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Elder Care: How to Create Disabled Bathrooms

Updated on May 21, 2010

Prevent slip and fall accidents

If you’re a care giver for an elderly relative or friend, you have to pay special attention to areas that provide the potential for slip and fall accidents. Many older adults have brittle bones, and a slip and fall accident could easily result in a fracture. Even in older adults with healthy bone density, a slip and fall accident could cause other problems. The elderly don’t usually “bounce back” from a fall like younger people do.

The most likely place in the home for a slip and fall accident is the bathroom. Think about it: practically every surface in the bathroom is slick, and when these surfaces get damp, the situation is even worse. Bathrooms practically invite slip and fall accidents!

So how can you make the bathroom a safe place? Basically, you’ll need to turn the room into a handicap accessible bathroom by following the guidelines below.

Reduce slip and fall accidents with proper flooring

First of all, you need to remove clutter from the bathroom floor. An elder shouldn’t have to navigate around plants, hampers, or trash baskets to get to the toilet, sink, or tub or shower. Also, rugs should be removed. Even rugs with non-skid backing could result in slip and fall accidents for elders who shuffle instead of picking up their feet as they walk.

Now for the flooring itself. Ceramic tile is very slick – perfect for slip and fall accidents. Textured quarried tile is better, and carpet is better still. Don’t freak out! Wall-to-wall carpet is available in waterproof textures.

Make the bathtub safe from slip and fall accidents

If the bathroom has a traditional bathtub, purchase a transfer bench. Disabled bathrooms often use these benches. They’re sturdy, with four legs. Two of the legs rest in the bathtub, and the other two legs sit outside the tub so that the bench straddles the ledge of the tub. This way, the elder can sit on the bench and transfer his body into the tub without having to actually step over the tub ledge.

To make a traditional tubs more like handicap bathtubs, place a sturdy seat inside the tub. A showerhead on a long hose will allow the person to bathe while sitting on the chair. It’s also a good idea to have a slip-proof rubber mat in the bottom of the tub or shower, too. You’ll need one with suction cups on the bottom to keep it in place. Also, the mat should be a different color than the floor of the tub or shower so it will be easy to see.

Handicap bathtubs

Disabled bathrooms in eldercare facilities often use handicap bathtubs. If you or your elder can afford one, these handicap bathtubs are wonderful! You’ve probably seen these on television ads. The bather simply steps into the tub, sits on the built-in bench, and closes the tub door. The door is completely waterproof, so the tub can be filled with relaxing warm water without worry of leaks. This type of handicap bathtubs don’t take up as much floor space as traditional bathtubs, but they’re much deeper.

Handicap shower stalls

Another option for disabled bathrooms is a handicap shower or a handicap shower stall. Most handicap shower stalls are walk-in units. Handicap shower units generally have a very small ledge, so they’re easy to step over. Many of the handicap shower stalls also have a built-in seat or bench to make showering easier.

A handicap shower unit might also come with a non-slip surface on the bottom to prevent slip and fall accidents, so you won’t have to add a rubber mat. Handicap shower stalls might also come already equipped with grab bars and safety rails to reduce the chance for a slip and fall.

Handicap accessible bathroom toilet

An integral part of disabled bathrooms is the toilet. Many elders have trouble getting on and off the commode. To make the toilet part of a handicap accessible bathroom, you can use a toilet safety frame. This fits over the toilet and has arm rests that allow the user to place weight on the rests to help them get up.

Another toilet option in disabled bathrooms is a toilet riser. This is a simple seat that fits over the existing toilet seat, making it several inches taller. Toilet risers are inexpensive and easy to install.

Handicap accessible bathroom bars

Disabled bathrooms should have several grab bars placed at strategic locations. One should be placed near the toilet, one near the sink, and one near the bathtub or shower. And don't think grab bars have to be ugly, either. Grab bars are available in several materials and finishes, including bronze, brass, and nickel, and they can be screwed into the wall or applied with strong suction cups. You need to be aware that the suction-type grab bars are not as strong as the type that screws into the wall. They’re more for steadying than for pulling up with. These are fine for placing along walls, but it’s best to use the screw-in bars near the toilet, sink, and tub or shower.

