If you have moved an aging parent in with your family, then you will want to make sure he or she is comfortable. With a mother-in-law bathroom as part of his or her suite, you can be confident that your loved one will be both safe and comfortable.
Older people often need special bathroom accessories and equipment, and installing the right items will make the bathroom easier to navigate and safe for use.[margin10]
Even if your mother-in-law can handle getting in and out of the bathtub now, it’s important to consider what will happen as she ages and her mobility weakens further. The best mother-in-law suite bathrooms feature zero-entry showers. They are easy to enter even with a walker or wheelchair. With no threshold on the floor to cross, there is nothing on the floor to trip them and cause a bad fall. Water still drains away with a properly sloped floor, and you can also install a floor drain in case some water strays out into the main bathroom.
Seating for Safety
Special shower chairs provide your father with a place to sit in the shower. Raised toilet seats make it easier for them to sit on the commode. It’s tempting to go with built-in benches for the shower, but these are not as effective with aging people who struggle to stay in a good, upright position. With a freestanding chair, you can also have seat belts to help your mother remain upright while you help her bathe. Even if they don’t require help with personal hygiene at this time, it’s important to remember that your parent may eventually need help even with these simple daily tasks. Whether you are the person assisting with personal hygiene or you have an aide coming in every day, the right kind of chair with seat belt will make bathing easier and safer. The chair can also be removed completely if your parent reaches a point where he or she will be showering while seated in a special wheelchair.
Handheld Shower Heads
Leave the fancy shower heads at the store and opt for handheld options. They can be used for traditional showers, but they also come off the wall to make it easier for a seated person to bathe themselves. As your parents care needs change and progress, the handheld shower wands will also make it easier to assist your parent with personal hygiene and bathing.
Grab Bars Throughout The Room
Grab bars must be secured in the wall studs. In addition to putting a grab bar near the commode, you should also install one near the sink, several in the shower and one on any long stretches of wall. Install horizontal bars between 33 and 35 inches above the floor for easy access. It’s also wise to install a grab bar on a 45-degree angle near the shower to make it easier to get in and out. Invest in toilet safety rails that come up on either side of the toilet and make using the commode safer, easier and more comfortable.
Watch The Sinks
It’s important to plan a bathroom so that it will meet your parent’s needs today and accommodate her tomorrow. Your mother-in-law or father is not going to become any stronger at this point, so you need to prepare for the day that a walker, wheelchair or even lift is in use around the house. Consider using a pedestal sink initially if your mother or father is still walking or using a walker. They are the right height for a standing person, they have floor space beneath them and they can even be leaned on a little if necessary. Once your parent transitions into a wheelchair, the pedestal sink should be replaced with a lower wall-mounted sink that is within reach.
Limit the Accessories
The number one feature aging parents need in any bathroom is space. Wheelchairs are cumbersome, and walkers need extra space for maneuvering. While you need storage areas in the bathroom, it is more important to maintain plenty of space by keeping the floor area open and free of obstructions. This will prevent dangerous falls and make it easier for your parent to navigate around the room.
When you are trying to maintain open floor space, finding storage becomes more challenging. One of the best choices is recessed shelves. Tucked neatly into the wall, there are no sharp edges for your mother to bump into, and this is important for avoiding injuries, cuts and even falls. Most bathroom walls are at least four-inches thick, so small items like shampoos and toiletries will fit nicely on the shelves. Towels and washcloths can be hung on the towel rack as needed.
When you are preparing your home for your aging mother or father by designing a mother in law suite, you may feel overwhelmed by all the changes. It’s important to consider your parent’s current physical condition and ability, but it’s also important to look down the road and make handicap-friendly renovations. With the right bathroom plan, your loved one will be safe and comfortable. You will also be better able to care for your mother or father as they start requiring more assistance.