toilet between them. If possible, choose a toilet that sits about 17” from the floor.
Grab bars come in all different kinds of materials and colors, so you don’t need to worry that chrome bars will give your bathroom an institutional look.
Keep the area beneath your sink open so that you can easily access it while still sitting in a wheelchair or bathroom stool. Room for your legs under the sink helps you sit safely as you brush your teeth or prepare for bed.
Renovators can easily remove cabinets or shelves under your sink, and can even raise or lower your sink so it is the right height while you are sitting.
As you consider renovations that will make your bathroom more accessible and safe, consult with a professional. Convenience specialists can help you make decisions about what and how to renovate. Contact your accessibility expert today.