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Are you worried about Mom and Dad living at home? Read our blog for tips and news on how to help your loved ones make changes in their home to live independently and safely! Sign up for the weekly newsletter and get a free gift!

How to Make the Bathroom Safe: A Case Study

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

-Socrates

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In my line of work, I find that people fight “the old” constantly. I help people find ways to live at home as long as they want, no matter what happens to them in life.

Now you may think that I’m referring to “the old” as in old people. How dare you?! On the contrary, “the old” isn’t people who are getting older! “The old” is how houses are built and set up in the past and today.

Do you have arthritis? Did you get injured in a car accident? Did the doctor inform you that you have a chronic disease? I can help you live at home despite any of those things.

“Building the new” means a couple of things to me too! Of course, “building the new” could refer to professionals in the housing industry creating accessible homes right now. But “building the new” also refers to having a new way of thinking!

Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’ve lived in this house for thirty years, and I’ve always done things this way”, I ask people to be open to the idea that you can live in your house by making minor changes that ensure your safety and independence.

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One of my clients, let’s call him Tom, asked for a home evaluation to see what he could do to feel safer while using his bathroom. During assessments, I ask personal questions like, “Do you get tired when you’re showering?”

Tom told me he did feel tired while showering.

Hard fact per the CDC: the most falls that happen at home occur when people step out of the shower.

I told Tom that feeling tired while showering could make it easier for him to fall in the shower and get hurt! Tom quickly countered that he has always stood to take a shower!

My inner dialogue started engaging. I thought, “Oh no, Tom is not accepting the fact that his body is changing and he has different needs then he did decades ago.” Instead of panicking, I knew that I could come to a perfect solution for Tom to provide the support he needed.

During my assessment, I noticed Tom had no place to safely sit in his step in shower. Even if Tom did sit in the shower, the shower head would constantly spray him in the face and he would have no control of where to aim the water!

Well, I don’t want Tom to drown in his own shower!

Tom and I discussed different options on what to do with the shower. An inexpensive way was to use a shower chair that was not attached to the wall. This would allow Tom to stand or sit during the shower depending on how he felt that day. I let him know at least the shower chair would be there if he felt tired and needed to sit and rest. Shower chairs with backrests and armrests are ideal to let Tom lean back to relax.

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Next, I recommended Tom install a handheld shower head on a height adjustable mount. The handheld shower head allows Tom to aim water where ever he likes while sitting or standing in the shower. A height adjustable mount gives Tom the ability to put the shower head down and adjust the shower head at the height he wants. If Tom wants to stand and shower, he would adjust the shower head above his head. If he prefers to sit and shower, Tom would lower the height of the shower head.

Arthritis can be very nasty to our grip strength as we mature. To make sure Tom could always manage the water controls, I suggested replacing the water control that depended on twisting wrist action to a lever style handle. Lever style handles require very little effort to use.

As a rule of thumb, I help people prevent twisting their backs while reaching for soap and shampoo in the shower. I told Tom he would benefit from placing shower storage within reach in front of his body while sitting in the shower chair. Tom agreed and decided to install a corner shelf in the shower at his shoulder height. This is a great technique to prevent falls as well!

We also discussed installing one grab bar in the shower and one grab bar outside of the shower to give Tom stability while stepping in and out of the shower. Although the shower lip was only several inches high, it’s very easy for people to trip on the lip and fall. We placed the grab bars at heights that were specific for Tom’s anthropometrics. After all, Tom’s the only one using the shower!

I love customizing people’s homes!

Tom agreed to these inexpensive options. He liked the idea of being able to stand or sit when he wanted. Tom kept his freedom and dignity to shower while feeling safe at the same time.

I can’t express the satisfaction I feel when I help people get what they want. Tom chose the fixtures he wanted to keep in line with the aesthetics of his bathroom. Nothing looked like a sterile hospital or nursing home. If Tom had a visitor look at his bathroom, no one would have any idea that we made changes in order to prevent Tom from falling while showering.

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While we gather with our loved ones this holiday season, I encourage you to talk to your family members about how their needs may be changing. We know that you and your family are dealing with “the old”, or the way houses are currently set up to be inaccessible. Let’s talk about “building the new”, making those changes in the home that can allow your family members to live safely and independently at home.

Call me or email me for ideas on how to talk with your family members about how they are doing taking care of themselves and their homes. I hate to brag, but I’m very good at talking about these personal things with people! In fact, let me talk to your family members for you!

With that being said, I wish you all a lovely Holiday Season! I will see you on the blog in January!