Deciding on a bath or a shower for most people isn’t much of a decision but when you are less abled it makes a big difference. The question of how steady are you on your feet. How good is your upper body strength. Can you easily operate taps. Are there others in the house needing to use the same facilities. Suddenly the decision is tougher.
Some may put off some types of specialist bathroom equipment and adaptations because they think it might make their bathroom look ?institutional?, like a hospital or care home, but with modern designs and many options to choose from it is a concern you don’t need, especially as some solutions are just an adaptation of your existing bathroom suite. When considering larger adaptations, it’s worth making sure that they are still usable if there are other people in the house who need to use the bathroom.
These are usually compact bath tubs specifically designed for those who find difficulty in entering and exiting standard bath tubs. They come in a range of sizes, from sit-in baths to lie down baths and all with an easy entry watertight sealing side door allowing you to step in and out of the bath with ease, and often come with seats to help those who struggle to recline or move in to a comfortable position, including being lowered in and out of the bath.
The biggest issue with these baths is that you have to get inside before you start running the water. This means you really need to ensure your bathroom is kept at a warm temperature, so you don’t get cold while waiting for the bath to fill. You also have to wait until the water has drained away before opening the door to get out.
For some people the ability to climb into a bathtub and lower themselves down for a bath is not an option, as is climbing in to stand for several minutes at a time for a bath shower.
Thankfully there is a range of showers for people looking for alternatives.
Disability showers or easy access showers usually come in three options:
- over the bath
- within a shower cubicle (also known as a walk-in shower)
- wet room
How you decide which is best heavily depends on you and your home. For example:
- Your physical abilities – how long can you stand for. How far can you reach and can you lift your legs over the side of the bath
- Your bathroom size – how much space do you have to dedicate to a specialist shower or bath
- Your budget – costs can vary, for example an over-bath shower is often the cheapest option, while an entire wet room set up may be the most expensive. It is best to check if you are eligible for financial support though.
The benefit of the walk-in shower is that they have no step that could potentially trip you. These are the best option for most people with mobility concerns. They come with watertight doors and often with drainage pumps and/or sloped or ramped floors to minimise water leaking through into the rest of the bathroom. Seats and hand rails can also be fitted inside to assist the user and carer if needed.
As the name suggests this is where the entire bathroom is converted so it is flat, waterproof and slip resistant, making it ideal for wheelchair users and people with greater mobility difficulties. They are considered the ultimate in accessible showers. Another benefit of the wet room is that hoists, shower chairs and specialist wheelchairs can usually be used more easily thanks to the extra space of not having a normal shower or bath unit in the room. It also allows more space for carers to assist should they need to.
Extra bathing aids
Before going out and making a big purchase it may be worth considering bathing aids. To understand what features are the best option for you, you should consider all your disability or mobility needs carefully. It may be that simple grab rails, extra steps, a specialist bath seat and slip mat may be enough, and it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of aids available from social care services.
If space and money permit you shouldn’t replace a bath for a shower or vice versa but consider adaptations to these. For example, imagine you have both but would rather use the shower but as time went on you found you couldn’t use the shower unaided and had to rely on bath seats and a carer. This is where bath seats can make a big difference. There are many various types but probably one of the most common is a removable seat positioned over the bath upon which you sit and then swing your legs into the bath. A battery-operated controller then allows the carer to lower the seat into the water, and in due course raise it again. The controller can be recharged on the mains. The advantage is that it is cheap, easy to operate, fits on most baths and is easily removed so others can use the same bath.
As with all major home changes it is best to think long term. If your health is deteriorating you may need to consider a solution that will see you right for a number of years.
If you have experience of these types of showers, baths or wet rooms and would like to share your experience with others, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch here.