10 easy tips to update the look of the bathroom and to secretly make it more safe.

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

1.     Better lighting!!  Better lighting may not be easiest fix but the one thing all ugly bathrooms and kitchens have in common is bad lighting.  This one change not only improves the aesthetics of the bathroom but also makes the bathroom much less frustrating and so very much more safe.  

2.     Install designer grab bars instead of towel racks.  If someone loses their balance they are going to grab for whatever is closest not to mention people often hold on to a towel racks to steady themselves when drying off, or kids tend to hang on towel racks just for fun.  There are several good looking grab bars on the market, why not replace your towel racks with grab bars.  Click here to see some good-looking grab bars/faucet combinations.

a.      Tip: If you are modifying a bathroom for someone who is having a problem with falls and need to know where to install grab bars, look at the walls.  The walls will be dirty or have handprints where the person is reaching for support.

3.     Install new faucets.  Installing new faucets make can give the bathroom a facelift when installing new faucets make them faucets that are good looking and easy to use.  Faucets with paddle style handles or better yet touch faucets are easy to use and there are many great styles and finishes to choose from, click here to see a few. 
Click here to see some good-looking grabbars/faucet combinations.

4.     Install new hardware on cupboards.  Again new hardware can give a bathroom or a kitchen a brand-new look plus replacing the knobs with C-shaped pulls instead of knobs makes cabinets MUCH easier to access.  Why bother with hard-to-grip knobs, go for ease-of-use and convenience every time.

5.     Install toilet paper holders that pivot.  I once spoke with an elderly man who had just moved into a new ‘accessible’ condo and asked him how it was working for him and his wife.  He said he loved his new condo but they couldn’t change the toilet paper because the holder had a tension bar for the toilet paper.  Click here to read more.

6.     Flooring, flooring is a big deal.  Make sure the flooring is skid resistant (click here for post on skid resistant flooring), and if someone is a risk for falls no tile please.  Tile is hard and unforgiving making falls more dangerous.  Find flooring that is skid-resistant and has some ‘give’ so that falls aren’t so damaging and injuries are not so severe.  Click here to read more about flooring that reduces the impact of falls.

7.     Place furniture in large bathrooms for support.  Large bathrooms with lots of space are great for people in wheelchairs, but more than once I’ve heard about people who are utilizing walkers having their bathrooms enlarged and their falls increasing.  Enlarging bathrooms for future wheelchair use is a great idea, but if someone is unsteady on their feet and need support a sturdy table or dresser can provide the support and look nice too.

8.     Put supplies in easy reach.  Reduce the need to move around the bathroom to get to supplies.  Keep shaving supplies near the sink, towels near the shower (towel hooks are a nice addition to a bathroom), and if someone becomes incontinent a rolling set of drawers or a cupboard installed next to the toilet can reduce falls by reducing the need to move from place to place.  Remember to have trashcans near the sink and toilet too if needed.  Make things easy!!

9.     Shower/bath safety, always difficult to sneak in safety in the shower.  I could do a whole post on this one.   I often hear people don’t want shower chairs etc. because they don’t need them although based on fall history and mobility skills they do need one.  Sometimes they just need to get used to the idea or have the ability to utilize the equipment secretly or without much attention brought to it.

a.      Grab bars can be obvious and difficulty to mount but worth the hassle.  Again many good looking styles, some are even shelves check them out here. 

                                      i.     A vertical grab bar mounted on the outside edge of the shower wall will help with safer shower transfers.  Vertical grab bars for shower transfers need to be mounted so the user can hold onto the grab bar while standing up so mount the grab bar with the top of the grab bar at shoulder height.

                                    ii.     A horizontal grab bar mounted at 34”-36” high on the inside wall (usually the wall across from the shower curtain) the length of the wall or at least a 36” grab bar will help with stability. 

                                   iii.     A horizontal grab bar over the controls for stability when adjusting the water temperature and to assist with transfers into/out of the shower is always good.

b.     Shower chairs etc.  If you are building a bathroom a wall mount shower chair is perfect, there if you need it no one has to know.  My mom has Parkinson’s and didn’t want a shower chair, I found a good looking one and put it in her shower.  She said she won’t use it but it’s there just in case, I don’t need to know if she’s using it or not.  She hasn’t taken it out, and its there if she loses her balance.  She did say she likes it for shaving her legs.:-)

c.      Glass shower doors can sometimes prevent the use of shower chairs.  Removing the glass doors and installing a shower curtain remedies the problem quick, fast, and inexpensively.

d.      Fixed head and a hand held shower to stay warm while showering, or better yet several shower heads for a relaxing, luxurious spa shower.  Why not make showering easy and luxurious, you only live once.

10.   Toilet.

a.      Comfort-height toilet looks normal but that little extra height can make getting up and down from the toilet so very much easier.  One caveat, comfort height toilets are not a good idea for short people.  If a toilet is too high getting on and off the toilet is difficult and if the person’s feet can’t touch the ground it’s difficult to stabilize and they could fall off.  Usually a person should be at least 5’2” to utilize a comfort height toilet but as with everything they should try it out first to make sure it works.

b.     Grab bars next to toilet mounted 34”-36” typically but user height should be determined based on need.  Some toilet paper holders are also grab bars, great way to have safety, accessibility without flaunting it.

c.      Bidet, a bidet is a great way to allow someone dignity and privacy as well as good hygiene.  Click here for more details on bidets.
                                      Click here to see more cool grab bars like this.

Anymore suggestions?  Please share your favorite tricks and tips.


Gail Zittel, MA, OTR, CHT said...

Showers: If you are remodeling a shower, put a niche approx 12x12 inches recessed in the wall to hold shampoo and other bottles. Put this within reach of the seated person. Also when remodeling, build in a tiled bench. Many expensive homes do this regularly. For an existing shower, there are teak shower benches that look real nice. If remodeling a shower, remove the ledge or step-over into the shower. Make the new shower door as wide as possible. I also like the grab bars that are stylish and don't look like grab bars.

Karen K Koch said...

Important points Gail, accessible storage is so very important in preventing falls and overall convenience. Thank you for commenting. please let me know if you ever want to post on this blog. You are obviously well versed in accessible home modifications.

James Leber said...

Thanks for a lot of useful info!