The bathroom is both one of the most important and riskiest rooms in the house for people aging in place. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention encourages homeowners to take steps to reduce the risk of falling in the bathroom. If you plan to live independently at home for as long as possible, making a few simple changes in the bathroom can help you do so more comfortably and safely.
Here are a handful of cost-effective changes that can help facilitate aging in place:
Increasing the height of key fixtures such as the toilet and sink can provide greater comfort and ease of use for people with mobility challenges. Having a standard-height toilet replaced with one 16 to 17 inches high is an easy, affordable task. While most standard toilets are 14 or 15 inches tall, the extra two to three inches of height can make a big difference for anyone with mobility issues.
Replace older faucets. Conventional two-handle faucets can be difficult to manage for people with arthritis or decreased flexibility of the hands. Lever-style faucets are a good option for convenient ease of use. Single-handle styles are another easy to operate alternative. For single handle sink and shower faucets, be sure to ask for styles that have a hot limit safety stop to restrict how far the handle can be pushed toward the hot side. For the shower, a thermostatic mixing valve that allows the temperature to be preselected to avoid scalding is another critical feature.
Secure the bathing environment. To minimize the risk of falls, install grab bars in showers, above tubs and around the toilet to help provide stability. Consider a walk-in tub or shower to enhance safety, or add a seat to shower enclosures. In the main part of the bathroom, remove area rugs that may pose a tripping hazard. Consider replacing slick surfaces like smooth ceramic tile with slip-resistant flooring that provides a gripping texture, such as textured vinyl or tile.
Staying safely in their own home as they grow older is a major concern for many Americans. In a 2012 survey by AARP, 70% of surveyed members said they were extremely or very concerned about aging in place. Even if you maintain an active lifestyle and good health, growing older often requires you to manage changes in mobility, vision and accessibility.
Vision changes are a reality of aging for most people. Bathroom lighting should provide ample illumination while minimizing glare and shadows that can hinder depth perception. Invest in both overhead lighting and task lighting in areas where you groom. Waterproof lighting over showers and bath tubs can enhance visibility and safety when climbing in or out of bathing areas. Natural light can also boost safety. Consider installing a skylight (tubular skylights can bring natural light to lower level bathrooms) or replacing traditional window panes with options that provide privacy without blocking light, such as glass blocks or frosted glass.
Transforming your bathroom into a safe haven with stylish, accessible design solutions can help support changing needs as you age.
Nearly 66 million people, or 29% of the US adult population, are providing care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged, according to the National Center for Caregiving. And, according to AARP, 61% of family caregivers who are 50-plus also work full-time or part-time. How can busy caregivers gain peace of mind that their family member is happy and safe while they’re working? There are easy home updates for other rooms to help improve the safety and security of their living space.
Follow these simple tips to help make your family member’s home a safe place for a lifetime.
Hallways and Stairs
Researchers have found that by the time a person is 60 years old, he or she needs up to 15 times more light than at the age of 10 and that is especially true in darker areas, such as hallways and stairs. Replace all hallway lights with higher wattage bulbs or brighter LED lights for added illumination. Also, add nightlights for any middle-of-the-night trips to the bathroom. Make sure there are handrails to help avoid falls. For shorter staircases, such as the garage entry, nine-inch hand grips are an ideal solution, as they’re easy to install and are available in a variety of finishes to complement any room.
Floors and Furniture
To avoid tripping or bumping hazards and to provide adequate room for walkers, canes or wheelchairs—move larger furniture against the wall to create more open walkways throughout the home. Remove loose rugs, or use double-sided tape to ensure they are securely anchored. Finally, be sure that any wires and cords are out of the way to prevent tripping and falls.
Like other rooms in the home, ensure there is adequate lighting, no loose rugs or tripping hazards in the bedroom. Other helpful additions include adding rails to the bed, for ease getting in and out. Also, to help keep everything within arms’ reach, create a bedside “command center” equipped with a telephone, clock, lamp and other necessities.
Kitchen fire hazards are many, and proper checking of different areas is essential to maintaining a fire-safe area. Placing or storing non-cooking equipment like pot holders, dish towels, and plastic utensils, on or near the range may result in fires or burns, so keep them far away.
Buy your loved one an electric teakettle. That way they won’t have to turn the oven on when they want a cup of tea. Set the water-heater temperature at 120˚. Like in the bathroom, use a single-lever faucet that can balance water temperature.
Provide an area away from the knife drawer and the stove where the person in your care can help prepare food. Use a microwave oven whenever possible (but not if a person with a pacemaker is present). For comfort and convenience, set up cabinets to reduce bending and reaching. For easy access, replace drawer knobs with handles.
With a few simple updates you can create a home that is safe for your elder family members—giving you one less thing to worry about and giving them the ability to live alone as long as possible.