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In the Shower

Caregiving Tips. October 16, 2017

Helping some in the shower is one of the more difficult and risky activities in caregiving. Here are some hints in how to make it easier.

Grab bars in the shower are mandatory. If you don't feel comfortable installing them, hire a handyman. If your shower wall is ceramic tile and if you're confident or daring enough to try doing this yourself, use a ceramic drill bit. If you can't find a stud or it's in the wrong place, secure the screws with wall anchors. When you drill into ceramic tile, there are a couple of problems to be aware of: the tile doesn't take a pencil mark, and when you start to drill, the drill bit will wander and you won't get the hole exactly where you need it. Here's a hint: put a strip of duct tape over the spot. The tape will take the pencil mark and it will also hold the drill bit in place until it bites into the tile.

A few words about wall anchors. There are several different types, each with their own purposes and strengths. If you install the wrong one, you're wasting your money and putting your loved one at risk. If you're not an expert in wall anchors, talk to someone at your local hardware store.

When the disease gets to the point where your loved one can't stand in the shower even with shower bars to grip, you can install a shower chair. There are two main kinds. The simplest is a chair that sits inside the tub or shower. It has drain holes and some even have cutouts in the bottom for what the manufacturers coyly call "personal washing." Some chairs have backs, some have arm rests, and some attach to the shower wall and can fold up when they're not being used.

The other type is a transfer bench. This chair sits partly in and partly out of the tub and is for people who can't step into it. The person sits on the outside part of the bench, then swings her legs over the sides of the tub and slides herself along the bench. Some transfer benches have a sliding seat. The disadvantage of a transfer bench is that you can't keep the shower curtain inside the tub, so water will get out. A friend of mine placed the outside legs of the bench onto a boot tray, which caught most of the water. For the rest, he used towels.

Of course, for those with a larger budget, there are walk-in baths and even lifts to get the person into the tub.

Someone suggested that Sandra use a hand-held shower instead of a fixed shower head. But having to manipulate the shower as she was soaping herself was too much for her to handle, so we stuck with a fixed head until she could no longer shower herself at all. At that point, I got a hand-held head that I use when I'm showering her. I also got a "diverter valve," a unit that attaches to the shower outlet and can hold two shower heads: one fixed for me to use and one for the hand-held. You can also get a hand-held head with a bracket that keeps the head in place.