Showering with chronic illness or disabilities can be exhausting. Not only are there often physical limitations that make maneuvering in the shower or bathtub difficult and dangerous, but the act itself can cause other symptoms. Many people who deal with conditions like fibromyalgia or postural tachycardia syndrome experience dizziness or even faint during or after showers.
While it might require some extra time, thought, and even investment, there are plenty of ways to keep clean without putting yourself at risk of injury. Here are just a few ways to do so – and some helpful products and suggestions to keep you or your disabled loved one clean and safe.
Modified Showers and Bathtubs
The gold standard for modified bathing and showering is a disability-friendly bathroom. You might stop at having your bathtub or shower modified to allow for walk-in safety and comfort. Or, you might modify the entire room to allow for easier bathing, such as creating a “wetroom”. No matter how you do it, though, creating a bathroom environment that allows for safe, comfortable bathing is a great investment for yourself or your disabled loved one.
Keep in mind, though – a complete bathroom renovation can be costly. Estimates range between $2,000 for a modest, accessible bathroom renovation to $7,000 or more for a full disability-friendly wetroom. If you plan to renovate your bathroom to meet those needs, be ready to save up and shell out some serious cash to do it.
What if You Cannot Afford to Modify Your Bath or Shower?
While modifying your bath or shower to meet your or your loved one’s needs is ideal, it is not always possible. Whether it is financial or logistical constraints, many people cannot afford to redo a bathroom to meet the needs of a disabled family member.
Thankfully, there are plenty of options for modifying your shower or bath routine without spending thousands of dollars to renovate your bathroom.
Handheld or Adjustable Fixtures for Showering
One of the quickest and easiest ways to modify your bath or shower is to add a flexible and adjustable showerhead or sprayer to your fixture. This can replace or be added to your existing spigot or showerhead. It increases the reach of the water and makes it much easier to bring that water to the places you need it.
Shower Chairs or Benches
There was a time when a shower chair or bench was only seen in hospital settings and the homes of the elderly with extensive health issues. These days, though, they are helping millions of people live safer, healthier lives.
There are many styles and sizes of shower chairs and benches available today. You can purchase a small, simple shower seat for less than $40 (at the time of publication) that will fit most spaces. There are ergonomic benches designed to make getting in and out of the bath or shower easier and safer. You can even find small, decorative-looking teak or bamboo benches designed to tuck neatly into the corner of a bath or shower and provide a small sitting space.
All of these options help make bathing simpler, safer, and less of a chore for those with disabilities and difficulty standing.
Falls are some of the most common injuries among elderly people and those with disabilities. To lessen the likelihood of falling in your tub or shower, have a textured bottom installed or placed inside. Place non-slip flooring, mats, or textured areas applied to the space just outside the tub as well. This will prevent slip and fall accidents both during and after bathing.
If you already use a bath mat or other items, apply a non-slip texture to the bottom. This will make your favorite mat a safer option for your bathroom.
Safety Bars or Railing
A great partner to anti-slip flooring is a safety bar or rail. This gives a person additional support and security while entering and leaving the bathtub. It can also improve stability during a shower.
I have a safety bar that was installed in our master bathroom shower when we moved into the house. I am always glad to have it, since dizziness or weakness in my legs can hit at any time. I can grab the rail when I have to wash one foot or when I shave my legs, too. It is one addition to the bath or shower that I cannot recommend highly enough!
Showering with Better Timing and Lighting
When you shower matters a lot when you are disabled or chronically ill. While most people do not consider the timing of their bath or shower to be important, it is just one more thing chronic illness makes into an ordeal.
Some factors to think about when choosing your shower time include:
- What is the lighting like at that time of day?
- Is there enough indoor lighting to offset showering at night?
- Is anyone else home at that time to help you if you fall or need assistance?
- Will you have plenty of time to recover from your shower if it makes you dizzy?
Again, these might not be your first thought when planning a shower or bath, but taking a few extra minutes to consider whether you are bathing at the safest time can help prevent injury.
Bringing the Shower or Bath to You
When you are disabled or chronically ill, there may be times when you simply cannot stand to shower or get into a bathtub. When this happens, it may be best to bring the bath to you.
Portable shower devices are available for families who have bed-bound or disabled members. These are also great for people who experience intermittent weakness or dizziness or who are recovering from surgery. These devices can be pricey, though, and are not a good fit for everyone.
You may want to consider a sponge bath to extend cleanliness between showers or to keep yourself clean when you cannot get to the bathtub. There are many specially-designed products that can help you accomplish bedside cleanliness, many of which require little or no water.
Some examples include:
- No-rinse body wash
- No-rinse shampoo
- Bath wipes (moisturizing, microwavable for warmth, easy to use)
- Intimate cleansing wipes for toilet or general cleansing use
- Facial cleansing balm to remove makeup, dirt, and oil without water
To learn more about rinse-free cleansing products, talk to your doctor. Many healthcare providers have specific products they recommend for patients with disabilities. This is especially important if you have allergies, skin sensitivities, or other issues that might limit your options.
Ultimately, how you shower or bathe does not matter. As long as you are cleaning your body in a way that keeps you comfortable and healthy, you are doing just fine. If bathing looks different for you from day to day or week to week, that is okay.
Keeping your body clean enough to keep yourself healthy is all that matters.
If you or your loved one are concerned about staying clean and need help bathing or showering, talk to your healthcare team. You may qualify for home health care assistance or other programs that can help you stay both healthy and safe.