Our Favourite Shower Aids For Elderly Parents
Taking a shower can become harder as we age, but the good news is that there’s some great shower aids on the market which can make it easier and safer. Here, our fantastic physiotherapist Nancy looks at ways to make an accessible shower without a complete wet room overhaul.
With hard floors, sharp corners and the possibility of slipping over, it’s no surprise that the bathroom can become a scarier place as we get older. Before we start looking at the shower mobility aids, let’s look at why this is.
Effortless bathing is a thing of the past for our parents and the risk of falling in the shower can be a real concern – maybe they have fallen previously and are concerned it will happen again, or they just know that their balance is not what it once was.
This fear of bathroom slips can really impact independence, so if your parent wants to stay living at home or doesn’t want carer support for a shower, the assistive bathing ideas below could massively benefit them.
Showering also takes energy, and sometimes our parents are too fatigued to shower. Or it could be that they are conserving their reserves for another activity and go without bathing.
The elderly can also feel the cold more easily, so put off showering to prevent this. Simple things, like having a warm towel and slippers ready could help.
Mobility problems also play a role here. Actions we take for granted, such as stepping into a shower, standing for long periods, reaching for soap and even washing ourselves can get harder and stop older adults from wanting to shower as often.
Not bothering to shower can be self-neglect. This can be especially true in people with early stages of dementia.
It may be that they think they showered more recently than they did and so are refusing to shower, or it may be down to fear and discomfort. They don’t understand the act of showering, having the water on their body or it washing away, and so regular washing becomes harder.
Whilst a walk in shower or a wet room can be a great way to encourage showering, it’s not always possible – there may not be space, it could be cost prohibitive or maybe your parent doesn’t want this level of home adaptations done.
It is however still possible to create an accessible shower with the right mobility aids.
I’d get a shower stool for someone if they had good balance but just needed some extra support when washing independently – for example, it takes a fair amount of energy and they can get tired.
This option is really neat – the seat rotates to reduce twisting and reaching, so the shower gel can be easily within grasp. It’s also portable so can be moved out of the way, or even taken to family or on holiday.
If your parent gets tired easily, has lower limb weakness, or is worried about falling in the shower then a shower chair could be the answer.
It’s a freestanding seat that is specially designed for use in a shower cubicle (not a showerhead over a bath) and can help older adults feel more confident and comfortable when washing.
They come in various seat sizes (go for one that’s as wide as the shower cubicle will allow for added comfort) and often have adjustable legs so you can make sure it’s the right height for your mum or dad (this is especially important if two or more people will be using it).
Measuring For Shower Seat Dimensions
- Shower seat height: Without shoes or slippers on, measure from the back of the heel to the crease behind the knee. Most shower chairs come with adjustable legs, so you can make it the right height.
- Shower seat depth: Sitting down in a supportive chair, measure from the back of the buttocks to the back of the knee.
- Shower seat width: They come in various sizes (we go into more detail on this below). Ideally you should go for a shower chair that’s as wide as the cubicle will allow for added comfort. If there’s the space, you may want one with arms.
There are different types of shower chairs available, depending on the space available and your parent’s needs. We’ve run through this all below.
A shower chair with arms and backrest is the most supportive option out there, and is a good option if they are lacking upper body strength.
The arms will help your loved one stay in place whilst sitting, and they can also push up off them to stand up safely. It can hold up to 110kg in weight.
This is a good supportive option – it has rubber ferrules on the feet and rubber on the arm rests for added fall protection, and the arms and back can even be taken off if they aren’t needed in the long term or for each user.
You’ll see it also has holes in the seat for water drainage, something I would always recommend.
For people who need more weight support, this wide fit shower chair could be the answer. It has adjustable legs, more padding for extra comfort and has a weight limit of 250kg.
If other people who don’t need the chair are using the shower, then make sure there’s adequate room for it in the bathroom.
Go for a folding shower seat when you’re limited on space. It attaches to the shower wall, folding down when needed so can easily be moved out of the way when someone else uses the shower (it will come out 9.5cm from the wall when folded up).
This wall mounted shower seat has legs for extra stability which fold up too – they are adjustable to get the right height for the user, but note that once attached to the wall the seat height can’t be changed.
There’s lots of options available but I like this one with a padded seat for extra comfort.
It needs to be fixed to a solid shower wall so you should use a handyman to install it correctly – not only for your parent’s safety but to make sure water doesn’t get into the walls and cause a leak or damp.
