Doorknob vs. lever, the first consideration in safety is the ease of the elderly parent
getting in and out of any room and using a lever vs. knob to open the door is one
small but very important change you can make. It’s easy to change out a doorknob
to a lever, normally only a Phillips screwdriver is the only tool needed. Please refer
to our DIY section for helpful tips – images of the 2 doorknob and lever
A remote door opener is extremely helpful when your parent uses a cane, crutches,
walker or wheel chair is to install. Backing up to open a door is very dangerous. A
remote door opener gives your parent freedom, independence, privacy and safety.
Please refer to our Product review section – images of the 4e door opener
A vanity base bathroom sink makes getting close to the sink for washing and other
care needs a hardship. Image of a wheelchair and vanity Simple access to the sink if
in a wheelchair or walker is very difficult. Removing the vanity and installing a ADA
(American Disability Act) approved sink will allow access to the sink from a wheel
chair or sitting on a walker. Images of Grammy at the sink
From a sitting position it is helpful to tip the vanity mirror forward by as little as 5-
10 degrees. Please review our DIY section for tips on doing this.
On any sink, using a single lever faucet will make turning on the water easy and
selecting the correct temperature safe. Image of a single lever
The new automatic water faucets are a great invention for the bathroom. The cost
can be as low as $50.00 for a faucet adapter to $100.00 and up for a complete auto-
censing faucet. The installation can easily be done by a home handyman. These
faucets will turn on as soon as hands are placed under the faucet. One of the benefits
is that the temperature is pre-set so there is no need for adjusting to keep the
temperature safe. However if your hot water line takes time to get the hot water to
the faucet there will be the usual delay in obtaining warm water. Commercial image
or brief video of the faucet – relationship with vendor
Many times a simple drain plug (with or without a chain) will do a much better job
at holding water than the built in drain plugs. Plus it may be easier to use than the
built in raising rods by the elderly. Plus often times the built in drain plugs systems
will collect hair and other particles causing a slow drain. Images of the two styles,
need a chain on the drain plug
Especially important in the bathroom is the placement of frequent and convenient
handrails. Be careful not to confuse handrails with bath towel rods. Safety is very
important in the bathroom as there is so much activity in such a small space it is
easy to over look the types of activity, the position of handrails to make the activities
safe and easy to stand, sit, get back up, move/spin around without loosing balance.
It’s not aesthetic, but the more handrails the safer. Simply do a walk thru the
bathroom and imagine limited activity and where you would need an extra support
or assistance to sit down, get up and especially move safely in a wet area.
Mounting handrails to be a sturdy and safe support is extremely important. Please
read the included instructions by the handrail manufacturers. You may want to
look at our review of the various types of anchors available in our “how to” section.
We think the larger and fluffier the towels the better. But when you are aging weight
and size of a towel can be a hindrance and a hazard. It’s hard to lift your arms up
and over your head. A heavy towel will use a lot of energy to use. If you have to
steady yourself while standing, you only have one hand to use in drying yourself off.
If you are looking for lightweight quick drying towels consider the lightweight
towels back packers’ use. They are lightweight, absorb a lot of moisture for their
weight and are quick to dry.
A conventional toilet seat can be a dangerous situation. Using an elevated seat with
side railings will provide a convenient and safe situation. Transporting from a
wheelchair will require a seat height that matches the wheelchair. Having
convenient handrails for transferring are critical in maintaining a safe situation.
Another necessity is convenient access to toilet paper. The toilet paper holder needs
to be easy to reach without stretching or bending. Also as the situation may warrant
you will need space for a caregiver to assist with transfers and cleaning.
Bathing can be an especially hazardous situation. There are a number of
considerations to take into consideration in regards to providing a safe and easy to
use environment. Based on the activity level today and what may transpire in
months to come what starts out as an easy to use transfer seat in a conventional tub
may over time evolve into the need for a roll in chair shower situation.
Walk in tubs are very well promoted on the TV but in an assisted living environment
they are difficult to use based on the height of the opening, need of the patient to be
mobile and the length of time it takes to fill and drain. Plus assisting with any
bathing needs it is very difficult for a caregiver to assist in any way.
In most bath situations, direct observation is the best safeguard. However most
patients want privacy in bathing, so it is extremely important to have fall prevention
aids and a fall or safety alarm to signal for help. You can use a wireless doorbell for
an inexpensive call button. Simply inserting it in a plastic bag and hang where it is
easy to reach position is a help to you and your parent.
Kleenex or similar disposable towels are a nice adjunct to normal hand towels.
Another nice to have product are flushable, single use moist towels. Frequently
there may be a need for more hygiene cleaning and using disposable items is more
convenient for both caregiver and patient.