Handicap accessible bathroom sink

If your elder is in a wheelchair, you might want to install a handicap accessible bathroom sink. These allow the person in the wheelchair to roll right up to the sink for hand washing, teeth brushing, and shaving or applying makeup.

More tips for disabled bathrooms

Never allow bath oils or heavy hair conditioners to be used in handicap bathtubs or handicap shower units. They’ll leave an oily residue and sharply increase the potential for slip and fall accidents.

Also, never allow the elder to enter disabled bathrooms in their sock feet. Barefoot is safer. If they insist on some type of foot covering, use bedroom slippers with non-skid soles.

Disabled bathrooms: a recap

Okay, this was a lot to digest! Here’s a checklist for creating disabled bathrooms:

- clear the floor area

- use textured tile or carpet

- use a transfer bench with traditional tubs

- use a tub seat

- use a non-slip rubber bath or shower mat

- handicap bathtubs are safer

- install a handicap shower unit

- make a handicap accessible bathroom toilet by using a riser or safety frame

- use strong grab bars in strategic locations

- install a handicap accessible bathroom sink if needed for a wheelchair

- no bath oils or oily conditioners in the tub or shower

- barefoot or non-skid soles only

If you follow these tips for disabled bathrooms, your elder can maintain their independence longer, and the chance for any slip and fall accidents will be greatly reduced.

Where to buy accessories for disabled bathrooms

Instead of searching medical supply stores, you can shop for disabled bathroom accessories below. The ones displayed are just a sampling of all the handicap bathroom products available here. To see more, simply click on one of the pictures below!

Read more about elderly issues by clicking the links below the products!

Handicap bathtubs are great for disabled bathrooms.
Handicap bathtubs are great for disabled bathrooms.


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    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Elf. Glad you liked the disabled bathrooms tips!

    • elf_cash profile image

      elf_cash 7 years ago

      Good tips for disabled bathrooms!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, SM!

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 7 years ago from Michigan

      Familiar with these great suggestions from working in a nursing home. Great job! Voted-up/rated!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for the comment, NAncy!

    • nancy_30 profile image

      nancy_30 7 years ago from Georgia

      Really great hub Habee. These were great tips on how to make the bathroom safer for the elderly.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Audrey - girl, you are a hoot!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Yes, Katie, it's pretty dangerous for all of us, but the elderly have a greater chance of slip and fall accidents, of course. Thanks!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Ethel, you're making me feel old! lol

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Pam. My prayers are with you! Been there!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, Ann! We had to deal with it with both my parents.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for stopping by, Gpage!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Washington

      I'm not sure I need to wait any longer to install one of these - I think I'm there....I can usually manage to half kill myself without any help. All I need is a tile floor, a soaking tub and me and we have ingredients for disaster. Great info though and am thinking of what we need to do down the road for ourselves. Definitely need those buttons!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      We went through that, too, PP. Hang in there!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Sheila, glad you found some useful tips here!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Masmasika, thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      I know the feeling, HH!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 7 years ago from Georgia

      Many thanks, Lovelypaper!

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 7 years ago from I'm outta here

      habee, the bathroom is a dangerous place and precautions for elder care and disabled bathrooms are techniques we could all benefit from to stay safe from slips and falls. Peace :)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Very useful. This will be us before we know it :)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Excellent hub with great suggestions. My mother lives with us and we have done some of those things. Thanks.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

      Thankfully I don't have to deal with this for myself on anyone in my family for that matter, but you did a good job, on this hub, Habee! Well done and very helpful!

    • GPAGE profile image

      GPAGE 7 years ago from California

      habee, what a really helpful hub! Thank you for putting this information out there. It is really important! Best, G

    • PrettyPanther profile image

      PrettyPanther 7 years ago from Oregon

      Excellent suggestions! We are dealing with this with my parents now. Sometimes, the most difficult part is getting them to agree to the bathroom modifications.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 7 years ago

      Your first suggestion, to remove clutter from the floor, is one I wouldn't have thought of. Now, either I'm particularly dense, or one of many who wouldn't have thought of that. Anyway, for me, a useful hub.

    • profile image

      masmasika 7 years ago

      Very helpful tips.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Oh, habee I could do with that bath. My old bones getting stiffer and stiffer but no money - no bath.

    • lovelypaper profile image

      Renee S 7 years ago from Virginia

      What a great hub you have written, Habee. You will be a help to others.