It’s a T.P. holder, NOT a GRAB BAR!

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There have been some great comments and conversations on a recent blog of ours, which led me to elaborate on one of my replies as a separate post here.

(by the way, this post can be seen as a Video Blog at our YouTube Channel as well…  click HERE to view it!)

Two years ago at Thanksgiving, I found that my parents (mother) had drawings done to remodel her master bath. A fancy full color 3-D drawing (by the cabinet makers) was created for the bathroom remodel, touting their company’s “full in-house design” team for kitchen and bath remodels. As you may know already, the cabinet company can offer to do this “for free” because they’ll make plenty of $money$ on the high priced cabinetry sale and installation in that new kitchen or bathroom.

What shocked me as an Architect and a CAPS “Certified Aging In Place Specialist” when I looked at the actual bathroom design for a 62 year old Baby Boomer couple, was a multitude of items that did not actually consider the future of my parents and the expected wants and needs for their specific lifestyle in their own home. I knew from talking to my mother (funny what happens when good designers ask the right questions, and ask enough questions to get to the REAL TRUTH of the matter) that she “pushes off the T.P. holder” to help get off the water closet (toilet, in laymen’s terms). I cringed at the thought, as I know that’s exactly the type of “makeshift” solution that is an accident and a fall waiting to happen for my mother, who suffers from severe osteo-arthritis.  It’s not a “grab bar”, and is held only in the drywall (not studs behind the wall) by two small screws and a set screw on each side for the post cover plates.  Most accidents happen in “wet rooms” like the bathroom (and kitchen, laundry room, etc.) and are the result of an aging person still trying to make their standard conditions work for them without proper modifications, or a family caregiver trying to help someone in an unmodified home setting that doesn’t reflect the changing needs of the client.

I simply asked my mom to allow me 5 minutes and a red pen to put a few notes on the cabinet manufacturer’s drawings for them to edit for her. Thankfully she allowed me to do so.  My “redlines” to their drawings were to put blocking behind the walls in all the locations that a “future” grab bar might be useful and installed at a later date. That way, when my “I told you so” moment came in the years ahead, I wouldn’t need to say that to my parents.  And more importantly, they won’t have to tear out their brand new floor to ceiling custom tile shower, and the walls around the toilet.  There were other things I’d have done differently with the cabinetry, but I did also edit the entry door (was a 2′-6″ in-swinging!?), and make a couple other notes “for consideration”.  The items they opted out of are less expensive to come back and fix later, so I decided not to push the topic, as I’d gotten the major thing I wanted with my red pen and my five minutes alone with the drawings.

I was happy that my mother let me mark up the drawings.  It created a “peace of mind for me”, which was the way I approached the conversation with her.  I felt better as both her son and an architect, knowing that I’d been able to solve a (future) problem that was going to arise for them in their home related to keeping their independence and continuing to allow this important room in their home to function properly when the time comes.  Likely it was my research related to our passion for educating the public on Aging In Place and Universal design in the home that made me extremely aware of the challenges and struggles to have conversations like this with our loved ones about the changes they will encounter ahead.  Taking this approach of easing the mind of the child for the parent is, I think, exactly the reason I was allowed to edit the drawings for those (supposedly) magnificent cabinet people that were so well equipped in-house to consider all of the facets of helping my mother create her “forever bathroom”.

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