If you are planning on remodeling a bathroom to either meet the needs of a handicapped individual or an elderly person you will need to keep in mind the needs of such a person. There are two main criteria that you will want to keep in mind when doing a handicapped bathroom remodel. The first is that you need to provide safety and the second is that you need to make sure that it is usable.
Handicapped and elderly individuals may possibly be using a wheelchair or a walker. Therefore there has to be allowable room to maneuver either one without creating a hazard. The first thing that you will require when designing such a bathroom is adequate floor space. It will be quite frustrating if you do not provide enough room to maneuver a wheelchair. Keep in mind that you will also need to install wider doors and you will need to provide the ability to reach the various features in the bathroom. You will need to make the faucets, vanities, toilets and showers easily accessible to the elderly or handicapped individual.
Before beginning your remodel you should sit down with pen and paper and make a list of the needs that you will encounter. Analyze the clear floor space that you will need. How will a wheelchair user access the toilet or the shower? What modifications are necessary to reach the sink faucet, as well as, the drawers in the vanity. The vanity will need to allow for a wheelchair to be pulled up underneath it.
In order for a wheel chair to maneuver comfortably without the fear of banging into walls and the vanity you will need about a 5 foot diameter. You will also need to allow room beside the toilet to allow for easier transfer onto it.
Not all floors are ideal for maneuvering a wheelchair or walker. Make sure that you plan to install some sort of non-slip floor that provides for safe moving. This is especially true for those using a walker. Their legs are already unsteady to a degree and you don't want to create a hazard for them by installing a slippery surface in the bathroom. One way to accomplish this would be by using non-skid mats. It may not be the most aesthetically appealing flooring available but it is most likely the safest.
You have a couple of options when it comes to the toilet. You can either purchase a brand new handicapped toilet that has a raised comfortable seat or you can buy an adapter that will attach to your current toilet and will raise up the seat to make it easier to get on and off of.
If you are designing a bathroom for the handicapped or elderly then you should not be considering a tub. A tub creates an extra hazard for the elderly and will require the handicapped individual to get help upon entering and exiting the tub. A wide shower is your best bet. Please install non skid mats or non slip strips to the bottom of the shower to lessen the danger of a fall. Of course, if you are taking into consideration the needs of a handicapped individual then you will need to have a seat in the shower. You can get showers that have it pre-installed or you can buy one to add later. You will also need to install grab bars around the shower to give the individual something to grab on to. These will need to be installed by the toilet as well. It is also a good idea for the walls of the bathroom also.
The fixtures in the shower need to be accessible to the user. They should also have anti-scald regulators installed on them to keep them from being burned by hot water. It is also a good idea to turn your water heater down a bit is scalding water is coming out of your faucets. You could save yourself a little money on your gas bill if you lower the temperature.
One important feature that you will not want to ignore is a safety alert system. This will allow the user of the bathroom to notify someone if they require help. If there is not going to be someone living with them at all times then you might want to consider subscribing to a service that will be monitored 24 hours a day in case of an emergency.
You will also need to make modifications to your electricity in the bathroom. Swithes need to be reachable to an individual in a wheelchair as do electrical outlets. The outlets should be a few inches over two feet from the floor and the light switches should be about 4 feet from the floor. You may want to consider using a motion sensor to turn on an off the lights in the bathroom, thereby alleviating the need to flip a switch.
You might also want to install a few other things for convenience sake. A full length mirror would be a nice touch as would the ability to open and close the door automatically. If you have a window in your bathroom then you might want to provide a way to move the blinds up and down. A nightlight would be a nice touch if you are not choosing the option of a motion sensor light.
Above all consider all of the safety elements when doing a bathroom remodel for the handicapped or elderly.