When it comes to both independence and safety, the bathroom is the most challenging room in a home for those with mobility limitations.
From slippery surfaces, to the need to step up and over, to varying fixture heights, the balance and dexterity to maneuver independently in a bathroom can waiver from harrowing to dangerous. Fortunately, bath safety has become a major industry unto itself, making products that range from as simple as a portable grab bar to as extensive as a roll-in shower.
Sometimes a Little Means a Lot
For many who need a little assistance, there are a host of inexpensive, of-the-shelf items that dramatically increase safety and independence. A raised commode seat helps with transfers; a bath bench makes transfers and bathing much safer; and, grab bars, of course, are a helping hand wherever needed. These are all wonderfully inexpensive, readily-available solutions for added safety and maintained independence.
For those needing safer, easier bathtub access, walk-in bathtubs are a phenomenally popular option, available in a range of prices and styles. At the lower-end of price and modification are “cut-aways.” Bathtub cut-aways utilize your existing bathtub, and in less than a day, a local bathroom re-modeler cuts away the center section of your bathtub while still in place, and adds a prefabricated U-shaped walk-in insert. Additionally, a water-tight door can be added to retain not just shower access, but bath, as well. Most local bathroom remodel specialists now offer this low-cost, minimally-invasive accessibility option.
For those seeking a more extensive remodel, walk-in tubs can be purchased in a wide range of styles and features. On the lower end, a basic walk-in bathtub can be purchased for around $1,500 through the big chain home-improvement stores. On the high end, custom units with seating and whirlpool features can exceed $8,000.
For those needing walk-in shower access with maximum safety, a “barrier-free” shower is a perfect solution. Barrier-free showers typically have only a one-inch lip, with grab bars and a built-in bench. Barrier-free showers are fiberglass or acrylic – either in one-piece or panel construction – and can be installed in an existing shower stall by a local “one-day” bathroom remodel company or during a complete remodel. Prices start around $2,000.
For wheelchair users, a “roll-in” shower is the ultimate in access, used in conjunction with a rolling shower chair or transfer bench. Of all options, roll-ins are the most costly because they require floor grading for proper drainage and are typically tiled (although fiberglass and acrylic versions are available). Roll-in showers are also the most space comprehensive since you need enough room for a wheelchair to maneuver. However, they are the pinnacle of access.
The Sky is the Limit (But Doesn’t Have to Be)
When it comes to modifying a bathroom for accessibility, it’s like any other renovation – the sky is the limit, but, it doesn’t have to be. Realistically, nationwide, a bathtub modification will cost around $1,000; a new walk-in tub, installed, will cost from $2,000 to $8,000; and, a renovated bathroom with a tiled roll-in shower will cost, on average, around $13,000. In the end, we’re all concerned with cost. However, safety and independence come first. When it comes to making your bathroom safe and accessible, don’t over estimate it, as it can be quite inexpensive and practical. Yet, let’s not underestimate safety and accessibility for maximum independence, either.