Portable Showers for the Elderly (Benefits, Drawbacks, and Tips)

Occupational Therapist
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Eliminating the distance between the bed and shower is a must for elderly people with limited mobility. So, is a portable shower a good option for you or your loved one?

Portable Showers for the Elderly
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When your health deteriorates, or that complicated hip surgery wreaks havoc on your walking stamina, that routine stroll to the shower in your house appears to be miles away.

Portable showers for the elderly, sick, and disabled were created to eliminate that overwhelming distance so that showering would still be possible in whatever room of their choosing.

This article will discuss the pros and cons of portable showers, tips for using portable showers safely, and alternatives for seniors with limited mobility to shower safely.

Benefits of Portable Showers

So in a gist, portable showers are shower units that can be assembled quickly in whatever room that provides enough space for drainage and the proper water hook-ups. They can be an excellent option for people looking for a safe shower setup for an elderly or disabled person with mobility problems.

The water has to be sourced from a sink faucet, and then the used water is pumped into an available drain like a sink or a toilet. Here are a few benefits to having a portable shower:

  • Portable units can be used in any room within several feet of a water source and drain system, eliminating the need to walk to a traditional bathroom with limited space, a bathroom under construction, or a shower/tub unit that’s not medically accessible.
  • Many portable showers can be set up within minutes and disassembled quickly.
  • Portable showers generally come equipped to handle wheelchairs and 3-in-1 commodes or wheeled shower beds with limited or zero thresholds.
  • Portable showers allow enough space for personal assistance from a caregiver or a loved one.
  • Most portable showers prevent spillage and are easy to drain and clean up at the end of each shower. 
portable showers for the elderly drawbacks
Buying your own portable shower could be expensive.

Drawbacks of Portable Showers

Like most temporary set-ups, there are some drawbacks to portable showers to consider:

  • Users are limited by the water pressure provided by the water source they are hooked up to. For example, if the shower is connected to the sink faucet, you can’t expect to experience the same comfort as a traditional shower’s water pressure. There are going to be some limitations.
  • Since the set-up is temporary, leaving the shower in any room is often impractical since it takes up space. 
  • Although there are often rental options available, purchasing portable showers can be expensive.
  • Unlike traditional showers, there’s always the underlying worry that hoses and hook-ups could leak. So, there’s always the chore of double-checking all the hook-ups before and during the shower.

Tips for Using a Portable Shower Safely

Both seniors and caregivers should consider all safety protocols before using a portable shower, especially if it’s a new endeavor for either party.

Consult a professional such as a rehabilitation specialist or an equipment provider first. Here are a few tips for making the portable shower experience as safe and smooth as possible:

  • Set up the portable shower on a smooth, clean, and flat surface free of clutter to decrease the risk of falls or loss of balance. Additionally, this eliminates uneven distribution of the shower plate and water spillage onto the floor.
  • Double-check everything for sufficient water flow and leakage when hooking up all of the hoses. Before placing the senior under the water, check the water temperature to prevent scalding or unnecessary chills from exposure.
  • Set up all soaps and towels within reach before undressing the senior to prevent unnecessary exposure to cold air.
  • If the portable shower is placed over a hard or tiled floor, consider placing non-slip mats outside the shower to prevent slippage.
  • When helping the seniors undress (if they need help), ensure they are comfortable with you and that you are putting forth your best efforts to maintain their dignity. 
  • Typically, portable medical showers come equipped with grab bars. If the senior needs to stand for any washing, ensure that those grab bars are within reach, all chairs are locked, and their feet are planted on non-slip surfaces to prevent falls in the shower during each transfer.
portable showers for the elderly other ways
Establishing a safe shower experience at home is necessary to maintain a high quality of life.

Other Ways for People with Limited Mobility to Shower

If a portable shower is not a practical option for a senior, there are other ways to safely participate in showering tasks at home. Some examples include:

Each available method for showering should be selected based on the senior’s needs, physical and cognitive capacities, and personal preferences.

Whatever showering technique, caregivers can do their part by being understanding and gentle and preserving the senior’s dignity in an otherwise compromising situation.

RELATED: Important Shower Safety Tips for Seniors

Summary and Final Recommendations

Portable showers are a convenient adaptive tool for seniors with limited mobility who prefer not to make the trek to a traditional bathroom.

Although there are a few drawbacks, including temporary set-up and worry about leakage, portable showers are excellent for seniors with limited mobility and their caregivers who need to get in and physically assist.

Additionally, portable showers make a great shower alternative for elderly people when a permanent bathroom set-up lacks accessibility or is under construction.

If you are concerned about setting up a portable shower, or this is your first time doing so, talk to a rehabilitative specialist or an equipment provider. There are also equipment companies who will send out reps to do all of the setup for you.

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Meredith Chandler, OTR/L

Meredith has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 years and as a content writer for 6 years. She primarily works with the geriatric population, focusing on their rehabilitative needs and instructing caregivers and family members for home care. Her specialties include ADL training, neurological re-education, functional mobility training, adaptive equipment education, and wheelchair assessment and mobility training. She is a painter, a musician, and a mother of 4 who loves spending time with her family,

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