The bathroom is often a small space, not designed for sitting, wheelchair access or special equipment you may need. Here is a roundup of products and alterations that can make the “smallest room in the house” safer and more accessible.
General bath aids
Any well-stocked bath shop offers ordinary equipment that can be especially handy for people with disabling conditions.
- Try magnifying mirrors, non-glare lighting and a night light to aid vision.
- Use bath mitts and soap-on-a-rope, along with bath, hair, and tooth-care products in pump dispensers; for teeth, try large-handled electric toothbrushes and flossing swords.
- Use non-slip tub decals and rubber-bottomed bath mats.
- Slip into a terrycloth bathrobe, saving the need to towel off.
- To keep your bathroom cool, install a window fan and/or make sure your built-in ventilator works properly.
Some products are designed especially to help people with disabilities. You can consult a variety of sources, ranging from your doctor and physical and occupational therapists to online resources such as ABLEDATA, which has information on more than 17,000 products.
To accommodate mobility aids, you may need to widen the doorway. Pocket doors are another option; they slide into the wall, either all to one side, or split between the two sides. Look for high-quality ball bearings on the tracks, and add a large U-shaped door pull.
If that’s not feasible, special offset hinges can add a critical two or three inches to the doorway.
Rehang the door so it opens out into the hall. Should you fall against it, helpers can get in.
Here are some products to consider.
- A raised toilet can mean less exertion when you sit down and get up. These come in many varieties, from mounts that raise the whole bowl, to thickly padded seats that add a few inches.
- If you use a wheelchair, a special toilet transfer bench may help you.
- Grab bars by the toilet can help you push off, and there are wall units that swing out of the way if you use a walker.
- A “Bottom Buddy” can hold paper for you, while alcohol-free premoistened wipes can be a soothing alternative to paper. Fancier, non-paper options include devices that squirt warm water followed by warm air. Ask your nurse about special cleansing and moisturizing products if you are prone to irritation or skin breakdown.
- Pedestal sinks allow you to sit on a chair while washing up or wheel underneath the basin. To prevent burns, make sure the pipes are insulated or have a protective panel.
- Lever handles for faucets (especially an all-in-one) can be easier to use than other types of controls.
- Install drawers or caddies on the sides of your sink, or lower down on the wall to make reaching storage areas easier.
- Grab bars help anywhere you need a handhold. Be sure they are made of non-slip material and are bolted to wall studs or otherwise securely attached. In the bathtub, many people find grab bars useful. Vertical bars help you move in and out of the tub or shower more safely. If poor vision plagues you, install grab bars that contrast with the wall color.
- Consider a roll-in shower, either as a new installation or by modifying the flooring between your shower stall and the rest of the room.
- A bathtub transfer bench with suction feet can help you ease into the tub, or even sit there during a shower. Use a folddown seat or a freestanding plastic stool with non-skid feet.
- A hand-held shower—ideally with the water controls in the showerhead itself—adds convenience.
- Shower curtains are easier to slide than heavy glass doors.
- Install a recessed, vapor-proof light fixture to help you see in the sometimes-dark shower area.
- Have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to any bathroom (and kitchen) outlet, to prevent shocks.
- Finally, install an emergency call button or phone in the bathroom, or set up a dry area where you can park your cell phone.
The space chase
Here are a few ideas to conquer the challenge of limited space.
- Sitting can conserve precious energy. If you organize your bath and cosmetic aids, you may free up space for sitting while grooming and/or dressing in the bathroom. If that’s impossible, create a space in your bedroom. Make sure to cluster your grooming items where you use them, to spare your memory and minimize bending and reaching. Keep extra sets of clean underclothes in the bathroom.
- Organize your drawers to keep medicines orderly. Keep a magnifying glass near your prescriptions to help you read the labels. A warm, moist environment is not the best place to store medications. You may want to store your meds elsewhere. You may also want to keep a list of required pills handy, near wherever you store your meds.