A walker won't fit in our small bathroom. What can we do?


Q: My bathroom is very small and there is no room for my husband to maneuver his walker when the door is opened into the room. Any suggestions?

A: There are a number of ways to deal with this problem. The first option is to reverse the swing of the door. It may be possible to change the swing out into the hall or the bedroom. This change will require a bit of handyman work and some paint, but could be a good option.

The most comprehensive solution may also be the most expensive and disruptive. A pocket door may be able to be installed at the entrance. This will give you the most room to maneuver both in the hall and in the bathroom. This will require purchasing a new door and reframing the outside wall of the bathroom. Make sure that the pocket door size you chose is wide enough for the walker or possible wheelchair in the future (30 inches).

A bypass door can also be used on the outside of the bathroom. This would have the same function as the pocket door, but will not require reframing the wall. The door will slide on the outside of the wall.

The most cost effective idea is to use a bi-fold door. This door will still be in the bath or hall area, but will only be half as large. This will require purchasing a new door and installing new hardware in the existing frame.

Additionally, there are smaller walkers available for seniors who live in smaller spaces. Although they do not have the weight capacity of a standard walker, it may be worth investigating if a smaller device is the most effective solution for your home. As a senior's health and physical needs change, an evaluation of their ability to safely age in place is crucial. A home evaluation will provide suggested modifications to retrofit or redesign areas within the home to remove physical barriers to mobility and incorporate assistive devices or durable medical equipment that promote independence.

Read: Expert Advice on Aging in Place

Abbie Sladick is certified by the National Association of Homebuilders and an expert in Universal Design. She is a member of the advisory council for the National Kitchen and Bath Association and has also sat on the American Society of Interior Designer's National Council on Aging in Place and Universal Design.

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When my father turned 91, he was diagnosed with 5 major illnesses. My parents had not made an preparations for elder care. My brother, sister and I had to make a downstairs bathroom and bedroom ADA compliant. We had to enlarge the door to the bathroom so that either a walker or wheel chair could get through the door way. We put a tabbed curtain up on the exterior side of the door on a metal curtain rod for the door which worked amazingly well. Often hospice would put the walker at the doorway with the curtain pushed further out which gave a little more space in a very small bathroom. We replaced the toilet with an ADA approved toilet which is higher than the normal toilet. We put toilet safety rails on where we could remove the rail closest to the tub and put an aluminum transfer seat beside it where if Dad needed to could move from toilet directly into the tub. We put safety bars at the head of the tub and along the side wall so that Dad could stand for a shower if he were up to it. We had the tub option for sitting on the transfer seat or we had a shower with a diverter that allowed a shower head and/or hand held shower spray. We put in a wall mounted sink that allowed either the walker or wheel chair to be there. He also very much appreciate the battery operated toothbrushes as he didn't have the arm hand dexterity to really clean his teeth the way he wanted with a regular toothbrush.
At any rate, the easiest solution for us was the tabbed drape that hung from the outside of the door to about an inch above the floor. We can always put a door on but it also enables others to get in quickly should the need arise!
We took off the door to her bathroom completely because it blocked her access to the sink. We also had metal bars put around the walls on the bathroom so that she can safely move around the bathroom without a walker since she parks in the only area really it fits and then moves around the room using the bars. Bars are wonderful but only if they are put in the correct space as putting them up too high can cause falls and putting them too low can also cause unsteadiness and falls. So just go in there, follow after him and mark where his hands would go or where he tries to hold on to while moving around in there without his walker. We also have a raised toilet seat with handles on the side to help as well. It allows her to get up and down using the handles and the bars to them use the next bar to guide her back to her walker. She is quite efficient at it now and doesn't even stop and think about it.