I always believed I was open to new ways of doing things, but having ALS has sure put me to the test! Often, my pride and a little denial have gotten in the way of my seeing the obvious solution to a problem.
Regarding safety in the shower, thank goodness an “aha” moment came to my rescue and helped to point me in the right direction.
Safety, safety, everywhere!
I’d say that the modifications we made to our bathroom during my 2nd year with ALS were among our best early decisions. Even though at the time, I wondered if it was worth the expense – – now 8 years later, I am thankful we did it.
Originally, our bathroom had a walk-in shower with a glass door that swung open. The whole shower area was about the size of a traditional bathtub and the glass door entrance had a “lip” which I had trouble lifting my feet high enough to step over. Plus, having ALS and navigating a wall of glass just didn’t seem like a good idea.
Our remodeling began by pulling out the pre-fab shower and adding tile to the back walls and floor. This opened the entrance and eliminated the “lip.” Instead of a door, we now have a simple pull-curtain with an area at the top of the curtain that allows the caregiver to peek in and check if I’m doing OK.
Other changes included: a wall-mount hand-held shower head, a recessed area for soap and shampoo bottles, and sturdy grab bars. Finally, we moved the water controls from under the shower to the opposite wall; making it an easier reach for a caregiver.
My “Ah-ha” moment
One day while using our newly remodeled shower, I found myself in a losing battle - - I was standing, attempting a one-handed shampooing of my hair while my other handheld the grab bar in a “white-knuckle death grip.” Meanwhile, both of my legs had tensed up and needed to bend. But I was afraid to move. As water swirled around my feet, I knew I was just one soapy misstep away from a nasty fall.
Suddenly a voice in my head said, “This is why people use shower chairs. Duh!”
I’ll be the first to admit that for a long time, I was resistant to buying and using a shower chair. Oh, I had all the excuses: I didn’t need one, getting one meant I was giving up, and shower chairs are for old people!
Later, while talking with my husband, I could sense his relief at my decision. We immediately searched online and ordered a sturdy PVC shower chair that met my standards.
Did it help?
Once I began using my new shower chair, I wondered why I didn’t get one sooner.
My husband holds my hands while I sit down onto the chair, then swivel-rolls me to the water. I bathe myself independently. When finished, he swivels me out and helps me to my feet. I feel safe and it makes life easier.
Sitting gives me full use of both my hands, my body feels relaxed, and the chair gives me the luxury of time to enjoy taking a shower.
Did I need a shower chair? Most definitely, yes. I had been in denial about my abilities. Was I giving up? No. I am staying in control of how I function in my environment. Are shower chairs only for old people? No, smart people of all ages use them.
BYOB (bring your own bar)
When we were traveling, I quickly learned that accessible motel rooms differ widely in interpretation. Yes, the room was on the ground floor, but several low-mounted towel racks in the bathroom don’t count as grab bars and a little plastic stool placed in the bathtub just doesn’t cut it! More than once I’ve had to use my best Spider-man moves to sit down low and navigate a tub’s swivel-transfer seat.
For anyone who relies on a grab bar, or has experienced the frustration of having to use a badly placed one, I recommend bringing your own. They come in all sizes and are available online or from your local hardware store.
Hope my experiences and tips help you and your caregiver. Happy showers!
Versions of this post first appeared in these columns on the ALS News Today website:
ALS and Wellness Blogger
Happiness is ...an Aha Moment!