My 3/23/11 article, You Can’t be too Careful, introduced steps I took getting ready for Grandma to move in. This article follows up with details about changes that were needed for bathroom accessiblity. The objective of these two articles is to encourage you to prepare BEFORE there’s a need when it’s cheaper.
There are lots of choices to make when remodeling a home. We wanted to make things easier for Grandma but without degrading the value of the home, and hopefully increasing its value if possible.
Changing the master bath would not have fit in with our future plans, so we only considered the other two bathrooms. They were virtually mirrored twins, with standard tub, commode, counter and sink configurations. We weighed several options, including going with a special handicap shower set up, or using a general contractor and our own design ideas.
We chose a local contractor that specialized in baths and kitchens and went with a simplified plan that would make the bathroom accessible without making it permanently “handicapped.” For better or worse, we made the design decisions ourselves.
I hoped the remodel would be complete in a couple of weeks. Yeah, right! There was much more to remodeling than I considered.
Is the door to the bath wide enough? Is there room to make it wider? How can we make the sink accessible for someone in a wheel chair? Do we want a handicap accessible shower floor, like the ones you see in some hotel rooms? How high should the toilet be? How much room does Grandma’s bathroom stuff take up? Can she access everything? Will she need to?
All these questions took planning and time. And then there was the city permitting process, since we were changing plumbing and electrical. As these questions were addressed new ones popped up. We had to pick out and order the tile, wall paper, and fixtures, all before the remodel can even start. And, of course, someone has to take some time off during the construction process.
As I said in my earlier article, before Grandma came to live with us, she was staying in a nursing home recuperating from a hip fracture. That’s when we frantically started getting the home ready. We almost got everything done by the time when her Medicare funds for the nursing home ran out. Only the wall paper and some small fixture remained to be done. The whole project took about three full months.
Here’s how it looked after the remodel.
We thought we had covered most of the needs for Grandma. The door was changed to a wider pocket door that slides in and out when closed. (We had to do this because of the angle of the adjoining room and closet and the required relocation of electrical switches.) We installed a pedestal sink for wheelchair access. These modifications worked OK for bringing Grandma home from the nursing home.
Next, we had to learn how to transfer Grandma on and off the toilet and into a shower chair for in-home nursing care. At the nursing home, the staff did a lot for Grandma instead of pushing her to do more herself and rehabilitate. We needed to change this.
With visits from rehabilitation nurses (twice and week), great progress has been made. After we added grab-bar support aids to the bathroom, Grandma could come and go for bathroom visits on her own and transfer herself to the seat.
Here’s how the bathroom looks now.
These pictures show the current configuration, which we use for Grandma’s assistance. The toilet seat is removable but adjustable for a very tight fit. It is the second version we tried. The first one had a latch at the rear connecting to the normal top screws on the toilet, but they allowed things to wiggle, and Grandma didn’t feel secure. This model has a rubber lip below the front and a twist handle to screw it forward for a tight fit.
The sliding shower chair allows Grandma to transfer from her walker, turns 90 degrees, and then slide into the shower. I moved the support for her shower head to the safety bar and added a push on/off valve to the handle. We can turn the water on at the regular wall valve, and when she’s ready she can turn it on/off from the seat.
I hope this story, and these pictures, helps others. It was a long and time consuming learning process for us. My best advice to others is, if such a remodeling project is a possibility, do it before it’s needed. If we were able to move Grandma Home early in the rehab process, I feel she would have progressed a lot faster.
Be sure to check out our many other articles on home renovations and designs for independent living and the hundreds of photo examples we’ve posted on Pinterest, as well as this article on The Future of Universal Design.