When designing bathroom adaptations, we not only need to think about the older or disabled person, but we also need to consider if the bathroom, now or in the future, will be a work environment for carers. Through the design process, there is a real opportunity to create spaces that support carers in their work, particularly around moving and handling. So, in this blog, we focus on posture and how 4 simple design tips can create spaces for carers that support them with the long-term management of a person’s needs and potentially reduce care costs.
Tip 1: Optimise the activity space in the bathroom
Activity space is the space needed to perform an activity. It is essential to ensure carers have the activity space to adopt the stances and postures required when performing safe moving and handling techniques. This is particularly critical in areas where they may be assisting with transfers, such as next to the toilet. There also needs to be sufficient activity space in the bathroom areas where the carer may need to squat or position themselves appropriately to assist with drying, managing the person’s hygiene needs, or dressing the person.
Tip 2: Optimise the layout of the fixtures and fittings in the bathroom, including the heights of items
Sometimes compromises around the bathroom layout must be made due to structural factors such as soil pipes. However, an efficient layout of the fixtures, fittings and other products can reduce the need for the carer to overreach, twist, or bend for items they need to use when assisting the person. Activity analysis of what the carer needs to do will help identify the optimum layout of items. This design approach will help the carer maintain good posture and save time and energy when they are assisting the older or disabled person.
Tip 3: Think about what equipment carers may need in the future and whether it will be usable in the space and compatible with fixtures and fittings
It is vital to consider what moving and handling equipment carers might need to use both now and in the future. This is important because moving and handling equipment or other items the carer may need to support the older person has to be compatible with the space layout and choice of fixtures and fittings installed in the initial design. An example is the choice of the toilet, which may need to be compatible in the future with a mobile shower/toilet chair. This approach to the bathroom design will ensure the smooth transition of moving and handling approaches that may be required as the person’s needs change.
Tip 4: Heating and Ventilation
Understandably bathrooms need to be warm for the comfort of the older or disabled person. However, good posture relies on muscles working effectively, and carers’ muscles can quickly become fatigued when exposed to heat and poor ventilation for a prolonged period. It can also compromise the carer’s ability to grasp due to moist palms. So a balance must be struck in terms of thermal comfort for the person and the carer. Therefore the ability to control the heating and ventilation in the bathroom should be considered.
A bathroom design that incorporates the needs of carers is a powerful tool for supporting the long-term management of older and disabled people. By incorporating design considerations like those discussed in this blog, we can take simple steps to support carers in their work, for example, reducing the risk of injury by helping them maintain good posture when assisting the person. Over the long term, these design tips can reduce care costs by making tasks performed in the bathroom more efficient. Furthermore, they can make care packages more resilient to changes in the older or disabled person’s care and moving and handling needs.