Modifying Your Bathroom for Critical Illness



As my mom’s liver cirrhosis progressed, she became increasingly weak and unbalanced. 






If she felt well enough to leave her bed, her time was spent on the couch in the family room.  She began to use a walker to avoid falls, and of course my dad was always around to make sure she was moving safely.  When it came time to shower, mom was nervous about losing balance, but wanted to maintain her privacy, so she would bathe with the door unlocked and my dad sitting on the bed just outside the ensuite bathroom.


Eventually, they decided to make some modifications to the bathroom in order for mom to feel safer and maintain her independence with personal grooming.  The company he called helped my Dad decide to make some changes to the shower and add a seat and some grab bars.  While they were at it, my Dad had the bathroom counters and sinks changed to update the whole look. When it was finished, the bathroom was lovely and fresh (not like a hospital, just modern and safe).


Unfortunately, mom spent a lot of time in the hospital after the renovations, so she was not able to make as much use of the upgrades as my dad had anticipated and hoped.  Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do at the time, and it made a difference in my mom’s quality of life when she was home.


In this post, I want to cover some considerations and options for modifying your bathroom to accommodate someone has chronic balance and/or mobility issues.  If you or a loved are feeling unsafe using the bathroom, it is important to assess and minimize your risks.  Sometimes, even something as simple as installing a grab bar can make the difference between a safe shower and falling hazard.


Aspects to Consider


Independence in the bathroom is one of the most challenging tasks for accessibility and safety in the home.  No matter the disability, the bathroom is almost always one of the most challenging rooms to maneuver in. It is difficult to feel at home, let alone safe, if you don’t have secure access to your own bathroom. Achieving safety and independence with bathroom modifications is not only possible, but also customizable and can be attractive.


Modifying a bathroom is, by definition, a very personal project. It includes making alterations to a living space to meet the needs of physical limitations that people may be living with so that they can live a much more independent life.  A customized bathroom space will depend on an individual’s needs, preferences, and space available.  Also, a modified bathroom doesn’t have to look start or institutional; it can be as luxurious as you imagine it to be (and your budget allows).  You can install beautiful tile, stylish sinks and modern fixtures.  The look of your bathroom doesn’t have to suffer in order to accommodate accessibility, independence, and safety.


When modifying the bathroom, keep your focus on altering spaces for safe movement and creating a safe flow.


 Grab Bars



Whether it’s for a person with a disability or the elderly, grab bars are one of the simplest ways to provide support and balance. They can be useful almost anywhere in the bathroom:


  • for getting on and off the toilet
  • for in and out of the tub
  • for stability in the shower or at the sink
  • as handrails for navigation about the space


You can choose from:


  • standard wall mounted grab bars
  • swing up grab bars
  • Super poles
  • handrails


Balance is a tremendous challenge for the seriously ill, disabled and the elderly.  It can be a simple adaptation that can save lives and provide a sense of security when navigating through the bathroom.



Barrier Free Showers


Barrier-free showers are showers without a curb that are designed for easier entrance and exit. The floor of a barrier-free shower is level with the rest of the bathroom floor in order to eliminate the step or climb into the shower that can be difficult to navigate for anyone with a mobility issue.


Selected for its barrier-free design, ease of installation, structural base and integrated wood backing, this roll-in shower is ideal for residential use. The design minimizes the chances of being installed in a non-barrier free manner, having grab bars installed without proper backing, and also reduces installation costs by installing directly on floor joists, sub-flooring and concrete surface.



Doored Bathtubs


Doored bathtubs allow users to enter the bathtub without having to climb in. When the doors are swung open, an entryway a few inches above the floor is created. Once properly seated in the tub, water temperature adjustments are made easy with oversized faucet controls. Doored bathtubs may include hand-held showerheads, stationary showerheads or Jacuzzi water jets.


Doored bathtubs often have a low threshold door to enable easy entry and exit. They can be ordered with or without the upper surround wall. A bather can sit comfortably in a slightly reclined position or shower while standing or sitting. They are carefully designed to accommodate the user without sacrificing installation space and look polished in homes and institutions.  They are also available with a removable lift access cover or full front and side panels that can be installed either against a wall or in a corner.


Bathing can be incredibly challenging for people in wheelchairs or with mobility issues. Doored bathtubs are often designed with contoured seats for a safer transfer from wheelchair to bath and vice versa. Doored bathtub users can take a seated bath or use the seat as leverage and balance.


