We really can have an accessible bathroom without forsaking our taste.
Fear and anxious anticipation as you try in vain to physically accomplish everyday tasks. For me showering was one of them. As my LGMD symptoms progressed my showering techniques altered. I advanced from casually singing, soaping up and hair washing with nary a thought for my safety to grimacing and holding the edge of the shower doing all with one hand, quickly for fear of a terrible toppling.
So Gaz and I created some peace of mind in the form of a roll in shower, accessorised by a shower commode wheelchair.
But this decision took time and some serious deterioration.
The first sign was the balancing dilemma of washing my hair resulting in me paying for twice weekly professional hair washes and blow waves. That was quite a happy princess period in my life –and I always looked good of course. And then standing to do anything became more problematic so we got me a shower chair where Gaz became my transferer.
As Gaz is fit and uses the correct technique and our shower space was a decent 900mm x 1200mm this routine continued for longer than it may have otherwise. Alas the transferring of me from the wheelchair and gearing up for stepping over the tiny shower strips to twist around and be placed on the shower seat became quite the horrific scenario for me. Gaz really wasn’t in a position with some of those awkward maneuverings to catch me if I fell and he was also in danger of hurting himself.
Some of you extreme sports peeps out there might like the thrill of what your next ablution adventure will contain but as I have professed before, not so exciting sensibility trumps me every time.
Hence our decision to redesign our existing ensuite bathroom. Below are a few things I explored and considered which may help some of you facing similar situations.
PLANNING AND RESEARCH
I knew from the last ten years of living with and being educated about the progressive factors of LGMD what to expect for the future. This meant I had a fair idea of what requirements I personally wanted and needed to be instated. I added a little reading on the Australian Standards 1428.1-2001 guidelines for accessible buildings , then got some excellent resource material from my OT . I mixed them all together and came out with a bathroom that will suit both Gaz and I for many years to come.
After talking to many people and researching local renovators in my area I came up with the BEST home reno duo in Melbourne . I was very relieved that this wasn’t a lengthy and painful process as it can be the most difficult part of any build – finding the right fit between client and contractor – to ensure a clearly communicated relationship.
Our main criterion was that we didn’t want the ensuite to look like some sterile hospital room and the stepless shower in a bathroom is quite de rigour in the home decoration trends . Consequently we were redesigning a bathroom that didn’t necessarily need to be anymore expensive or complicated just because it required accessibility features so the project really wasn’t as daunting as you might think.
First research stop was R11 rated non slip flooring – this is the highest rating for non slip surfaces and recommended for around poolside areas and for use by those with tenuous mobility and those assisting them. I first found myriad options for, specifically, nursing homes, hospitals and the like. There are designs and colours ranging from boring institutional to funky in plastic/vinyl type moulded flooring. I scouted our local tile shop and found my perfect flooring in concrete look, grey, porcelain floor tiles. Now no need for the plastic shower floor mat, the tiles dry quickly and look and feel great. Our renovators also waterproofed the heck out of the bathroom pre-tiling.
As my body is no longer interested in staying independently upright we don’t need hand or grab rails beside the toilet or in the shower area. For future owners of the home our tradies inserted reinforcements into the walls to accommodate the hand rails if necessary – this is a vital preparation to make sure the rails are always supportive.
When planning the bench measurements and inclusions I measured both my manual and power wheel chairs height and width so that I could always roll under the sink, reach the tap and access my supplies from the drawers. Including, importantly, making sure that the positioning of the sinks drain pipe (trap) would allow my knees to get in under far enough. I chose to wall hang the whole bench and cupboard unit to allow the feet of my power chair to turn under the drawers comfortably adding the aesthetic bonus of making the bathroom seem more spacious enhanced by a little under bench light strip.
We changed the light switches to rocker style which for some reason are not so popular in Australia and cost a fortune but seem ubiquitous in the Northern Hemisphere. Go figure.
I used a flick mixer over the basin and in the shower that is easy to operate when strength and dexterity are limited. A combined rain shower head and hand held head that is positioned low on the wall works well and helps maintain showering independence for some. I installed horizontal drawer handles that allow me to get my fingers into them to pull. However this is still a tad difficult and I now wonder if the easy push-to-open-drawers might have been better – something to consider if you’re planning for an accessible renovation.
We lowered the mirrors and installed double hinged drawers which make accessing contents far easier than from a cupboard. To create even more wheel-under-bench-space I installed a skinny pull out shelf above the drawers. This doubles up as an earring depository – huge bonus to an earring lover like myself.
Our renovating duo did a brilliant job of ever so slightly angling the shower space towards the drain and scoring the tiles so water is always contained within the shower area but there is no obvious floor slope. The rain shower head is absolute heaven!
Finally, an accessible room needs to be accessed by a usable doorway especially when using lift or stand hoists to accomodate transfers. Our doorway was widened to 90cm which, due to wall size restrictions in our case, meant taking out the original cavity slider and replacing the widened doorway with a wall mounted barn door.
Far from being an angst filled chore, showering is once again the best start to my day.
I have added a few links that may interest you below and would love to hear from you if you have any other considerations, comments or queries.
Take care until next time,