Debbie Hartzler OTR/L, CAPS
Clinical Operations Manager
The month of September is recognized as “Healthy Aging Month,” a time dedicated to ensuring the safety and healthy aging of our elders and loved ones. One way our team at LifeWise Renovations works to celebrate and honor this month is through home modifications that allow for homeowners to remain at home safely as long as possible. This month, I want to specifically highlight the significant impact barrier-free showers can have on Aging-in-Place and healthy aging.
What is barrier-free? Many professional remodelers think barrier-free is a lower shower curb or a reduced-height threshold at an entry door. While these accommodations might be better than the traditional higher threshold shower, this does not qualify them as completely barrier-free. Barrier-free in the simplest terms indicates that there is nothing at all to step over or around in order to occupy a space.
Many areas in the home can benefit from reduced barriers to prevent falling or tripping from occurring, but areas such as bathroom showers in particular should be completely barrier-free for maximum safety. If you have a loved one who is getting older and wants to remain in their home, a barrier-free shower would make it much easier for them to maneuver in the bathroom. It doesn’t matter if the shower is small adorned with just the basic features or large and fancy with stone tile and all the trappings. Regardless of the style or budget, a barrier-free shower can be designed for anyone.
Is completely barrier-free necessary? Every year 235,000 people over the age of 15 visit the emergency room because of injuries suffered in the bathroom. More than two-thirds occur while bathing or showering, and of those, most happen while attempting to get in and out of the bathtub or shower (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
There are a few solutions that eliminate tub walls and shower thresholds, which can dramatically decrease the risk for falls. If a person has some mobility, a tub transfer bench can be used. Nonetheless, water control can become an issue and adapted shower curtains will be necessary due to the gap in the bench.
For those who need assistance with transfers, the best and safest solution is to shift to a barrier-free shower and get rid of the tub completely. Some of the benefits to this simple home modification include:
- Reduced risk of falls from entering the bathing area.
- Increased mobility for both the individual and anyone assisting the individual such as a caregiver due to additional floor space created in the barrier-free shower.
- It allows for the use of a rolling commode/shower chair.
- Improved safety of individuals who need transfer assistance as caregivers obtain more access to the individual as well as better footing.
It is as important to evaluate a caregiver’s accessibility as it is the client’s accessibility. If the caregiver cannot ensure proper footing and an ample amount of room to work in, then they may be injured as well. Everyone loses in that scenario. Barrier-free improves Quality of Life and enhances the ability to remain at home for as long as possible.
Join Healthy Aging Month in September and ensure the safety of your loved ones with a barrier-free shower. Contact us for more information and to schedule a consultation.