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5 Shower Options and Alternatives for the Disabled and Elderly

5 Shower Options and Alternatives for the Disabled and Elderly

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.
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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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 safe showers for the elderly and 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 five 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.

Review your decision with your doctor or other health care professional. They may have additional suggestions based on their personal knowledge of your unique health situation.

1. 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 unable to get out of bed or move much.

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 ensuring you are properly prepared. First, the room needs to be at 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. The video below can walk you through the remaining steps.

Video: How to Give a Bed Bath

How to perform a complete bed bath.


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


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

2. 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 into 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 for using a shower chair. You must be able to sit upright 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 handheld shower heads. This makes the process easier and safer overall.


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


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

3. 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 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 will probably 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 of 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.


  • 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


  • Will normally be the most expensive option

4. Portable Showers

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 and have space but not the ability to redo the bathroom.


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


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

A Personal Example

One of my custom wheelchair customers has a setup like this in his garage. My first thought was: shower in the garage? But after he explained it all to me, it made sense.

His home was one story but it was an older home. He built on this garage years later and used it as a shop. So, it was heated and air conditioned and already had plumbing ran to it.

He did say it was weird at first. But, he learned quickly with this option he could get daily showers like he was used to before his accident. He uses his power chair to get to the garage. Then, transfers into his shower chair and takes his daily shower!

5. 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 a 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 set up 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 set up 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.


  • The right setup makes cleaning up extremely simple


  • 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, consider your specific challenges closely.

If you are trying to get an elderly person you love to take a shower, 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.

A more elaborate solution may be needed for people who are permanently and totally disabled. The best shower option for the disabled 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 is 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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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

Learn More Email

3 thoughts on “5 Shower Options and Alternatives for the Disabled and Elderly”

  1. Paula James

    researching for my older brother (nearly 86) who has rented a Barbican flat for decades. He has a narrow bathroom separate from the wc with a bath he is now finding awkward to get in and out of. Presumably he would have to check any actual conversion with his landlords but what would you recommend. He could start with seat and grab rails perhaps. Dr Paula James

  2. Joyce Douglas

    I have painful arthritis in the wrists. The only thing I can’t manage in the shower is the circular unit which turns it on and regulates the temperature. Is it possible to replace this or do I need a whole new unit with a lever and separate temperature control?

  3. Sagara Moon

    Thank you!
    I am looking into flexi trays (rubber/plastic shallow trays from industry/garages/builders use) to give my daughter more of a rinse than a rub.
    She has severe special needs and is best in a side lying position for hair washing, etc. The tray would be on a sloped bed surface for the water to run away from under her and for anti reflux purposes. I shall use highly absorbent dog towels at the foot end and buckets and thermoses. It’s nice to help each other with ideas!

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