Adapting And Conve​​​​rting Bathrooms To Help The Elderly, Less-abled and Disabled Stay In The Comfort Of Their Own Homes

Adapting Bathrooms for People With Parkinson's Disease [A Guide]

Parkinson’s disease can strike anyone at anytime although only 4% of sufferers are under 60. For those older than 60, it affects 1 in 100, which puts it fairly high on the list of major diseases affecting the elderly.


It is more prevalent in men than women affecting 3 men for every 2 women, and is the fastest growing neurological disease in the world today.


It’s a nerve degeneration disease (as are diseases like Alzheimer's) and early symptoms include:


  • Involuntary tremor or shaking
  • Rigidity of muscles
  • Slowness of movement


All of these symptoms mean that mobility around the house, and especially in the bathroom become problematic. This guide will help explain how you can make life as normal as possible for those you care about who have just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, or who have been suffering from it for years without adequate adaptations made to their bathroom and its facilities.

Sir Billy Connolly courtesy of Wikipedia

Sir Billy Connolly - Diagnosed in 2013

"I don't have the balance I used to have, I don't have the energy I used to have."


Eastern Adaptations specialise in this area, so if you have any questions about how we can help keep you or your loved one stay in the comfort of their own home by adapting their bathroom to suit their needs, then please call us on 0800 955 8810 and we will be happy to advise or schedule a home visit for a free assessment anywhere in the Midlands, East Anglia and Essex.

Slowed Movement

Bradykinesia is the name given for slowness of movement in Parkinson’s sufferers, and is perhaps, the most common problem when it comes to mobility issues in bathrooms.

It can also be seen in the stillness of facial expressions but slowness of body movement and tremors are the primary indicator of Parkinson’s.


This makes it harder for people to do the simplest of things like turning on a tap. If you’ve ever used shower controls, you’ll know how difficult they are to turn on - even for the young and fit.


You’ll also know how confusing they can be, which doesn’t help someone with Parkinson’s disease. Luckily things have changed and now lever operated controls are available that make turning on and off appliances (including showers, sinks and baths) easier and less complicated.

Downton Abbey actor Michael Fox on his Aunt: “The bravest person I know. You can see the effect that Parkinson’s has on her body, but it doesn’t stop her doing anything.”


The slowness of body movement also affects dressing and undressing, so ensuring that a suitable place to hang clothes is important. If the person finds it hard to bend or squat down, then the height of any storage facility matters too.


A good mobility bathroom design will incorporate features like this to suit the person’s needs.

Stiff Muscles

Stiff muscles are a sign of Bradykinesia in Parkinson’s, so ensuring that a bathroom floor is kept on a single level as much as possible is vital.


It’s not easy to bend your legs if your muscles are stiff, so steps or ledges of any sort become obstacles, and therefore, an increased personal level of safety must be considered in your bathroom design.


Shower trays matter a lot in this respect. Most showers have a step to encounter to get into them, even if it’s just to stop water escaping from the shower tray itself. But many are also raised above the bathroom floor level.


This is typically the case where it’s installed on a concrete floor. This is because the shower drain requires a certain depth below the shower in order to drain away the water.


However, even concrete floors can be adapted if necessary, so this should never be a show stopper if the requirement is a completely level floor through out the whole bathroom.


Stepping into baths can be almost impossible for Parkinson’s sufferers, and should also never be an impediment to being able to take a hot bath. These days baths have been adapted in many different ways to suit all kinds of mobility issues.


These include walk-in baths, bath seats and lifting hoists. Some of these are quite specialised and will often be done in consultation with medical professionals including Occupational Therapists.

Bladder Problems

A common complaint from both Parkinson’s sufferers and their carers is being “up and down all night”. This makes it imperative that the bathroom is easily accessible day and night, and never presents an added problem to people’s lives.


For this reason, specialised flooring is essential, not least of which is flooring with a non-slip surface. The ability to keep it clean also matters. You will also be pleased to hear there are a wide variety of options to choose from including colours, style and finish.

Talking of cleaning, the walls also need to be easy to look after and maintenance free. For carers, everything needs to be made as simple as possible too.


Another problem with the need to go often is the risk of falls. This is also because, being a neurological disease, Parkinson’s affects all issues of movement. This makes the incorporation and placement of grab rails another aspect of bathroom design that needs to be taken into consideration.


Their size, height and position in the bathroom must be carefully thought through during the design stage. Working with Occupational Therapists can be useful here, especially where the disease is starting to impair coordination.

Constipation

Constipation is a common complaint of Parkinson’s sufferers and as such consideration must be given to the type of toilet installed.


Obviously, a healthy, fibre-rich diet helps (although this is hard to maintain if the person finds it hard to chew, which is often the case with Parkinson’s) but ultimately it is the degenerative processes happening in the brain that lead to this issue.


Therefore installing an easy clean (or self-cleaning) toilet will help both carer and sufferer.


Toilet height should also be a consideration, not least because of muscle rigidity. Comfort is the primary concern here, so comfort-height toilets are usually a must.

Wheelchair Access

A wetroom is often the starting point for people with mobility issues, and for those confined to a wheelchair, it’s a necessity.

The main benefits of using a wetroom design are:


  • Level flooring throughout the bathroom
  • No obstacles to movement
  • Easy cleaning and maintenance
  • Full wheelchair access to all facilities
  • Movable shower chair
  • Non slip flooring over the entire area


Half pedestals for wash basins are also available making it perfect for wheelchair users.

Sciatica

The more rigid the muscles become, the less movement a person has, which often results in increased pain - especially to the lower back. This can lead to trapped nerves resulting in sciatic pain.


The placement of every facility in a bathroom becomes increasingly important as the disease unfolds. This is why it’s better to think about this at the start rather than try to adapt a bathroom later.


Specialist mobility bathroom installers such as Eastern Adaptations have this front of mind at all times. Knowing that the changes and adaptations made to a bathroom will help ensure a Parkinson’s disease sufferer can stay in the comfort of their own home is always the mission.


If you’d like to find out how Eastern Adaptations can help you or your loved one ease some of the discomfort, call Eastern Adaptations on 0800 955 8810 and schedule a home visit from their professional caring team.


Please also read some of the many testimonials they have received from delighted customers.

Conclusion

Bathrooms have the highest usage of any room in a house. Therefor it makes sense to ensure they’re suitable for all users of a household.


The problem is, houses both old and new are rarely designed to accommodate people with health or mobility issues let alone those suffering with increasingly debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s.


As a result, specialists such as Eastern Adaptations were setup to specifically help these people. Standard bathroom installers rarely have the expertise to help people in these situations because they rarely work with professional health care workers such as Occupational Therapists and so have little to no understanding of the issues involved.

Eastern Adaptations are members of the British Healthcare Trades Association (the premier healthcare trades association in the UK), Which? Trusted Traders, SafeLocalTrades as well as being approved by CTSI - the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.


If you’d like more information, a full-colour brochure or to schedule a free home assessment anywhere in the Midlands, East Anglia and Essex regions, please call Eastern Adaptations on 0800 955 8810

I just wanted to write to say thank you for coming to speak at today's Carer's meeting.


You were very enthusiastic about the company you work for, and knowledgeable about how they worked.

 

I especially loved the ethos of the company; that you identify the needs of the person with Parkinson's and work with them to ensure that the bathroom you provide will still be suitable several years down the line when their Parkinson's has progressed.

 

With that focus, I would hope that the company will go from strength to strength.

 

I have written to Kian, and told him about getting in touch with Parkinson's UK, and that you have contact details.

 

Thanks once again,

Jennifer

(Treasurer, Parkinson's UK Nottingham Branch).

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