A tilted adaptive bathing chair sits in a shower next to a garden hose.

The Evolution of Adaptive Showering Equipment

Many people with disabilities, like spinal muscular atrophy, may struggle with self-care necessities, especially bathing/showering when access is hard. My situation was no different, and I want to describe the way I took a “shower” for 6 months of my life.

Amazing place - except for the bathroom

The place I was staying was amazing, with hardwood floors, a big bed that was easy to adjust, and my own area for my computer for school/gaming, but I could not get into the bathroom.

Luckily, a friend gave me an old shower chair of hers that gave me access to go to the "bathroom."  There was a space in it for a bucket so I could use it to relieve myself, but I still could not bathe/shower until I had the idea to put a kiddie pool under the shower chair to make a temporary shower!

Kiddie pool hack to wash my hair

We, my caregivers and I, had been going outside and washing my hair with the water hose and then bed-bathing my body, but the water was getting colder as we got into fall, so that was getting harder to do.

The idea of bringing in a kiddie pool to put under the shower chair to hold water was a better way to wash my hair and “shower” me.  We were able to get a long garden hose extension and hook it to the sink with an adapter so we could turn the water on, and the garden hose attachment had a way to stop/start the water, which made it easier to control for use inside and not overflowing the pool.

Once we were done washing, my caregiver used the lift to get me off the chair and onto the bed, we would remove the shower chair, drag the kiddie pool to the door, dump the dirty water out, rinse, and hang the pool up to dry.

Portable bathtub

Eventually, I was gifted a portable bathtub and I was able to barely fit my lift around it to lower me in for a bath-probably not the safest thing but when you only have one option, safety is usually not it. We would put me in, balance me with towels to sit on, and then we would fill the tub with water from the same garden hose hooked to the sink.

Once filled enough, I would sit, soak, and bathe for as long as possible until the water got too cold. We would carefully put the lift around the tub again and lift me out-then use the tub’s drain tube to pull outside the door to drain the tub.

We did not uninflated the tub, we would just clean it and put it against the wall for the week to dry before it was time to do it again the next weekend!

The challenge of self-care

Self-care is important but sometimes it is near impossible if you are disabled and don’t have access.  Able-bodied people take for granted every day the ability to just jump in the bath or shower and have clean running water pouring over their heads and into a drain.  As someone who is disabled, I try to never take for granted the everyday access I have to things I know so many do not. I try to be more thankful for things like the hot shower in a tilting shower chair I have now, and the ability to wash my hair without worrying if I will fill up a kiddie pool too much to move/drain it.

I had to buy my shower chair used on eBay, where I have used to buy many durable medical equipment (DME) pieces if my insurance at the time would not cover it.

If you are living in a place where you have very few options for access, just know I have been there and I know what it’s like to wash my hair with the cold garden hose. Keep going. You are worth the self-care even if it’s very bare basic and not enough, keep going.

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