Confined to a Wheelchair Bathroom Case Study
Larry Murr, CGR, CAPS of Lawrence Murr Remodeling in Jacksonville, Fla. offers a case study for a successful bathroom remodel.
Client: A middle-age woman suffered a brain aneurism that caused some paralysis on the right side of the body as well as speech difficulties and other physical changes. She only has strength on the left side and needs support when walking or standing. At other times, she uses a wheelchair.
The owners moved from their previous home to a smaller, easier to access home in a nearby subdivision. Since her illness, she had not been able to bathe herself due to the bath arrangements, getting assistance from her husband.
We had known one another through Boy Scouts, where her husband and I served as troop leaders; so I was not uncomfortable talking with her. Although her speech and language skills had been detrimentally affected by her illness, she was still able to communicate to us what she wanted in her bathroom.
I feel that the information that I had gotten through my CAPS training was especially helpful in this situation, as it provided me not only with the knowledge of what to do, but also how to ask the client the right questions concerning her abilities. Questions concerning her physical abilities: "Is one side stronger then the other?" "Can you stand up and shower or would you prefer to sit?" "Will you be using your wheelchair in the shower?" "Are you sensitive to heat and/or cold?" etc.
Getting the answers back from these questions helped us in developing our design.
Scope of Work: The bathroom was already a fairly large one, with a 2'8" entry door. The client wanted the vanity to stay in place, so renovation or adjustments were done to that. Except for installing a larger door, no alterations were made to the walk in closet. There was a large soaking tub, separate toilet area, and a shower. The ceiling was vaulted.
We rearranged the above three areas (as you will be able to see from the pictures) in order to be able to build a large walk in or roll in shower. The tub was completely eliminated, the toilet moved to the opposite wall — enclosed in a larger room with a larger door for access, and the shower area was increased. In order to build a curbless shower, we removed the existing concrete floor in the area, dug down 5 inches, and re-poured the floor. This allowed us to install a gradual sloped shower entry.
- Since the client had strength on only one side, we installed grab bars on both sides of the shower so that she could walk in and out with something to hold on to.
- A Grohe thermostatic temperature control valve was done because of her lack of heat/cold sensitivity, and also so that she would not get wet while waiting for the water to reach the proper temperature. The location of the control valve was at the entry to the shower so that she could turn it on before entering. The temperature is preset.
- A seat was built inside the shower, and a handheld shower head was installed close by. This shower head could be used separately from the regular shower head mounted on the wall (her husband used this shower also).
- We installed plenty of light.
- The exhaust fan was a heat, light, fan combination, and was located just outside the shower wall and over the top of a wooden seat that was built for her to sit and towel dry or dress. With the heat, she could keep warm. The switches for this and the shower lights were located in this area for easy access.
- The client wanted the glass block, which also helped to let in natural light.
- The toilet room was built next to the only window in the bath. In order to capture some of the natural light from the window, we installed a glass block window in the wall between the toilet and the shower entry.
- A comfort height toilet was installed with the appropriate grab bars.
Overall this was very satisfying, as the next time I saw her; she thanked me for being able to bathe by herself for the first time since her illness.
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