Individuals in wheelchairs, those that use walkers or have difficulty standing without some sort of support, can find it difficult, or even impossible, to shower or bathe safely.
Traditionally designed bathrooms can present challenges to enter, use, and exit in a way that accommodates physical challenges, especially for the elderly, individuals with limited mobility such as stroke victims, those with disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis, someone with an amputation, etc.
While a complete accessible bathroom remodel addresses modifications to toilets, sinks, doorway entry width, etc. one specific area to focus on is the showering/bathing space.
Before deciding whether a standing shower or a walk-in bathtub is best suited for one’s needs, it’s helpful to consider the difference between the two.
Walk-in showers are often the only option for the elderly or individuals with disabilities that aren’t physically able to get in and out of a standard shower cubical or bathtub. There are several benefits to having a standing walk-in shower.
- A walk-in shower has nothing to step over and is equipped with slip-resistant floors making it safer.
- They can be sleek and modern in design (typically made of clear glass) while providing the same functionality as traditional showers.
- Walk-in showers can be installed in even the smallest bathroom and are great options for rooms that aren’t large enough to accommodate a full-sized bathtub.
- Showers can also be fit to replace an existing space where a bathtub was.
- Standing showers can be designed specifically to meet the needs of each individual’s particular disability such as types of doors (full or half-length), seating options, and shower control functionality.
Two Types of Standing Showers Options
There are two main ADA compliant shower options, roll-in (also called barrier-free) and transfer showers, for an accessible bathroom remodel. While both may appear similar, each has their own specific standards. Roll-in shower stalls are designed for wheelchair users or for individuals with disabilities that aren’t able to enter a stall safely on their own. Transfer showers are meant for individuals who can transfer themselves unassisted from a wheelchair or walker into the shower.
Because of the design specifications it can be difficult for just anyone to install, update, or re-design a standing shower. An accessible bathroom remodel should be done by experts who understand the ADA specifications for either transfer or roll-in accommodations.
Standing Shower Cost
As with any bathroom re-model the cost can range considerably depending on a variety of factors. Is it a custom design with higher end materials, a complete overhaul including tile, expensive accessories, etc. or is it an installation that adds basic upgrades to an existing shower? Working with an expert to explain the costs and options helps with the process of choosing a shower for one’s needs.
Pros Vs. Cons of Standing Showers
There may be some features to consider regarding standing showers. For example, having clear glass and an open entrance doesn’t offer the same privacy as one with a curtain or standard closing door; however, this may not be an issue in one’s private bathroom or using frosted glass. Without the right bottom base installed, water can splash out onto the floor increasing the possibility of slipping. An open frame exposes the individual to open air; however, adding a warming light can help improve feeling chilly from the exposed open frame. Glass doors may require a bit more maintenance from cloudy limescale build up; this can quickly be addressed with non-toxic solutions and quick wipe-down.
Walk-in bathtubs are most suitable for individuals who are able to transfer themselves unassisted or with minimal aid from a wheelchair or walker into the bathtub compartment. These tubs have special design features to enhance safety and accessibility for the elderly or individuals with disabilities who want to have a more relaxing, secure bath experience than they can with traditional tubs. The warmth of a bath can alleviate arthritic pain, and ease sore and tight muscles triggered by spasms associated with Cerebral Palsy or Multiple Sclerosis.
There are several features that make the walk-in tubs appealing for those wanting to make their bathroom bathing area more accessible and desirable.
- The walk-in bathtub has a low entry threshold that is only a few inches high to prevent them from tripping over or having to step over a higher lip on standard tubs.
- A gated door mechanism is easy to open and is sealed to prevent water from leaking.
- Walk-in tubs have molded seats that allow individuals who have difficulty getting up from a lying position to bathe and relax while upright.
- Options such as whirlpool jets, heated seats provide additional therapeutic benefits.
- Hand showers provide a rinsing setting during the bathing process.
- There are grab bars installed to provide extra support to further provide safety upon entrance and exit.
- The extra depth of the tub submerges the bather so they can wash effectively.
- Some tubs may have jet or jacuzzi features to soothe arthritic or sore joints and muscles.
- Most walk-in tubs have a non-slip grooved floor built right into the tub. This safety feature prevents falls when the user stands up inside the tub.
- Extra wide door frames allow more maneuverability plus an extra frame of support.
- A self-cleaning feature may be available for those who struggle with bending.
Pros Vs. Cons of Walk-in Bathtubs
Deciding to install or replace a standard bathtub with a walk-in bathtub there may be some pros versus cons to consider.
- A walk-in bathtub can be more expensive than a traditional tub; however, the extra features such as whirlpool jets, hand-shower control, and can potentially increase the value of one’s home.
- Because the walk-in bathtubs are larger than traditional tubs, they need more water which requires a heater capable of heating the fill; however, in most cases a 50+ gallon water tank is sufficient to maintain desired water temperature;
- Proper installation is a must to prevent issues of improper sealing; however, hiring professionals who specialize in walk-in bathtub installation can avoid that concern.
Walk-in Bathtub Cost
The overall prices of a walk-in bathtub can range significantly depending on tub brands and models, installation cost, and customized versus standard options chosen. Experts specializing in walk-in bathtub installations can navigate the variations of choices to help one select the best tub for them.
How to Decide: Factors to Choose Standing Shower or Walk-in Bathtubs
Before investing in a standing shower or walk-in bathtub, consider which features are most important and best match your accessible bathroom remodeling needs.
- Are you replacing an existing tub for a standing shower or an existing tub with a walk-in bathtub?
- What is your budget? Consider the cost of materials, additional accessories, labor, minor replacement construction, or complete overhaul.
- Will it be used by other family members and, if so, which would be most suitable for everyone?
- What features are most important to one’s needs: safety, ease of use, functionality, etc.?
- Which one is easier to maintain in the long-term considering the complexities and requirements for both (jacuzzi, water usage, heated elements, etc.)?
- Which is a personal preference?
Having a professional consultant is a good idea to help plan, install, and create a standing shower that is functional, accessible, and affordable for those wanting a bathroom remodel.
UDS offers Accessible Home Modifications throughout Lancaster, South Central Pennsylvania areas, and Northern Delaware. Our design team can assess your needs, provide estimates and drawings, and complete your accessible bathroom remodel.
Find out more about other bathroom remodels for the elderly and people with disabilities: Accessible Bathroom Remodels: Home Modifications, Part II.
For more information please contact UDS and fill out your information to learn more about our services.