How do I make a walk-in shower within a few weeks?
September 2, 2019 8:46 PM   Subscribe

I've got a downstairs bathroom that I need to make accessible in a jiffy.

A close relative has had major surgery, and is likely to have lower-body weakness for an indeterminate amount of time. They're probably going to be in rehab for an indeterminate number of weeks, and then coming home.

The only bathroom downstairs is a high-ish slippery tub/shower, so I'd like to have an accessible bathing solution ready by then. My relative is elderly but has pretty good upper body strength, I just expect they'll lose some coordination and balance in their legs, ankles and feet.

What are my options? I've seen conversion kits that have you saw a door in the side of the tub, but that looks iffy. I wonder also if a transfer bench might work well enough, and also install a handheld shower in place of the existing faucet.

I'm not sure of the existing material, seems like FRP. It's an average-size tub, no love lost if we have to remodel it completely although time is going to be a factor. Although a big remodel is going to stress the heck out of this person's spouse.
posted by RobotVoodooPower to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Transfer bench or shower chair, handheld shower attachment and if needed a well attached grab-bar.
posted by leslies at 8:56 PM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]

My wife was paralyzed in her legs and she used a transfer bench to get from wheelchair to bench for several years. There are so many different benches. I suggest getting the most sturdy one you can find.
posted by JayRwv at 9:01 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd expect that they would still need a chair/stool for a walk-in shower if they have lower leg weakness. Get a shower bench that attached to your tub and allows for an easy transfer - look for one that's adjustable and sturdy. Add a grippy shower mat at the bottom of the tub and outside. See if there's anywhere you can add a few grab bars. Keep towels within close reach (Command hooks are good for that.) Consider a chair outside the shower too for resting/drying off/getting ready. I have a folding one in mine. It's also a good idea to reach out to their doctor/the rehab and see what they recommend, since they likely treat this a lot.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:28 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you are ear Portland OR, there are endless ads for shower conversions. The firms remove the tub and tile a large shower in the space. They claim that it is quick; they do not give a price. There must be firms in any large-ish city to do this work.
posted by Cranberry at 12:14 AM on September 3, 2019

You don't want to saw a door in the tub.

But my aunt had similar issues and got a walk in tub, that is a tub designed with a door. She got a Kohler, and thinks it's the best thing she's ever owned. One thing she did when she had it installed was change the bathroom door from 30" to 42", in case she ever needs a wheelchair.

They're not inexpensive, I think she spent $7000. But this one is the deluxe one with hydro jets.

My mom has some walking issues as well, I was always concerned about her swinging her legs up to get into the tub. So when I had the bathroom redone, I took out the tub and put in a shower pan. The lip is only 1 1/2" high, so she has no problem stepping in, we added a shower chair and grab bars all around. We also re-tiled the bathroom floor with non-slip tiles.

The only problem is she sometimes grabs the shower curtain if shes unsteady. I wonder if I can upgrade the shower rod to a nice heavy (chin up strength) bar and a nylon webbing reinforced curtain?
posted by Marky at 12:20 AM on September 3, 2019

You can remove the tub completely and replace it with a walk-in shower tray pan of the same dimensions with the same drain placement. (Or if your tray is a little short, like ours, you can build a handy tiled seat/shelf.) Our walk-in shower has a glass door that covers about 2/3rds of the horizontal length of the former tub. The tray, glass screen and hand-held shower were not expensive. Labor is.

The whole thing including the necessary re-tiling only takes about 2 days.

PS: Add grab rails during tiling and get a no-slip shower stool!
posted by DarlingBri at 1:53 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ask to speak with occupational therapy in whatever facility they are in. Thy may have some good recommendations and local ideas. I would plan on starting with a transfer bench and/or a bath lift (which sits inside the bath tub). Grab bars are also a good idea in general. You may need to consider toilet transfers as well, again grab bars are great. Local places like ‘Restore’ Or building product recyclers are often a great source for cheap grab bars as they are $$$. Good luck!
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 3:07 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

My grandparents installed something like this. It was very quick. It is a fiberglass walk in shower kit:

5 piece fiberglass walk in shower kit

They are sized to fit into the existing standard tub area. You can also just use a rod and shower curtain for these.

I used it and even as an able bodied person I really liked not having to step into a tub to take a shower.
posted by bdc34 at 5:47 AM on September 3, 2019

We got someone to install grab bars and they work great with the transfer bench! Thanks everyone.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:33 PM on October 13, 2019

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