Design for Aged Care
With Australia’s ageing population it is expected that by 2050 the number of people living with Dementia will have tripled (1). With this in mind, many families are opting to look after their elderly family members in their own home, rather than putting them into costly care facilities. This is leading many people to consider renovating their current bathrooms to meet the needs of their family.
A while back, I briefly worked for an aged care company that built their own age care facilities. While I was there, I learnt about a number of key design points when designing a bathroom for the elderly, in particular, dementia care. Not only did I learn about the key points I also learned about mistakes that people often make in their design and that the design needs of older people are almost opposite to that of younger people.
When people think of a bathroom that meets the needs of elderly and dementia patients they often think of clinical and sterile hospital bathrooms, however, this doesn’t need to be the case in your home. With some clever design ideas, you can have a practical and attractive bathroom that suits the needs of the elderly user.
The elderly’s eyesight isn’t as good as younger people and they need about three times as much contrast in order to find objects (2). Contrast can be created using dark and light colours. For example, grab rails should always be a different colour to the tiles or wall that they are mounted on such as chrome rail on a black tile. A modern monochrome colour scheme is perfect for this scenario, using black tapware and grab rails is an on-trend way to design your new bathroom.
Colour is important as it can affect mood, assist with navigation, flatter skin, increase and reduce mobility, as well as camouflage items that you want to be hidden. When designing your bathroom at home, it is important to ensure that the floors and walls are contrasting. This will enable the elderly to see the edges of the room and assist them with navigating around. Nice light colours such as yellow assist with visibility. Don’t forget to use colours that personalise the space, this will assist in improving the patient’s mood.
When we think of grab rails we often think of the ugly white or chrome ones we’ve seen in hospital bathrooms. With the demand for these items increasing, some manufacturers have got smart and started designing these to be pieces of artwork. On one of my projects I used some products from Qspec who provide mobility solutions. Now who wouldn’t want these stylish rails in their home! It is important to remember that these rails must be installed by specialists to ensure they will perform at their best.
With such a great variety of tapware on the market these days, you can really have some fun here. Choosing contrasting tapware such as black or brushed nickel won’t make your new bathroom feel like a hospital. Just don’t forget to make sure all taps are lever operated for ease of use. In the shower, it must have a handheld shower that can be easily reached from a seated position. This will make it much easier for someone sitting in a wheelchair or chair to wash themselves and maintain their independence.
Accessibility in space is important. Items such as wheelchairs and mobility frames may be needed to get the elderly in and out of the room so it is important to cater for these. A walk-in shower with no tiled hob is important. It should have an opening wide enough for a wheelchair to get in. A frameless glass panel shower screen creates a nice modern edge but doesn’t inhibit accessibility. A wall-mounted basin without cabinetry is also important so wheelchairs can be pushed up under it.
Following these design principals, you should be able to create yourself a bathroom that is attractive, that the whole family can use and meets the needs of the elderly users which will ensure that you can care for your loved ones and they can maintain their independence for longer in your home.
Would you like some help with designing your bathroom to suit aged care needs? Head over to our website and get in contact with us to discuss your project.
Enware White Paper, (n.d.). Dementia-Friendly Bathrooms: Key Design Criteria. Retrieved from https://www.enware.com.au/media/1745/enware_white-paper-dementia-friendly-bathroom-design.pdf
Ageing and Aged Care; Dementia-friendly Environments (n.d.). https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/ageing-and-aged-care/dementia-friendly-environments/interior-design
Bathrooms for Elderly. LJT Bathrooms. https://ljtbathrooms.com.au/bathrooms-for-elderly/