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Bathroom/Bedroom mods for the injured/elderly

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#1 Orpheus


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Posted 10 May 2009 - 07:11 PM

This one is oddly appropriate for the weeks between Mothers and Father's day (in most countries that celebrate them)

My parents moved in with me this winter due to some health problems, and I had to to do some modifications to two of my bathrooms for their safety. I've personally been injured a time or two (dozen -- I guess I led the kind of 'active lifestyle' that doesn't get spotlighted on those TV ads for vitamins, herpes ointments or hygiene products), even in my youth and could've made good use of rails etc. -- had we had them. It's amazing how complicated just getting into a tub shower or merely sitting on a toilet can be if you can't, say, put any weight on an arm or bend a knee at all.  

I soldiered through those temporary adversities, but now I realize that was foolish--needlessly dangerous and inconvenient.

Initially, I opted for clamp-on bathtub edge rails, stand-alone frames around the toilets, and elevated toilets seats, but after a couple of incidents that would have been hilarious had they not been potentially tragic (you've never met my folks -- anything that extended their stay on your home would be a tragedy that would leave Euripides sobbing in his pillow), I quickly installed straight bolt-on wall rails in 'their' bathroom, and left the temporary gear in one bathroom on each of the other floors.

This summer, I intend to "do it up right" with more sophisticated rails in all the bathrooms in my house and theirs. It turns out that they'd had at least a handful of incidents  in recent years in their own home but dismissed/denied them.

Any ideas/experiences you have would be welcome. I'll jot down thoughts as they occur to me.

For example:
Knurled stainless steel rails look great and offer a good grip, but can be dangerously hard and abrasive obstacles in the event of a fall, or for able-bodied guests who aren't used to them. Also many brands of rail use 1 1/4 bars which can be to small for arthritic hands to firmly grasp. One solution is to foam-pad them. I used a pipe-insulation, secured to the bar by nylon ties and waterproof double faced tape (to prevent twisting and slippage).

For looks and to eliminate sharp edges, I "buried the knot" (in surgeon-speak) by unrolling the foam, holding it flat under a board, and running a sharp knitting  needle through the middle of the foam. I threaded the nylon tie through this hole for a secure, but completely hidden tie.  Some of you ladies may recognize the result as a Shirodkar cervical circlage. If it seems needlessly picky, a McDonald or "purse-string" closure can be done with the foam on the bar--or just cut a slit all around.


One problem with mounting steel grip bars is the need to mount them to the studs, not just the tiles -- but the tile, spackle and cement-fiber board may make it hard for some studfinders to locate the studs. I used a Neodymium button magnet  -- they are cheap, have hundreds of household uses (probably deserving their own thread) and will find the iron in a drywall screw like it owed them money and knocked up their sister.

However, if you don't have Nd magnets (Then get some! Seriously!) one nifty solution is a corner mount rail. I liked the layout it enabled, and you will almost certainly have studs in the corner, if your house has suds, and/or wasn't assembled by itinerant mud daubers (I've seen a few that seemed to have been) who think a "code" is a stuffy nose and sneezing. You'll also probably have studs on neat 16" centers on one or both walls adjacent to the corner (This is the part where Mark pummels me about the head and shoulders with a carpenter's square for assuming standard stud spacing) Since the bar itself is steel, which is rumored to possess a certain strength of it's own, a couple of solidly sunk lag bolts in the corner should support body weight on either side.


Note: use your judgment, examine your own bar and corner carefully, and give your finished result a solid test. Jesus was a carpenter, not me: blindly taking my religious/construction advice would be like studying celibacy under Kirk. I'm just saying I found an L-shaped corner grip-bar in my basement, and the install was so slick (these things never go as planned) that I'd run out and buy 6-8 more, if I could find them (It had no identifying markings) It's worth a thought.

