From the age of 14, I helped look after my elderly aunt. I visited every day to cook her meals and help with chores, and as you can imagine, it was heart-breaking to see her struggle to live a normal life and to participate in the everyday activities most of us take for granted. I was inspired to pass on some of the insights I picked up during this time, so thanks to Brian for letting me write it for the ElderKind readers.
In the bathroom:
The main difficulties my aunt had were in the bathroom, and included showering and her general morning routine; she struggled to climb in and out of the bath to have a shower, and the taps on the sink were difficult to turn. We researched the options for bathroom mobility aids, and installed the following:
A walk-in shower: This can either replace or compliment a bath, and offers elderly users the independence most of us take for granted when showering. As you can see in the image below, the doors allow level access to the shower (no steps), but also prevent water from spilling onto the bathroom floor when the shower is in progress. This has the dual safety benefit of reducing the risk of falls while climbing into a bath, and reducing the risk of slipping on a wet floor.
We also opted to install a shower seat, so that my aunt could sit down whilst showering and conserve her energy. The convenience offered by the seat was welcomed, as it allowed her to take her time in the shower rather than having to rush, as was previously the case.
If you don’t have the space to install a walk-in shower, you might consider changing to a walk-in bath instead. We didn’t opt for this solution, but we did consider it briefly. The walk-in bath carries many of the benefits of the walk-in shower (door for easy access and to prevent spills, seat for comfortable bathing), but obviously offers a different method of washing for the user. Choose the option which fits best with the user’s budget, bathroom space, and bathing preferences.
We also installed easy turn taps in the bathroom, because my aunt found it hard to turn the stiff taps. As elderly people may become weaker with old age, and may suffer from problems such as arthritis, stiff screw taps are not always as practical for their bathrooms. Easy turn taps with large handles use leverage to make them easier to use. These taps can also be installed with an anti-scald option, to ensure users don’t accidentally turn the tap too far and burn themselves on the hot water.
One of the most effective changes we made was to reduce the amount of clutter in the bathroom. This sounds like an obvious option, but you’d be surprised how cluttered the space was beforehand. After the clutter was removed, the risk of falling was reduced, and my aunt felt safer and more confident in the bathroom.
Hopefully these points wereÂ useful, and have given you some ideas for how to make the bathroom experience more independent and pleasant for elder relatives.
About the author: Alice Lawson writes on behalf of More Ability, who provide a range of accessible bathroom products. This postÂ was written to share insights that will hopefully assist carers of the elderly.