Senior Living: The Wheelchair-Friendly Bathroom

By Michelle Cemental

Wheelchairs can be cumbersome, especially in small, confined spaces such as the bathroom. A few modifications to the current layout or design of a bathroom can offer more independence and comfort for elderly as they go about their daily activities. If you or a senior loved one has the need for wheelchair assistance, here are a few tips to modify the bathroom to allow for easier mobility, access and safety in a wheelchair.

 Bathroom Tips

  • Keep the bathroom free of clutter and debris: Keep the bathroom free of rugs or other obstacles suck as laundry baskets, which might hinder mobility or pose a safety hazard.

  • Install safety bars: Safety bars are a simple step to provide more security and safety in your bathroom. These are easy to install and available for purchase at your local home improvement retailers.

  • Widen the doorway: Wheelchairs range in size, however, a typical chair is 24" to 27″ wide. Allow enough room for the chair to comfortably pass through. Your doorway should be at least 32″ wide for a straight approach. If your bathroom doesn’t allow for straight entry, you doorway needs to be at least 36″ in width to allow for turning and larger movements.

  • Add non-slip surfaces: Bathroom floors can be slippery especially when wet. Non-slip flooring for the shower, tub and floors are available at most home improvement retailers. Vinyl flooring is a good alternative choice to minimize the slip of the surfaces.

  • Install walk-in bath tubs/showers: Stepping in and out of the bathtub can be treacherous. Bath tubs can be replaced with a stand-up shower. If this modification isn’t a reality, a simple solution would be adding a shower seat. Another option is adding a transfer bench to your bathtub for easier entry and exit into the tub. Finally, adding a hand operated shower head will add ease to your shower.

  • Lower the sink: Lowering your sink a couple inches, or adding a roll-under sink will allow easier access for you in your chair.

  • Change out the toilet: Special toilet units are available to make transfer from your wheelchair safe and easy.

Even with these modifications, wheelchair mobility might still be a challenge. We advise making a few of the easier modifications, and when you have the resources incorporate a few of the other more dramatic changes. If a senior in your family is confined to a wheelchair, use these tips to help make mobility easier or reach out to your local Caring team for proper guidance on how to make a home safer for seniors.

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Tags: Senior Safety