We’re all living longer. Data released by the Office for National Statistics predict that one-third of babies that were born in 2013 will live to celebrate their 100th birthday. Coupled with an ageing population is the rapid rise in the costs of elderly care, with the average cost of having an elderly relative in a care home coming in at around £28,500 per year. It’s therefore no surprise that more of us than ever are cutting the care home fees by having elderly relatives live with us as part of the family either in a specially adapted extension or with improvements to the existing household.
When doing up the house with an elderly relative in mind there are several issues to consider, especially in the bathroom.
Whenever you are thinking of renovating a house, or building an extension, the golden rule is always to plan ahead. A parent in their 60s or 70s might still be fit and healthy, and have no problems getting in and out of the bath. But if that parent lives another 20 years, their mobility might not be as good as it once was. Retrofitting some bathroom fixtures might be a simple job, but ripping out a bath and installing a wetroom with a level floor throughout is much more disruptive and expensive.
Think to the future, look around to see what sorts of bathrooms are recommended for the elderly or those with mobility problems and plan accordingly. Think also about wheelchair access; even if there is nobody using a wheelchair in the house at present, there is no guarantee it will always remain that way.
Shower or Bath?
Many elderly people who have grown up in a world without showers have a strong preference for having a bath. The main issue with baths as people get older is getting in and out of the bath safely without falling. There are special “walk-in” baths on the market which do not require any climbing in and out of the tub, or you can get swivel seats to safely lower someone into the bath and out again. Some of these modifications can be expensive though, so always shop around to see what is available.
Showers are often more practical than a bath and you can also think about building in a seat for people who struggle to stay on their feet for long periods of time. The other main thing to consider is the door entrance into the shower cubicle as there is often a rail along the floor which can be a trip hazard.
Wetrooms are often the ideal solution for creating a room which will be suitable for not only the elderly member of the family, but for everyone else as well. A wetroom differs from a normal bathroom in that it is waterproofed throughout, meaning there is no shower tray raised up from the floor. Having a room designed in this way can make a smaller room feel bigger, and can provide more space for the elderly person to get a wheelchair in, or for a carer to help with personal care and bathing.
Wetrooms are modern and sleek, and for the elderly who objects to special adaptations having to be made for them, they can be the perfect compromise.
Rails and Bars
Trips and slips are the main cause of injury in the bathroom for all members of the family, not just the elderly and those living with a disability. Some strategically placed grab rails and support bars can help minimise the probability of slipping, and these bars are cheap to buy and simple to install. Charities such as Age UK or the Disabled Living Foundation provide online factsheets and advice to help you decide where the rails are best located and if you’re not up to doing the DIY yourself, any handyman or joiner will be able to help you out. In some cases, your local Council may be able to fund the adaptations to your home to allow an elderly relative to move in; call the local Social Work department and ask.
Flooring and Tiles
The choice of flooring is largely a matter of personal preference, but again non-slip or textured flooring is always better than shiny or glossy tiles. Think about rubber flooring or textured vinyl rather than tiles, and avoid the use of mats or rugs on the bathroom floor completely.
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