submitted by Tom Wells, Tom Wells Construction, LLC, www.tgw-construction.com
As regular readers know, we are Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS), and we always suggest that, regardless of the size of the job, our clients consider planning for their “golden years” when remodeling any room or adding on. It’s our “My Home Forever” philosophy. The goal is to postpone – possibly forever – the time when moving to an assisted-living facility becomes necessary.
In the last column, we began to focus on the bathroom, the most dangerous room in the house for a senior. In this column, we’ll finish the broad overview.
When remodeling a bathroom, you want to make sure that it offers at least 30 inches by 48 inches of clear space to accommodate a wheelchair. It’s also a good idea to widen the door for wheel-chair accessibility. This may involve repositioning the shower/tub, sink, and toilet. Most of the time, that’s not difficult for us to do, though, of course it takes longer than replacing the fixtures in their current locations.
Note: A wheelchair requires maneuvering room of at least 60 inches to make a 180-degree turn. But if space is limited, we can configure a T-shaped space that allows a three-point wheelchair turn.
As for the floors, you definitely do not want high-gloss tile, regardless of how a given product might fit with your planned color scheme. Instead, we recommend skid-proof, textured tiles. They are available in a wide variety of colors and shapes.
If you’re installing or replacing a shower, it should be of the “zero-threshold” design so there’s nothing you have to step over to enter the shower stall. This also makes the shower wheelchair accessible.
The shower should also contain a built-in, wall-mounted shower bench. This will make it possible for someone in a wheelchair to easily transfer to the bench without the need to stand up.
The shower controls should be placed so that someone sitting on the bench can operate them. If this proves inconvenient for people who do not use a wheelchair, consider having your contractor install a dual set of controls: one for someone on the bench and one for someone standing.
Grab bars are a must, as is a hand-held showerhead and a value that lets you switch between the wall-mounted showerhead and the hand-held.
It goes without saying that there should be no sharp edges on bathroom countertops or tub decks. And those counter tops should be a bit higher than is usual to reduce the amount of bending you have to do. It’s even possible to install motorized, adjustable-height vanities and sinks.
Speaking of sinks, avoid pedestal sinks and specify a wall-mounted unit instead. The idea is to provide enough room under the sink so that a person can use it while sitting in a chair or wheelchair, something that’s next to impossible with a pedestal occupying the under-sink space. Whenever we explain this to clients, a light bulb goes off in their heads, and they say, “I never would have thought of that!”
The taps serving the sink (and shower) should be lever-controlled to eliminate the need for the gripping strength that’s required for operating a typical round faucet. And then, of course, there’s the toilet.
A standard toilet measures 14 inches from floor to seat. A “comfort height” toilet measures 17 inches. This makes it easier to lower and lift yourself off the seat.
For additional safety, we recommend a grab bar positioned in a way that an individual can use it when sitting or rising.
Finally, be sure to install nightlights along the path leading to the bathroom and inside the bathroom itself.