Showering Mom

Because of Mom’s post polio syndrome (PPS), she has lost a lot of muscle strength. Her legs no longer allow her to stand on her own, for more than 20-30 seconds. Her COPD is exacerbated because her diaphragm muscle is very weak and no longer contributes to optimal breathing capability. She is unable to pull shirts over her head, or comb/brush her hair effectively, or put eye drops in when needed due to diminished arm strength not allowing her to keep her arms above her head for any length of time.

So, showering her can be a challenge.

In addition to all that, our home was built in the 50s, has the standard narrow hallways and a compact bathroom, with the tub/shower area at the rear. About 7 years ago when Dad was out of the house for about 6 months due to a broken leg at the hip requiring rehab, Mom took advantage and had the bathroom and kitchen remodeled. The older of my two brothers was involved in the redesign. I wish they would have told me they were doing it because I would have strongly recommended a curbless shower. (I’m like that: always thinking ahead.) But they didn’t, and Mom ended up with a very pretty, fully tiled walk-in shower with a 3″ curb, 3 grab bars (one installed at the wrong height 😦 ), a fold-down seat and two niches in the wall (that are also too high) plus a glass wall and shower door.

Just a few years later, because of each of their mobility issues, it is now very tricky navigating either Dad or Mom into the shower safely. Actually, it’s practically impossible.

One thing that did help though, was removing the glass wall and glass shower door and replacing them with an ordinary shower curtain. It provides a wider entry point, allows access to the sink-top counter for walking support, and offers better ventilation within the shower when the hot water is running.

Earlier this year we checked into how much it would cost to convert the shower to curbless, or roll-in. Anywhere between $8,000 and $20,000. Ugh. Mom was leaning towards not doing it because of the expense, which lead me to search for another option.

The Shower Buddy system (without the bridge piece)

We found something called a Shower Buddy. It’s a shower chair that connects to a track system that clears a walk-in shower curb onto a rotating base. (They also make one to clear a standard bathtub.) It’s safe. It’s durable. It’s adjustable, height-wise. It’s somewhat customizable with additional accessories., which we took advantage of. We purchased a mesh seat back providing a little more comfort for Mom and her protruding backbone, and a “bubble cushion”, providing comfort for the pressure sores on Mom’s “sit upon” (as she likes to say!).

The chair has several other cool features. The armrests swing up and out of the way. It has a seatbelt and locks on the wheels for safety. It can double as a commode with a bucket, OR the chair can be rolled over a toilet. And, it was less than half the price of the most affordable remodel option (which wasn’t even the favorite option, of course).

So far, it works OK for us, although we have done some additional jury-rigging. I place a thick towel on the foot rest to make it more comfortable for Mom and her sensitive feet. Because of Mom’s sensitive back bone and tail bone, I have a couple of small pieces of foam cut from a mattress topper to place behind and under her. It did take some time adjusting the height of the chair to make it comfortable for Mom to get into and out of safely. Also had to take into account her long legs and make sure the footrest was low enough so her knees were not in her face. Because or bathroom is quite narrow, I have some shimmying to do between the chair and the wall or sink to get into the shower to help Mom. But, hey, I guess need more exercise than I get on any given day!


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