Water Containment Solutions


Keeping water inside a shower/bath increases the safety factor of the whole bathroom.  You can find many options by contacting a company that specializes in bathroom modifications.


Collapsible Water Dam – Selected as a high quality option to control water spillage in barrier-free and roll-in showers, the collapsible dam is 1” high with strong self-adhesive bottom.


  • Provides for water retention yet collapses when rolled over by a walker or wheelchair
  • Helps reduce maintenance in barrier-free showers



Corner Setting Half Height Bi-fold Shower Door – Half height design allows a caregiver to assist the user in showering, while controlling water and keeping caregiver dry.


Once closed, the doors create a water barrier, ensuring that no water runs out of the shower, and controlling water splash. When opened, the doors allow full access to roll-in showers, walk-in showers and full barrier-free showers. These types of units are available in different sizes.


 Remember that if you or a loved one are unsteady, safety hazards in your bathroom deserve the highest consideration.  The bathroom is the site of many accidents and falls. 


Have you modified your bathroom for safety and accessibility or are you considering doing so?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.


You may also be interested in:

Your Guide to Shower Chairs and Bath Benches

Guide to Bathroom Grab Bars and Hand Rails

Help Your Older Adult Move From the Wheelchair to the Toilet

How to Reduce the Risks of Heavy Lifting for Caregivers

Choosing the Best Transport Chair

Choosing a Medical Walker

Choosing a Walking Cane

Find the Right Power Wheelchair

Buying a Stairlift

Guide to a Residential Elevator in Your Home

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12 thoughts on “Modifying Your Bathroom for Critical Illness

  1. I wish I had found this post about two years ago. In the past two years, I’ve had to deal with a sister with liver cancer and a father with a host of health issues.

    They both needed safety bars in their bedroom, bathroom and down the hall. I knew about grab bars and installed them all over the place. However, your various shower solutions are new to me and would have helped a lot.

    I’m sure may people will benefit greatly from your post.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, G.C. The shower and bath solutions aren’t inexpensive, but these modifications can make a huge difference in someone’s dignity and independence.

  2. Great website. Very caring and informative. Its great to see a website thats been inspired by a need to help people improve a love ones life. I’m very sorry to hear you’ve lost your mum recently. I imagine she would be very proud of you for building such a loving website. I have been inspired to do something similar for my brother who has autism, my website for him is like a blog thats written from his perspective so people can understand him better. I wonder if you should make it clearer that your advice could be used to help many other people with different disabilities, not just illness. For example people with learning difficulties. It would also be nice to see some happy posts about peoples personal accounts of how much happier they are now they have had the modifications made to their home. A case study with nice photos. Also you could do with some illustrations to bring the website to life a bit. Best of luck. Mark

    1. Thank you very much for your comment, PenMarks. I really appreciate your constructive criticism; it helps me see my blog from someone else’s perspective! I plan to include some happier posts in time, but my state of mind is just not there yet.

  3. I really enjoyed your site. I have a DIYproject website and plan to cover these type of issues. I worked in so many 65 and older communities. One recently for 5 years. We have installed many grab bars and wheel chair curbs. This is so critical where I live. Sarasota, Florida is the retirement capital of the world, if it aint so me and many other residents feel that way. I would like to post your website on my google+. of course this is your site and will get all recognition for it. I just feel that its such great information and a major need. I will not post anything till I have your permission. Thank you

    Jose R.

    1. Thank you for visiting and for your comment, Devine. I am honored that you would like to share the information from my website.

  4. Thank you for the well written and informative article on modifying bathrooms for safety. Bathrooms are dangerous for anyone but especially people who are weakened by illness. Falls can seriously compromise the health of an already sick person. Your thorough look at the modification options is stellar, you can tell you have experienced this first hand. Your mom was a very lucky llady to have such a caring family.

  5. Thank you so much for this post. My boyfriend’s mother is an elderly and he must renovate her bathroom but had no idea where to begin. I showed him this website and he is very grateful. Now he knows where to start, what’s a priority and what’s critical. Thanks again.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, SJB. The is such a wide variety of choices in different price ranges. Sometimes the simplest modifications make the most difference.

  6. My grandmother just turned 92 and stuff like this makes me wonder sometimes. I mean after all these years she can still walk and talk efficiently with no health problems which is amazing. Because when you’re young you just think you’re so invincible but everybody gets old and might face health problems

    Great article!

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