With a growing number of the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age and beyond, creating handicap accessible bathrooms and kitchens in residential homes is a growing concern. In many cases, full conversion to ADA compliant kitchens and baths isn’t necessary. But, just because you or your parents don’t need wheelchair accessibility, doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade your kitchen and bath facilities with an eye towards making it more handicap accessible.
As the availability of home healthcare and other aid increases, many seniors are opting out of the assisted living centers and choosing instead to live out the remainder of their mobile years in their own homes. Working with your contractor to make a few changes can make independent living a reality for yourself, or your aging loved one, for years to come.
Explore Granite & Quartz gets it. I’m Jason, Explore CEO and these are the kinds of conversations I’ll be having with the generation before me, before too long. There’s a lot to consider and it can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to get you started with making your kitchens and bathrooms handicap accessible.
Things to Consider Before the Remodel
Before you start your bathroom remodel take some time to have a conversation with the members of your family about how your bath and kitchen are used now, and what improvements might help those who are struggling with the current design. Here are some questions to ask, especially of the senior members of the household.
What bathroom activities will you or your family member need assistance with?
By starting with your current situation, you can defuse some of the tension around this conversation and get to the root of what’s really needed. It can help you determine if your current fixtures, such as toilets, showers, and tubs are working or need to be upgraded with modified fixtures.
Do you need additional storage for medical supplies or equipment?
If so, this will go a long way to informing your choice of cabinetry and storage options. You’ll need to provide ample space for required equipment and supplies, as well as considering easy accessibility for those who need them. Your remodeling plans should include these demands from the beginning.
Do you prefer a bathtub or a shower? Or both?
Since tubs and showers are often the largest fixture in a bathroom, determining this will go a long way in determining if changes to the current layout will be needed. Keep in mind, it’s best to plan ahead a bit while making changes, so consider upgrades before they’re needed.
Will you or your family member’s condition(s) change over time?
For most seniors, the answer to this is yes. While many people do manage to live into their nineties capable of fully independent living, assuming that can mean costly adjustments in the future. While you’re remodeling is the best time to get the most value out of your remodeling dollars.
There are options that can be adapted as conditions change. Ask us for details. Renovations in anyone’s home is a disruptive thing. This is especially true for seniors. You can minimize this interruption in your daily routine by doing it just once.
After you’ve assessed the needs, you can get into the specifics of your kitchen, or bath upgrade design. Here are some major considerations you’ll want to include.
Cabinet style vanities are on-trend for home bathrooms here in the first quarter of the 1st century. But, what they bring to the table in style, they lack in ease of accessibility. Especially for residents who may require a wheelchair in the future.
Wall-mounted sinks are a terrific option for accessibility. With Explore Granite’s amazing wholesale lines, we can offer wall-mounted sinks that not only make getting around easier but won’t short change your design in the style department.
Consider adding a cool, modern, single lever faucet design with temperature control limiting for even more ease of use that will be appreciated by all, not just those with accessibility challenges.
We’ve all heard the story, more people are hurt by falling in their bath and shower than by shark attack, right? These hazards increase as residents age. There are several levels of adaptivity you can take to make showers and baths the safe, luxurious experience they are meant to be, rather than a source of fear. Here are a few measures to consider.
Most of us have been in a bathroom situation where we wished there had been a grab bar. Add limited mobility, and decreased balance to the mix, and this simple accessory can literally be a lifesaver. Grab bars come in a variety of styles for installation in most bath and shower settings.
By adding them there, and near toilets, you can help prevent accidents and promote independence for as long as possible.
Standard showerheads can be awkward and if you’re not able to turn, bend and twist to get that water where it needs to be. There is a wide variety of handheld heads that can replace, or be added to traditional showerheads to help residents that may have a tough time with bathing.
If showering in a seated position is required, or just most comfortable, this is a must-have. When the time comes for caretakers to assist with bathing activities, it will give them the flexibility they need to bathe you, or your loved one in comfort.
