‘How long a minute is, depends on what side of the bathroom door you’re on.’ For many of us, the bathroom is our personal spa. It’s a good thing we love our time spent there, as it’s estimated the average person spends 1.5 years of their life in the lavatory.

We go to our bathroom to relax. A hot shower washes away our daily worries while a drawn bath allows us to unwind. Unfortunately, the love we have for our bathroom isn’t always reciprocated. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 36 million falls are reported among older adults each year, many of which are due to injuries in the bathroom.

Injuries in or near the shower and bathtub account for more than two-thirds of emergency room visits, while injuries around the toilet are very high in individuals who are 65+, says the Center for Disease Control.

The statistics are frightening, especially for seniors with mobility issues. Fortunately, there are ways to make sure your bathroom remains a personal retreat and not a trip to the emergency. Whether you are mobility-restricted or caring for someone with mobility disabilities, the following 7 tips provide you with simple and effective ways to reclaim your bathroom sanctuary by improving bathroom safety.

7 Ways to Improve Accessibility for Bathroom Safety

    1. Comfortable Height Toilets: Most standard toilets are only 15” high‚ sometimes shorter. For comparison, most standard household chairs are around 18” or higher.  Seniors often struggle when transferring on or off the toilet seat‚ comfort height toilets make the transition easier.
    2. Roll-Under Sinks: Standard vanity sinks are difficult for wheelchair users‚ as the vanity doesn’t allow the user to get close enough to use the sink properly. Roll under sinks have a shallow bowl and no cabinets underneath, leaving enough room to roll right up to the sink comfortably.
    3. Walk-in Bathtub: Taking a bath is one of the first things we have to give up when the fear of falling (or getting back up) becomes a concern. It doesn’t have to be that way. Replace a shower or existing bathtub with a walk-in bathtub that allows you to sit up straight while you soak.
    4. Barrier Free Showers:  Getting in and out of conventional bathtubs and showers can be a struggle and dangerous, especially for seniors and those with limited mobility. There are a couple of opportunities for replacing this space:
      • Barrier Free Full Shower Unit: Bathing is made easy by removing the bathtub/shower step and replacing it with a floor levelled Barrier Free Shower. This allows wheelchairs to roll right inside the shower space. A beveled edge or slight floor rise keeps the water in. In addition, full wood backing inside the shower walls allow grab bar and shower seat installation for support. There is less risk of falling while entering and exiting the shower‚ which means seniors and those with limited mobility will be able to bath safely & independently in the bathroom.
      • Shower Pans: Similar to barrier free showers but without shower walls, Shower Pans are purely a shower base. They are an affordable way to replace a standard bathtub shower. A zero threshold, and often slip-resistant, shower base allows users to wheel or walk right inside without having to step.
      • Semi-Permanent Threshold: You can add a 2.75” threshold onto any Freedom Shower to transform it into an easy-step low curb shower. This is especially useful if you want to add a shower door. The semi-permanent threshold can be removed at a later date to transform the shower back to being wheelchair friendly.
      • Collapsible Water Retainer: Only 1” high and made of durable neoprene rubber, a collapsible water retainer can be added to any barrier free shower or shower pan to keep the bathroom floor extra dry. The Collapsible Water Retainer can be rolled over with minimal effort and comes with a self-adhesive tape for easy installation.
    5. Grab Bars: There is no shortage of beautifully designed grab bars that can add safety to any bathroom with a simple installation.
    6. Shower Seats: Installing a shower seat is one of the easiest ways to add safety and comfort to your shower. Sitting while you shower allows you to rest your legs and avoid slips. Folding Shower Seats are perfect for shared shower spaces and come with legs or wall-supported options. For ADA-compliant spaces you can find heavy-duty options with legs or wall-support.
    7. Improved Bathroom Layout: Make sure doorways are at least 32” wide to easily accommodate a wheelchair. Also be sure there is enough room for turning a wheelchair around. There should be a 5’ x 5’ space in front of the shower for maximal maneuverability. Make sure light switches are no more than 48” off the floor so they can be reached from a seated position and outlets should be at least 15” from the floor.

When you make simple accessible changes to your bathroom‚ you greatly expand your safety and independence. Even if you or your loved one is currently independent‚ improving the accessibility of the bathroom can help create a safer space that allows one to comfortably age in place.

Use these tips to take command of your bathroom. Remember, you spend 1.5 years of your life there! You might as well enjoy your time worry-free, and make sure your bathroom loves you back.

Tell us how much you love (or don’t love) your bathroom. Do you have a bathroom falling experience you’d like to share? Any tips to add? We’d love to hear from you! Please comment below.

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