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5 Shower Options for the Disabled and Elderly

Summary (TL;DR):

There are lots of shower options for the disabled and elderly who need bathing help. Bed baths and shower chairs can help without remodeling. But, sometimes, renovating an existing bathroom is necessary.

Most people take showers daily. There is something about the feeling of being clean.

But, many disabled people, including the elderly, are unable to shower often because it’s unsafe or they just aren’t able.

Thankfully though, there are many options out there when it comes to showers for the disabled. However, you need to know which handicap accessible shower setup is right for you or your loved one.

So, to help you out, I’ve listed 5 different shower options for the disabled and elderly below. I’ve also included some pros and cons of each option so that you can decide which option is best for your situation.

Bed Baths

The bed bath, also known more commonly as a “sponge bath,” is often the only option. Especially for someone who is really restricted mobility-wise. Bed bound people are often not able to get out of bed or move much at all.

In these situations hygienic care is extremely important. So, the best way to deal with cleaning is going to be with a bed bath.

One of the most important parts of going with the bed bath is to make sure you are properly prepared.

  • First, the room needs to be a comfortable temperature for the person getting the bath.
  • Next, place a clean waterproof covering or sheet over the entire bed so the wetness stays off the actual bed.

Pros

  • The only realistic way to help bed-ridden individuals
  • Relatively inexpensive equipment needs

Cons

  • Can be frustrating or embarrassing for the individual
  • Not the best option for anyone who does have mobility, even if it is limited

Suggested Equipment:

Video: How to Give a Bed Bath

Showers with Shower Chairs

shower chair next to the tub in a clean white bathroom

Another common option is a shower with a shower chair.

There are also lots of ways to add a shower chair to your bathing setup:

  • You can place a stand alone shower chair on the tub or shower floor under the shower.
  • You can also install them as a pull down option from the shower wall.
  • They can even be built in to the tub or shower as part of a bathroom renovation.

Shower chairs are versatile because they can be used in a garden tub, a tub/shower combo, or even a custom shower room that is handicap accessible. There are so easy to set up. Later, you can add to it or adapt it if your situation changes.

Shower chairs give you lots of options!

But, there are some basic requirements to use a shower chair. You must be able to sit up right without a lot of support. You also have to be able to get on and off of the shower chair safely. It’s ok to need some help as long as you have someone to do that.

Supplement a shower chair set up with grab bars and hand held shower heads. This makes the process easier and safer over all.

Pros

  • Outstanding option that works for a wide variety of disabilities or handicaps
  • Versatile option that can be personalized
  • Works for most situations

Cons

  • Can be a bit expensive depending on which route you go with
  • Not as fully customizable as walk-in showers

Suggested Equipment:

Walk-In Shower Conversions

walk in shower with built-in shower seat and handheld shower head

Walk-in showers offer lots of options for the disabled and the elderly. The features can often be customized to make it the perfect shower solution for your specific needs. You might even be able to convert your existing tub and shower combo into a walk-in shower.

A big plus is that you get to choose from panel and door combinations. You can add a built-in shower seats. It is usually no problem to include easy to grip handles as well.

Walk-in shower stalls are the most versatile of all your showering options. However, this is probably going to be the most expensive option for you as well.

To learn more about the specifics of a walk-in shower, you should set up a meeting with a representative to a company that specializes in walk-in showers for the disabled. They will come to your home, measure your room, and assess your individual situation. Then, they’ll offer you a custom solution to your bathing problem.

Being able to personalize the walk-in shower is really the ideal situation. But, I get it. Not everyone can afford this option. Many of the companies that specialize in these products do offer payment plans to help.

Pros

  • By far and away the best option to customize to individual needs
  • Works with existing home to find the best solution
  • Other safety features (shower seat, support rails, non-slip pads) can easily be designed in

Cons

  • Will normally be the most expensive option

Portable Showers

Shower Bay Portable Wheelchair Shower

Portable shower stalls are another option for people who simply can’t use a traditional bathroom. This way, they can set up a washing area in another part of the house. They often include a privacy curtain too.

This is an especially popular option for people who are wheelchair bound that have space but not the ability to redo the bathroom.

Pros

  • Relatively inexpensive, especially compared to a remodeled bathroom
  • Can be most practical method in many cases
  • High convenience level

Cons

  • Need a place to setup properly
  • Doesn’t necessarily give the same thoroughness as other options

A Few Portable Shower Options:

Wet Rooms

wet room shower options for the disabled

A wet room is an entire bathroom that is designed and covered to be both waterproof and slip resistant. This makes it great option for you to use whether you stand or use a wheelchair.

With this setup, the entire room is designed with safety in mind. All surfaces are waterproof. There is a central drain for the water to drain away quickly. The floor is built without any thresholds or barriers to wheelchairs. Basically, the entire room is setup to be a big shower.

This option can also be customized for your individual needs. But, it is an expensive option.

You will need to remodel your home for this. It requires contractors, permits, and materials. Not every home is setup for this option either. It often requires an addition to your home.

But, when done right, these are extremely easy and safe to use. Many disabled people use this option when they have caregiver assistance. It is also a great option for those who shower independently.

Pros

  • The right setup makes cleaning up extremely simple

Cons

  • Not practical in many living situations
  • Generally a more expensive option

So, Which Shower Option is Best for You?

When deciding which option is best, take a close look at your specific challenges.

If you or your elderly loved one just needs a little help while bathing, then adding equipment to the existing bathroom might work. Equipment options like shower chairs, shower transfer benches, and tub rails increase safety and help people with limited mobility issues.

For people who are permanently and totally disabled, a more elaborate solution may be needed. The best shower option for the disables is usually a custom shower or wet room. But, yes, these are also the more expensive option.

If you are on a budget or space and money are tight, consider replacing just the shower with a walk-in shower stall.

Don’t forget to look outside the bathroom for solutions to your showering problem. A portable shower in the garage (like my story above) might work for you too.

Regardless, you know your situation better than I do. But, hopefully I’ve given you some new options to think about. Don’t forget to discuss this with your doctor or healthcare professional for their ideas too!

Do you have another shower option for the disabled that I haven’t considered? Tell me all about it in the comments below. OH! Please share this on your favorite social media if you found it helpful!

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About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather | I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's.

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