If you use a cane, walker, or require a wheelchair, but would like the independence of showering in private, fully accessible showers are the way to go. Bathtubs are notoriously hard to get in and out of and a shower that allows no-trip, or even roll-in access, can extend the usability for a long time to come. Be sure to allow enough room for wheelchair access if that is going to be a part of your reality in the near future.
Nobody wants to ask for help using the toilet and there are steps you can take to prolong independent use as long as possible. Those same adaptations will come in handy, if assistance is required.
Toilet Seat Height
Toilets come in various heights, but many are too short for those with mobility challenges, especially residents who require walkers, or wheelchairs. Adapting to a taller toilet will also make transfers from a wheelchair to the toilet, and back again, much safer if assistance becomes necessary.
Toilet Grab Bars/Safety Rails
We’ve already suggested adding them here, but we’ll mention it again. A grab bar or safety rail is a great idea besides any toilet. It provides additional balance and support, especially when making transfers from a wheelchair.
There are a wide variety of styles to work with your decor if aesthetics are important. You may need to look at moving toilets that are stationed to close to the wall, to make bars effective.
If you’ve ever gone into a residential bathroom and struggled to see, you’ll appreciate this. Bathroom lighting is often designed to create a mood, rather than provide adequate illumination.
Adding recessed lighting in critical task areas over the toilet, shower or tub, and vanity, can help those with failing eyesight function safely.
Most newer homes have light switches set at ADA heights, which are built into the building code, but bathrooms often have out of the way switches that are hard to get to. It doesn’t cost a lot to have switches moved to a more accessible height or location.
Moving away from standard flip switches to wider plate toggles, or modern decor switches can also help. A frustrating switch may mean those who need it most, will simply avoid turning on a light.
Depending on your situation, a motion detector installed in a kitchen or bath to automatically turn on critical lighting can be a great option. Often they can be installed in place of standard switches without making any other changes.
S p a c i n g
For easy access, it is best to install 36-inch doors on bathroom openings. You’ll also need to consider space in front of every plumbing fixture and storage space that will be used by anyone with reduced mobility. Leave at least 30 inches, but preferably 48 inches to ensure there is room for walkers, or wheelchairs, to be turned around.
Creative Ways to Make Handicap Accessible Bathrooms and Kitchens
It’s easy to think of kitchen and bath fixtures as being permanently located, but things can often be moved by as much as a foot, or more, without requiring extensive replumbing. Play around with your layout to make sure you’ll get the best flow of traffic with the fewest obstructions.
Another idea that many don’t think of is the installation of a sliding or pocket door, or changing an inswing door to an outswing, or vice versa.
You can also consider swapping plumbing fixtures, such as a toilet, or sink, depending on the drain installation and location. Even a small change may be all that’s required to make a bathroom or kitchen handicap accessible for aging users.
Before engaging us for a kitchen, or bath overhaul, take some time to explore small changes you can make on your own, or with very little expense. Aging in place is an expensive undertaking, and we’d love to have your business, but many times a layout you love can be made to work without huge upgrades.
Install a bidet, for those who might otherwise require assistance for hygiene purposes.
Replace your doorknobs with lever-style hardware to make it easy to get in and out. Knob type faucets can be replaced with similar lever-style fixtures for ease of use.
Even something as simple as removing tripping hazards, making sure all flooring is secure, doors open and close easily, and items seniors will be using are stored where they can easily get to them can make a huge difference in preventing falls and other accidents.
Why Choose Explore Granite & Quartz?
For almost 2 years, our teams have been specializing in kitchen and bathroom renovations. We love working with clients that have chosen to remain in their homes. They deserve to live some of the best years in their homes. We are experienced and passionate about bathroom remodeling and new living in place modifications to help homeowners live in their homes safely.
Schedule a Free Consultation
Thank you for taking the time to explore some options with us for aging in place. We’d love to have a further conversation about your particular needs and ideas. We love unique challenges and working hard to provide our clients amazing outcomes within a budget they can afford. Give us a call, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.