If there’s one room in the house where you’ll want to be as independent as possible, it’s probably the bathroom. We all like to relax and refresh in privacy. Here’s our guide to making it the sanctuary you’re looking for.
Bathing is an essential part of wellbeing. From a practical point of view, it’s really important to keep clean for our self-esteem and also to prevent a build-up of bacteria that can lead to infection.
Secondly, and arguably as important, a relaxing bath or shower can really help soothe us of our troubles, help aching muscles and even revitalise us.
The challenge for disabled people is to make the bathroom a place where we can enjoy as much independence as possible in comfort and safety. The bathroom, after all, is also the room where we’re most likely to slip or fall or to otherwise experience difﬁculties.
Adaptations and assistive technology can provide many of the answers we’re looking for but as with other solutions, it’s really important to know how to buy the one that suits your speciﬁc needs.
In theory, any bathroom can be transformed into a wetroom. The bath is removed and the room is waterproofed (or ‘tanked’) from ﬂoor to ceiling. Here are a few points to help you decide if a wetroom is for you…
The major feature of a wetroom is the sealed ﬂoor. This means that there’s no shower tray. The ﬂoor will have a slight gradient allowing water to drain through the ﬂoor.
A lack of shower tray is good if you’re speciﬁcally aiming to avoid trip hazards or are a wheelchair user with a smallish bathroom.
You’ll need to think about places to keep towels, toiletries and even loo roll dry from the shower spray.
You’ll also need well-ﬁtted ﬂooring and a good drain capable of handling high volume (with a dirt trap that’s easy to get to for clearing) to prevent pooling or worse, ﬂooding. A ﬂush channel style drain that collects water across its full width could be the answer.
Because the ﬂoor will have to be tiled or otherwise waterproofed, it might be cold underfoot. This can be uncomfortable and in some cases, cause spasticity. Electric underﬂoor heating is the answer and should be installed at the same time as the ﬂoor is being prepared. (Underﬂoor heating will also help to dry the ﬂoor.)
Consider the entire layout of the room. You need to think about access both for the shower as well as the basin and toilet. Wall-mounted Because there will be water on the floor, the basin and toilet may need to be wall-mounted. This will, however, make the wetroom easier to clean.
With so much water around, it’s vital to ventilate a wetroom properly. You might keep a window open and fit an extractor fan. Doing so will prevent a build-up of mould and mildew – which can be particularly bad news for people with respiratory conditions.
Because a wetroom is tanked you could consider having a second showerhead. This could be in a lower position for wheelchair users or to help carers wash people in a seated position or on the floor.
Tiles and vinyl flooring are the two most popular floor coverings in wetrooms. Corian (a seamless, low-maintenance and nonporous material) can also be used, as can concrete and a waterproof plaster called tadelakt.
Note that porous tiles made from slate, marble and limestone will need sealing against moisture every few months – which is a pain. Non-porous ceramic or porcelain tiles may be a better solution. In all cases, use tiles designed for floors, since these aren’t likely to become slippery.
Walk-in showers share some of the features and advantages of wetrooms. Some will be separated by a glass panel from the rest of the bathroom rather than a full unit with a door – or a shower that’s hung over a bath. This type of set-up could be ideal for people that find getting into a bathtub difficult – though there will be a very low profile shower tray to step into.
A walk-in shower has no doors, with one end of the shower open to the room which is used to dry off, while the opposite end is the showering area.
Some people are reluctant to get rid of their bathtub. A walk-in bath could be the compromise they’re looking for. Walk-in baths have doors that usually open inwards (to save space) with different depths of step to suit differently able people (a feature that in some cases can mitigate a hoist – and provide a more independent bathing experience).
Walk-in baths usually feature slip-resistant finishes for safety – and of course, you can hang a shower head over them for use as you would in any other bathtub.
Also look at paddle taps for people with low hand dexterity/strength as well as controls that prevent overfilling the tub and thermostatic controls to regulate water temperature.