Otherwise known as a shower commode chair, this is a good short-term option which can reduce the number of transfers needed (helping to prevent falls and maintain skin integrity).
I say short-term just because showering in a commode chair isn’t as comfortable as some of the above. Also worth pointing out that you need flat entry to the shower (so no step) for this mobile shower chair.
Non slip shower mats live in the actual shower (vs outside the shower door to dry your feet on). Made out of rubber, thse inexpensive shower aids have suction cups on the bottom side to securely attach to the slippery shower floor so your parent can stand there feeling safe and steady.
You can find an anti slip shower mat in a range of sizes, depending on the space available.
If your parent doesn’t have the confidence to bend down in the shower but still has good balance, they might like this anti slip mat with foot scrubber built in.
With their foot firmly on the floor, they just move it slightly back and forth and the self cleaning massager will work. It’s also a good way to improve blood circulation, as long as your parent doesn’t have any feet problems. Plus, this design is sure to make them smile 🙂
You can also find non slip shower stickers. This flooring tape is a good idea if the shower space is large and they will be walking on wet floor when getting in and out.
Drying the feet after a shower is so important – you don’t want your loved one walking on the hard floor with wet feet! Bath mats are something we often take for granted and don’t change, but they do wear away.
This plush chenille shower mat comes in a variety of colours, has a non slip backing so won’t move when stood on and is machine washable.
Strategically placed shower grab bars are a fantastic mobility aid for people who struggle with balance.
To get an understanding of where they would be most useful, walk round the bathroom with your parent (when dry!) and see how they use it. Factor in the toilet, in and out of the shower, by the door etc.
This way you will ensure that when put up, the bathroom grab rails are at the right height and the right direction (vertical or horizontal) for your mum and dad.
Whilst the stainless steel grab rails look nicer, the plastic fluted grab rails offer the best grip.
All these shower aids are designed to help your elderly parent stay independent. It’s much easier for them to wash themselves properly with a handheld shower head than a static waterfall shower.
If you’re buying a new one, I’d recommend a handheld shower head with pause button (as long as they have the finger strength to push the button in). This means that they can reach for more soap and wash themselves without worrying about the water going off in all directions.
If your parent has a home carer to help them with personal bathing, then a handheld shower head is much easier than a stay-in-place shower head as they won’t need to get wet too.
I’m big fans of long handled aids – they prevent over stretching and act like go-go-gadget arms, giving people extra mobility and independence.
In the shower, long handled washing aids can help your parent easily wash their back as well as their legs and feet without bending down.
I like this option because it can be used wet in the shower, or dry to apply cream.
You might be more used to seeing these automatic dispensers used for hand sanitizer but they are great for keeping hands free in the shower.
This no drilling wall mounted shower dispenser can be refilled and means your parent can wash away, knowing they don’t have to stretch for products and hold them in one hand.
Elderly Bathing Issues
It can be frustrating if your parent doesn’t want to shower as often as normal. But it’s important to remember that as we age, we don’t always need to bathe as much – we’re doing less exercise, we can sweat less and sometimes frail skin doesn’t need as much water.
If you want to convince your elderly parent to take a shower, then here’s some tips:
- Speak with them. Try and understand what the crux of the problem is. Showering doesn’t come as easily for older adults – the process from getting upstairs and undressed, getting wet and then dry again can be exhausting and scary. If you know what’s stopping them, you’ll all be in a better place to come up with a solution. For example, if they’re worried about falling then it might help for someone to wait outside the bathroom while they’re there.
- It could be time to get a carer, or move into a care home. Look for other signs of self-neglect and then have an open and honest conversation with them.
- If your parent wants to wash but doesn’t want to shower, there’s some alternatives! Try a sponge bath or bath wipes for easy cleaning. If they’re recovering from an operation, this inflatable bed shampoo basin is a great shower aid. Or try the Drench no rinse shampoo caps which wash hair without water.
Free Mobility Aids
In the UK, your parent could be eligible for shower aids or even a large-scale adaptation for free where there’s a clinical need as identified by an NHS occupational therapist.
Where’s there a long-term disability, get in touch with Social Services as they should provide assistance here. If your parent’s living with a new condition, get in touch with their OT and they could be able to help.
Shower Aids Conclusion
When you think of an older adult’s bathroom, you might straightaway think about walk-in showers and wet rooms. But often, simple shower aids such as shower chairs and non-slip bath mats can be just the ticket to keeping your parent safe, secure and happy. These gadgets can improve independence and give you peace of mind too.