Walk-in showers are great, but many of them are not built or equipped to properly and safely serve the elderly or disabled persons. When you think about it, a standard walk-in shower creates many challenges for people who may have special needs depending on their living situation. Let's take a quick look at a few aspects of a standard shower that may need to be adjusted to better suit those who have special needs.
1) A regular shower usually has a curb, which creates a step-over height of some kind. Although in most cases we don't think of the height (roughly six inches) as a problem, this step over can create a tripping hazard for the elderly. Furthermore, a shower with a curb would not even be considered serviceable for an individual in a wheelchair.
The solution here is to build a curbless shower. While construction of a curbless shower does pose some challenges, a good contractor will know how to overcome them. Certain products on the market make construction of a curbless shower easier, and with all of the convenience of integration with other shower elements, like recessed niches (for elegant storage of shampoo bottles) and benches (for sitting). A well built curbless shower will be fully waterproof, elegant looking, much more easily utilized by those with disabilities and also add value to the home, all at the same time. Many bathrooms that are built based on modern design themes incorporate curbless showers simply because such showers offer cleaner looks.
2) A regular shower usually lacks a bench, or area for sitting. Unless your shower was remodeled recently and the addition of a bench was a specific design objective, you probably don't have one. The great thing about a shower with a bench is that anybody can use it. Elderly persons would certainly appreciate having a bench simply so that they can sit down and relax while enjoying a hot shower. A custom built shower can seamlessly integrate a bench for sitting, which is something that you will not find in an off-the-shelf shower unit from your local big box store. Furthermore, a custom shower will allow you to create virtually any sized bench within the shower area, meaning that you can really tailor it to your needs. You could build a full wall length bench, or a triangular corner bench.
3) A regular shower lacks appropriate grab handles that some users would appreciate. While you can retrofit some existing showers with grab bars, this is not totally recommended. Firstly, you need to drill into the existing tile and hope that you hit a stud. If you only plan on anchoring grab handles to the existing tile, you will have to hope that nobody actually ends up exerting their weight on said handle, which may end up coming loose and injuring somebody. For grab handles to be safe, secure, and fully functional the shower designer needs to take them into consideration from the ground up, which means that sturdy blocking would ideally be installed prior to tiling the shower.
When you design an accessible shower from the ground up, you can consider the requirements of the person(s) who will be using it, and, as a result, plan specifically for the locations of these grab handles. You can plan to have as many of them as will be needed, and guarantee that they will work safely as a part of the entire new shower.
4) Shower heads and body sprayers should also be considered. A standard fixed shower head is great, but you may want the flexibility of additional movable heads or body sprayers. This makes perfect sense, because you would want the user of the accessible shower to be able to wash themselves while sitting on the bench, which may not be as practical with a wall mounted shower head. With the use of diverter valves, this is easily accommodated and can allow switching between a standard wall mounted shower head and a handheld or secondary wall mounted body sprayer.
In closing: Accessible showers can be attractive, functional, and add value to your home. You can construct a beautiful walk-in shower that is accessible for the elderly or the disabled that looks much nicer than prefabricated units available in the store. Give Tremendous Renovations Inc. a call today if you'd like to discuss your next bathroom remodel and incorporate a curbless shower.