4 Ways to Make a Shower Accessible

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

4 ways to make a shower accessible low cost to high cost:


#1:  Lowest cost alternative shower chairs less than $100.00:  These will probably require grab bars at the minimum in the front of the shower to assist in maintaining balance while standing or leaning forward.

Bath transfer bench:
A bath transfer bench is my favorite for people with mobility problems because it can be a safe way to get into/out of the shower.  Although it may seem obvious in its use, sit on the bench swing your legs over and slide over, I do find people need to be trained to use this bench correctly.



Pros:
  • Easy  in/out of shower for people with mobility/balance issues.
  • Easy to adjust to proper height.
  • Cost effective can get online for under $100.00.
Cons:
  • Is cumbersome to take in/out of the shower if multiple people are sharing a shower.
  • Two of the shower chair legs go in the tub and two go outside the tub, taking up valuable space in a small bathroom and creating a tripping hazard.
  • Difficult for people with dementia to learn how to use properly. 

Aquasense Adjustable Bath and Shower Transfer Bench 


Shower chair:
This is my favorite shower chair, it looks cool, is fully adjustable and with it's mesh seat could be used as a universal design, stable lawn chair.  If used in a bathtub shower combination this one will need some grab bars.

Pros:  
  • Good looking.
  • Stable.
  • Encourages proper positioning for transfers.
  • Can double as a lawn chair.
  • Cost-effective, can get online for less than $100
  • Armrests aren't appropriate for all transfer styles.  
  • If transferring into/out of tub will need grab bars installed. 

Moen DN7100 Home Care Shower Chair, Glacier

#2 Portable Wheelchair Showers $500.00-$4500.00:  These are a good alternative on a low budget or for a temporary solution.  I've had clients with short term disabilities (broken pelvis etc.) who absolutely could not get into their bathroom in a wheelchair who not only used these showers for bathing but also for toileting because it allowed them some privacy with a commode.  I recommend a rolling shower/commode chair with these, otherwise transfers can be difficult.

How portable showers work:  
  •  The source of water for the shower unit is any standard sink faucet.  
  • A shower head with approximately a hose and a universal adapter to allow for connection to the sink faucet.  
  • A pump which pulls the waste water from the drain pan.  
  • A hose attached to the pump unit which then returns the waste water to the sink drain or toilet for disposal. 
Folding Wheelchair Shower:  This is the highest quality wheelchair shower on the market in my opinion.  It is well made (in the USA), durable, can be folded up and moved out of the way or we've hooked these up to permanent water supplies for long term solutions. 

Pros:
  • Easy set-up no tools required.
  • Folds up for easy storage.
  • High quality, durable.
  • Attaches to almost any faucet.
  • 12' hose comes standard, longer hoses available.
  • Has built-in GFI.
  • Waste pump works well.
  • Less costly than remodeling bathroom.
  • Can be attached to permanent water/waste systems.
Cons:
  • Needs to be dry prior to folding up.  Many people like a squeegee for this.




This shower isn't for sale on Amazon but can be purchased directly from Functional Homes, Inc.  Just email Service@functionalhomes.net.

Standard folding wheelchair shower:  $1995.00

Bariatric and reclining folding showers are also available.




Short term portable wheelchair shower:
  Cheaply made wheelchair shower, I've been told it tends to only last about 6 months or so.

Pros:
  • Extremely low cost solution, good for people with short term disabilities.
  •  Not too difficult to set-up.
Cons:  
  • Does not have a built-in GFI plug, must be plugged into a GFI outlet or have a GFI adaptor.
  • Flimsy.
  • Not reliable enough to be a long term solution.
  •  
     
    #3:  Prefabricated shower insert $6,500.00-$10,000.00 installed:  There are many prefabricated barrier-free showers on the market, I like Best Bath showers they are high quality, have accessories like flip down seats and grab bars and are somewhat easy to install.  
     Most prefab shower units come with a shower curtain option with some temper glass shower doors are available.  Be careful with the shower doors, they get in the way of wheelchairs and are not a safe option for someone who has balance issues or is at risk of falling.   
    According to ADA an accessible shower should be 5'x 5', but if you are designing a bathroom for someone's house you aren't designing for the public so you base your decision on shower size on the needs of the individual not ADA recommendations.
    If you're designing a shower for someone who can shower independently and their prognosis is not one that will render them unable to shower themselves than a 5'x 5' shower is unnecessary and you have some freedom with your design.  In fact, if you are designing a shower for someone in a wheelchair that wants to transfer directly from the wheelchair to the shower then a more 32"-40" wide shower is preferable because it allows the person to have their wheelchair right next to the transfer area but yet still outside of the shower so the wheelchair is accessible to the person but doesn't get wet.   I think I'll write a post about how to design an accessible shower.:-)  
     Pros:
  • Less expensive than tile.
  • Come in a variety of sizes.
  • Can get multipiece units for existing homes which is important because one-piece units won't always fit through the door.
  • Low maintenance, just needs cleaning and maybe some occasional caulk.
  • Highly recommended for people with hard water, its easier to get these shower surrounds clean than grout in hard water.
           Cons:
  • Not as nice looking as tile.
  • Not always styles or choices to fit every design need.
Prefab barrier-free shower with collapsible threshold.








 Word about water.  Most showers even with the 1/4" per foot slope still have water that 'pools' when someone is taking a shower, maybe the drain just doesn't drain fast enough.  Either way water is difficult to control and many times a barrier-free shower gets water all over the floor.  Installing a collapsible threshold, a 2" threshold if the person can transfer into the shower, or a trench drain or a drain outside the shower will help significantly with water control. 


***Never EVER get the shower inserts with the molded seats.  These seats are not large enough to sit on safely and prevent the use of shower seats because the available floor space is limited.

 
 
NEVER molded seats!!



     #4 Built-in shower  $12,000.00-$18,000.00.  Built-in showers are beautiful.  They can be configured anyway the heart desires with a variety of materials. When we build a roll-in shower we ALWAYS make the entire bathroom a 'wet room' meaning that we put a water resistant barrier over the entire bathroom floor and 2"-3" up the sides of the walls to prevent water damage.
    Pros:
  • Can be configured to meet any need.
  • Beautiful.
  • Many types of materials available.
         Cons:
  • More room for human-error.  Not everyone knows how to build a roll-in shower that is accessible, sloped properly, and is able to control water effectively.
  • More difficult to clean and requires more maintenance than a pre-fabricated shower unit.
        Keep in mind:
  • Need to make sure the tile on the floor has a skid-resistance of .6 or above wet.
  • Tile no larger than 2"x2" are recommended for the floor to make it easier to slope and more importantly increases skid resistance.
  • Epoxy grout doesn't require require as much maintenance as sanded grout and is easier to clean but is more expensive.

Anyone else have any favorite shower accessibility ideas??

2 comments:

James Clarkson said...

These are some very creative tips for making the shower more accessible. I love using a shower chair. It is so very helpful for those, possibly elderly, who have a difficult time getting in and out of the shower. http://www.urbanglassworks.com/showers.html

Addison Conroy said...

A Shower Wheelchair is similar to a conventional wheelchair but differs in that it has been specially-designed to assist a patient in using the shower or the toilet. These are appropriate for persons who cannot stand for the time it takes to shower. This wheelchair is as a multi-purpose commode chair that assists the user to perform a number of functions tirelessly. Its main function is mobility, helping the individual move about. Secondly, the chair can act as a shower chair and thirdly, and equally important, it may function as a toilet seat. This ensures that the individual does not have to exert him- or herself to move from the chair in order to use the toilet.