For ambulatory parents constipation is a frequent side effect of the medications
used and plugging the toilet is often a side effect… so it is important to have a good
toilet plunger available and easy to use. One caution is the embarrassment the
parent may feel when/if this happens they will wear themselves out trying to clear
the plugged toilet. Depending on the condition of the parent the energy used to
clear a plugged toilet could cause fatigue and create a very unsafe condition. So
monitoring the parent is required.
Controlling the ambient temperature in a bathroom is more critical than you can
imagine. Due to many of the elderly illnesses, parents can have a difficult time in
regulating their body temperature. They are more aware and affected by drafts and
temperature. Having a heater in a bathroom to warm up the temperature sounds
like a nice idea, but the draft / breeze will actually cool the parent off and create a
much more difficult situation.
Easy and convenient access to toiletries is extremely important in avoiding
hazardous and unsafe conditions. Bending over can be unsafe if there are any
middle ear or balance issues. Additionally not being able to find care products
(medications, face and hand towels, toothbrush, soap, Water pick, etc.) when needed
is stressful and frustrating. If you can install shelving, use upper drawers and towel
bars close to the sink and bathing area it is a lot more convenient and safe.
Additional bathroom items that need to be addressed are easy and safe (stable)
assess to a trashcan and scale for weight checking. In order for convenient and safe
scale use there needs to be stable support for standing but not interfere with
There are a number of consumer toilet rails that attaché directly on the existing
toilet using the toilet seat screws. Using toilet rails are very helpful as long as your
parent does not use a wheelchair and or is able to self-transfer. These toilet rails
also have a support that rests on the front of the toilet and in a few months will start
to rust, as they are not totally covered by most toilet seats. Look for the best
construction you can find as a poorly constructed set of rails will feel lose and
In addition to safe and convenient access to a solid toilet paper holder, you may also
need assess to flushable wipes. Flushable wipes are very helpful in cleaning and
feeling clean. Since they are usually in a closed pop up container a shelf or other
horizontal surface within safe and easy reach of the toilet is a must.
Access to water, like a small showerhead or some means of washing away solids
sticking to the body is very helpful as the condition of your parent deteriorates. But
also you will need space to work at the toilet so toilet rails that detach or swing
away are very helpful for situations like this. There are also “Bidet” type retrofit
toilet seats that may be convenient for situations like this.
During cleaning, brushing teeth, and other functions frequently both hands are
needed and it’s really helpful to be able sit at the sink during these activities. Most
often the rolling walkers have a integrated seat but it is necessary to rotate the
walker or the parent 180 degrees… this is a difficult and potentially unsafe situation.
If there is any option to put a sturdy seat in front of the sink or other options make it
safer and easier for your parent.
Lighting in any room and especially the bathroom is helpful in performing tasks.
Controlling odors in the bathroom is also helpful for everyone. A functioning celling
fan is helpful, but again this may induce a breeze. Using small and frequently
changed garbage cans, quickly scrubbing/cleaning soiled surfaces and cleaning the
floor will do a lot to provide a clean / fresh environment. Also using a Baby Diaper
hamper will help to store soiled disposable items in a odor tight and visually
Flooring in the bathroom should never involve a rug. The incidence of falls is
greatly increased with any lose flooring material. Cleaning and odor control is
greatly improved with a solid no seamed (vinyl) flooring material. A tile floor needs
to have a high resistance to being slippery when wet. Ceramic tile is rated with a
coefficient of friction (COF) value that indicates, “Slippery when wet”. For safety,
choose tile rated at .50 COF or greater.
Bathrobes, as we discussed in choosing a good towel, in a robe the material and
weight are very important considerations. Weight and absorbency are 2 of the 3
considerations. Equally important is easy on and off with limited mobility.
If you are using a conventional bathtub, you will need to look at a transfer seat or
shower chair. Remember as your parent’s condition changes you will have to create
or modify to have a safe environment. A sturdy seat will be one of the best
investments you can make.
Bathtub railings can appear to be a help, but take a close look at the room/space
they take up in transferring. Make sure to shop for the best fit of both size and
Of special note: If you have the sliding door tub enclosures the bottom rail and solid
½ wall will make it very difficult to use for transferring.
Shower curtains and rods should be carefully chosen. The curtain may in an
emergency be used for support. They may need to be quickly moved. A clear see
thru may help in observing and monitoring for safety. The newer shower curtain
rods that bow out are helpful in creating a more spacious environment within the
tub area, but they do take up extra space in the walking and working area of the
bathroom. A new invention is a bow rod you can flip into the tub area when not in
use, thus giving you back the walkway space.