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Posted on 1/12/2011 1:33 PM

Preparing a Bathroom for an Elder

 

We often think that our lives differ somehow from the “Good Ole Days” when multiple generations of a family lived together in one home, sometimes several generations together under one roof. But in the current economic climate with children leaving the nest later and the elderly needing care that families simply can’t afford to hire, multiple generational families are becoming common. 
Post-war baby boomers are aging and their safety and health are being overseen by the next generation. Taking on the care of an aging parent can be intimidating since we are trained from birth to depend on our parents for our own safety and health.  Ratcheting up the safety factor in the bathroom can be an easy way to introduce ourselves to the idea of “caring for” our elders.
Take a fresh look at the bathroom that older family member uses with an eye for basic safety. Is there a bathmat with a rubberized, non-skid undercoating?   Are there appliqués or some other form of anti-skid prevention in the bottom of the shower or bath? 
And when was the last time you thought about the water temperature out of your hot water faucet? Our senior family members may be moving a little slower these days and can’t react as quickly to a sudden burst of hot water; their skin has become more fragile and subject to injury. It does not heal as well as it did in their younger years. These factors combined with very hot water can lead to a tragedy.
It is federal law that manufactures must set the thermostat to heat the water to 120 degrees on all water heaters before they released for sale.  The installer is also equally compelled to leave that setting where he found it. For anyone else (usually the homeowner) the thermostat setting is a matter of personal choice.  If they choose to set the water temperature to 140 degrees or even 160 degrees it is their right to do so. In many homes circumstances have at times dictated those higher water settings, but in a home with an elderly resident safety over-rides any other consideration.  Check the water heaters thermostat setting.
Many seniors hold a silent fear of bath-time, they are unlikely to talk about it, may not even be consciously aware that that is what they are feeling. They just know they dread bathing.  The consequences of that fear can be difficult to live with. 

There are devices that have been created to make bath-time easier on everyone involved.  They are almost innumerable and finding the ones that are most helpful to your particular situation can be over-whelming. Next week we will begin discussing these helpful aids and hopefully, we can remove some of the intimidation factor.    

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