#2 Vapor Trails

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Posted 10 May 2009 - 09:47 PM

I feel your pain, Orph. I have an elderly mom-she's 80. She tries to do too much. I admire her spirit-she has one of steel-but her body tries to put her in her place. :(
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#3 Nonny


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Posted 11 May 2009 - 07:59 AM

Excellent handrails are a standard feature for houses like mine, but a while back, I almost learned the hard way why I should have higher toilets.    :unsure:   I have a plastic extender for one, but it's not quite good enough.  I need to replace them, and I am so not looking forward to the hassle.   :(
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#4 Orpheus


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Posted 11 May 2009 - 10:28 AM

from post split off into a separate thread said:

Mark: Would a trapeze bar (mounted from the ceiling joists) be more convenient than drilling into the walls? At least that way you could hook it up when the parents come for a stay, then take it down for aesthetic purposes if you no longer need it when they leave. Of course you've probably seen those in hospitals above certain patient's beds, or mounted above a whirlpool tub (you know, those stainless steel ones used in physical therapy and sports rehab situations) to help people get out of those. It's amazing how something that looks so comfortable as a nice hot bubbling whirlpool can be so hard to get in and out of...especially if you've got injured parts anyway.

The hanging bars are a bit less stable because they hang from the ceiling by chains, but they can also be mounted in sliding tracks installed on the ceiling. That allows them to slide from one situation to another...say from the commode, to over the bathtub.  
:devil: Of course those hanging trapeze bars can be useful for some people that aren't old, or injured in some way, too. They can come in really handy for certain kinds of sex...especially when they're mounted above a bath tub, shower, or bed.
That's an excellent idea, and one that I had completely forgotten, because it would have been impractical to do when one or both of my parents were bedridden -- as you note, it's valuable to think ahead. I'd been discussing household mods with them for years, but aside from a few small things, like clamp-on bathub rails in their house, little was done.

It's especially useful if your parents (or you and your partner) intend to share a bed as long as possible. This means there will be a clear space on either side of the bed, for them to get out of bed, and caregiver access, so wall mounted rails become a less viable proposition. (Though they are useful, I'm not sure how often wall-mounted bedside rails are all that practical for getting out of bed in most cases). A central trapeze mount could serve both sides of the bed.

Those concerned with aesthetics (e.g. who may be selling their house) may choose a recessed cup instead of a hook. A 2" diameter cup only intrudes 1" into a ceiling joist/stud and won't compromise it; the steel cup adds some support.

The idea of a sliding track for the bathroom had not occurred to me. I haven't seen one of those in a hospital in ages (but they have nurses and call buttons). A trapeze in the bathroom does make me nervous for many reasons (e.g. if shoved out of the way while on the toilet, it could swing back an catch you end-on in the face.

Look, we're talking about *my* genetic line, not normal people. Forget my parents, *I* get into the weirdest accidents.

And come to think of it, I wanted one of those motorized trapeze bars when I was a kid. too. Do you suppose this might be a common thing (little do the young suspect the creaky joints and strains that await them in middle age), or were we just brothers in mutancy and/or deviance. (I later found that the top bunk rails on a bunk bed were great mountings for various "recreational apparati")

Speaking of which (if you can't guess the connection, you don't want to know), hospitals/labs have great octagon-tube frames with clever clamps/fastenings for making bed-mounted rigs (among other things). I periodically find it surplus (for unrelated projects) -- It's like tinker toys for grownup projects. They also make octagon trapeze frames that mount on a headboard or separate floor stand.

#5 Orpheus


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Posted 11 May 2009 - 10:48 AM

Oh -- and rush out and get a couple of those rolling over-bed hospital tables. A sturdy one lasts forever, and if you're anything like me, you'll get lots of use out of them around the house in the decades before you need them for infirmity.

Folding "breakfast in bed" trays (now often sold as "laptop workstations") have their place, but aren't nearly as good, IMHO.

#6 Nick



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Posted 11 May 2009 - 11:18 AM

View PostOrpheus, on May 10 2009, 08:11 PM, said:

It's amazing how complicated just getting into a tub shower or merely sitting on a toilet can be if you can't, say, put any weight on an arm or bend a knee at all.

I don't really have anything to add to this thread except a . . . "boy, are you NOT kidding!"  You'll recall a couple years ago I fractured my ankle and had it surgically repaired.  No weight on that foot for 6 weeks . . . which means both arms are now out of commision as they're now needed to operate the crutches acting as my "spare leg."

(of course, I found a modified crutch designed for lower-leg injuries that allowed me to place the knee of my injured leg in a "cup" and use only one arm, which was a godsend).

Showering was surprisingly difficult.  I ended up tying a plastic garbage bag around the injured leg to keep the bandaged portion dry, and showered standing up on one leg, with the other sticking out of the shower.  Probably not the safest idea.  But the soap dish provided some helpful support.  :)

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