Bathtub accessibility modifications
November 26, 2017 9:55 AM   Subscribe

My friend with severe leg weakness needs a better bathtub accessibility solution. She has an old bathtub with sliding glass doors. She has a bath stool that she sits on to take a shower. But transferring from her walker onto the shower stool, and the reverse, is slippery and awkward and risks a fall. What are the best solutions for this, that will work with the sliding doors?

I know about those longer benches that traverse the bathtub edge, with one set of feet inside and one set outside the tub. Those aren't great, because it doesn't work with the sliding doors.

The ideal solution would be inexpensive and not involve a big bathroom renovation.

Have you or someone you know overcome this dumb situation? Do you know a good place that collects solutions like this?
posted by LobsterMitten to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
Taking out the sliders and putting up a shower curtain would be pretty easy and then the longer bench could be used. If you’re at ALL handy, you could probably remove the doors for your friend.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:00 AM on November 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Removing the doors isn't a huge project. If she can't do it, a local friend maybe could, or it's a not-huge (and therefore not expensive) job for a handyman. Her life will likely be easier with a curtain instead of doors.
posted by brainmouse at 10:02 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We'll look into whether removing the doors is an option. Just interested if anyone has figured out how to make this work with the doors in place.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:06 AM on November 26, 2017

Demolishing the tub and replacing it with a shower tray she uses only with the shower is likewise not a big job. Ours is the same dimensions as our tub footprint and the waste pipe lines up with the old tub's. With a curtain or with simple half-width screen, that would give her a walk in shower with easy transfers to the stool.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:07 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just thinking about it more, I bet one stool inside and one stool outside, plus a transfer board, could maybe be a removable equivalent of the wide cross-tub transfer stool. Sit, scoot across on transfer board, remove board and set it outside the shower, then close the door. Coming back out, grab board, scoot, then stand from the outside stool. Might still be wobbly, but better than current setup.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:44 AM on November 26, 2017

I have a prosthetic leg (that comes off before the bath, of course). My bathtub at my childhood home has sliding doors. What she ultimately does is so dependent on the exact setup she has...but I would start by putting a folded towel on the bathtub ledge, where the tracks are, for comfort and to minimize slipping. Sit on the towel with legs outside the tub. Swing your legs over till they're inside the bathtub. Place one hand on the towel and one hand on the shower chair. Transfer to the shower chair. For safety, you might wait until you're inside the tub to turn on the water. Put the towel somewhere (fling it over the top of the sliding doors?) where you can reach it, but it won't get too wet. After the bath, fold it and put it back on the bathtub edge. Transfer back to the edge, and then out. Consider a nonslip bathtub floor mat if you haven't got one already.
posted by 8603 at 10:47 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

The above is assuming that she doesn't have the leg strength just to get on all fours and crawl over the bathtub edge (think a crawling baby). That is what I personally do IRL.
posted by 8603 at 10:51 AM on November 26, 2017

I’d be afraid that a transfer board between the two seats would be too unstable and lead to a head injury.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:56 AM on November 26, 2017

I know you're looking for other solutions but I want to clarify that it's very easy to remove the actual sliding doors from the frames and that gives you more space to move in and out. Removing the sliding doors doesn't have to mean removing the frame too. Playing with it for about 10 minutes will show if that's a reasonable solution.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:35 AM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Practice with her dressed. Add grab bars anyplace they might be useful, checking the toilet as well. A 2nd walker in the tub might help, possibly secured well to a grab bar.
posted by theora55 at 11:40 AM on November 26, 2017

My mother lived briefly in an apartment while we were house-hunting a few years ago. I bought one of these suction grip bath handles because we couldn't make any permanent changes to the apartment's bathroom. I'm convinced that I could have pulled tiles off the wall before the suction broke - that thing was SOLID. They're also reposition-able, so you can experiment. I suggest picking up one or two; they greatly improved Mom's confidence getting in and out of the tub.
posted by workerant at 12:45 PM on November 26, 2017

Someone near and dear to me had this conversion done as a gift from some of her kids. She adored it--said it was the best present she'd ever had. Not sure if that was the outfit they hired, there's probably others. Might be worth considering if she can't manage a bath any more. If she's concerned about resale, a basic tub to replace it would be pretty cheap.
posted by kate4914 at 1:14 PM on November 26, 2017

My mother-in-law had same problem, we removed the sliding doors in her shower, they just popped out no problem. Got her one of these transfer benches and it worked great for her, she would slide out of the tub by picking up her legs and scooting over. I was there to help her stand up.
posted by just asking at 1:17 PM on November 26, 2017

For FYI: Depending on the state, and insurance situation, Medicaid may provide funds for bathroom remodel through the wavier program.

For people with disabilities in IL under 60 on Medicaid, they can get a remodel with some serious persistence up to $25,000 in value. To be granted a waiver requires going through DHS. Of course, you have to own the home or get the landlords permission. Most forms of Medicaid have a waiver program, but the details will vary per state.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:17 PM on November 26, 2017

When Mr Tinkletown broke his femur, we used a bath board. It was narrower than the bathtub so should fit inside the sliding doors.

As long as your friend is able to raise her legs, she should be able to use it. If she can’t, get a shower installed. Really. So much safer than trying to climb over the side of a bath.
posted by tinkletown at 4:44 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Most sliding shower doors simply lift off the tracks. If it would help to have a curtain instead, a rod can be placed just inside the track frame.
posted by yohko at 9:49 PM on November 26, 2017

Response by poster: Update, they finally removed the sliding doors entirely, and put in more/better grab bars, and got a wide trans-bathtub-wall bench. Thanks for all the suggestions, and for noting how taking the doors off could be a workable project.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:05 PM on May 9, 2018

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