Let’s discuss a really serious subject that typically gets put off because “it’s not our time yet.” That subject is being prepared for the day potential physical handicaps may become a challenge. Odds are someday it will be our turn. Sounds negative, but there are some positive things we can do. Let’s talk about reality first.
I first began to understand how a handicap or disability can affect us when Grandma Zohner explained how difficult it was to shut off her kitchen sink faucet. Grandma was in her late 80s and no longer had the strength in her hands or arms to shut the faucet off tight enough to keep it from dripping; that frustrated her.
Sadly, enough I did not know the answer to her problem back then, since it was a time, I was just beginning to learn the plumbing trade. It also was a time when very little was being done with handicap plumbing development to help those that lived at home and had physical shortcomings. Handicap plumbing was designed more for hospitals and rest homes.
Grandma Zohner stayed in her home as long as she could after Grandpa Zohner passed away. Eventually, age caught up and it was time to move Grandma Zohner into a rest home because of concern for her safety. The rest home had good handicap plumbing to assist her when bathing and in the restroom.
Time marches on and at age 93, Grandma Zohner fell and fractured her hip while standing. Over 90% of hip fractures occur upon falling. Many fractures before contact with the floor. Approximately 25% that suffer a hip fracture will die within a year. Grandma Zohner passed away at age 94.
Even with the best intentions, eventually, our “warranty” will run out. Our bodies will wear out physically and the risks of accidents like falls will increase. There are more than 1.5 million fractures annually that include 700K vertebral fractures, 350K wrist fractures, and over 500K various other fractures.
The best solution to staying healthy as we age is to maintain cardiovascular activities that promote strength and flexibility. It’s also good to have a healthy diet that leads to strong bones.
Over 600,000 will reach age 65 and retire this year. The good news is as the population ages there will be even greater demand for ways to reduce the effects of handicaps at any age.
Preventing falls is one of the most important things we can do. Many falls are caused by shoes that are not safe or just a loss of balance. Rugs, uneven surfaces, and stairways can be a challenge for many. One source indicates up to 60% of falls occur in the bathtub or shower. The odds are against us that slick floors and uneven surfaces will eventually cause injuries. Grab bars can make an incredible difference in preventing falls and allowing safe movement while bathing.
Bathtubs are especially challenging for many as they age. Bathing regularly promotes better health and it’s important to do it safely. Walk-in showers can reduce trips and falls that can force our aging society into rest homes early. The cost to remove a typical bathtub and install a walk-in shower with a seat is approximately $2500.bad
Our joints will tend to wear out more quickly as we age and be painful even during simple movement. A right-height toilet is another great improvement. Right-height toilets are closer to the height of a chair at 16” to 17” high. Elongated toilets are typically preferred. The self-closing toilet lid is safer and quieter. A grab bar installed beside or to the front of the toilet can improve safety.
Lever-type faucets for the kitchen or bathroom are also a great improvement and are easy to operate. Grandma Zohner would have appreciated one.
Providing handicap plumbing is something I feel strongly about for many reasons. It hits close to home. It’s a subject that is easy to ignore, but why suffer and take risks? Why becomes a statistic?
John Henry's Plumbing, Heating, and Air does quite a few bathroom remodels. Many are to improve the quality of life and keep people in their homes longer as they age. If you have any questions, feel free to ask the experts at (402) 809-1116.
This article is dedicated to Grandma Zohner because I feel bad for not being able to help her years ago. I know she would appreciate her story being used to help others today. She was really special!