Last week, Tim recounted what's in store for him at shower time. I'd like to expand on that on what it's like to give him a bath when we travel.
At home, Tim likes to refer to his bath setup at "the Rolls Royce of baths" because it's customized for him and his needs...he gets the closest to the perfect bath there. On the road, it can be a real mish-mash, depending on how well the hotel we're staying at has anticipated the needs of a special needs customer like him.
That access can range from pretty much none to some very well thought out solutions (still, not as good as home because just off the top, you know nothing away from home is customized to our situation). We've even had some, non-adapted rooms that come very close to being universally accessible just by coincidence, such as the Lindemann's Hotel we stayed at in Berlin.
Even with good bathtubs or showers and roomy bathrooms, other considerations can sometimes make this part tricky for example, marble bathroom floors. Think about lifting a 160 pound person into and out of the bath on a wet, slick marble floor. Yeah, that can be very dangerous.
Sharp corners on vanities and counters, not enough towels (we need three for Tim, one to dry, one to put on his wheelchair for transferring out of the bathroom, and one to put on the bed where I lay him down to get dressed), and tight spaces can all contribute to a lack of access or difficulties where none need to be.
Once I get a bathroom where I can get him in, the type of bathing facility and seating can also be varied and important. There are two basic styles of adapted bathrooms...those with bathtubs and those with roll-in (or, more technically correct, walk-in) showers.
The bathtubs are usually more problematic depending on how much I have to lift Tim to get over the lip of the tub. Many have transfer benches built into them where I can sit Tim on the edge, swing his legs over the side without lifting him, then slide him over into bathing position where he can steady himself with the grab bar. Not all accessible tub bathrooms have this, some hotels give you a shower chair instead.
A roll-in shower has no barrier to block access. Theoretically, you can roll in a wheelchair for bathing but in practice, no one wants to get their chair wet. What that means is that there is usually a fold-down bench or some other type of seating that you can transfer to from your wheelchair for bathing.
All type of adapted baths or showers come with a shower head on a hose, which makes it easy to wash and rinse those parts of the body that aren't facing the shower head base.
Here are some of the bath seating arrangements we've come across and how well they work for us:
Plastic Patio Chair, like we got at the previously mentioned Lindemann's in Berlin and the apartment we rented in Cannes - Just like you'd get a Home Depot for $12.99 or so. Actually it can work pretty well in a walk-in or roll-in shower like we got in Berlin, but not as well in a standard bathtub like we got in Cannes. It all depends on how high I need to lift Tim.
Plastic Shower Bench - a backless bench to stick in a bathtub or shower. No transfer bench attached and no back support. It'll do but it'd be nice to have a backrest.
Plastic Shower Chair - the above bench with a backrest. We keep one in the van for emergencies. It works well enough but not perfect, though.
Transfer Bench - These work very well for bathtubs because you can seat the person outside of the tub without lifting them over the tub wall, then swing the legs over and slide the bather into place. Works almost as good as a roll-in shower for us.
...there are also portable transfer benches that work just as well.
Bathtub Swivel Chair - This is the best solution, even better than a roll-in shower, that we've found for us. The Hilton Hotel in Prague provided us with this seat. It's just about perfect. The only thing that you have to do is to place the four legs of the chair on the sides of the bathtub, swivel the seat out and seat the bather into the very supportive chair, then swivel it back in and you're ready to go.
Roll-in Shower with Bench - The easiest transfer. Just wheel the wheelchair into the shower stall, transfer the bather onto the bench and transfer them back into the wheelchair when done. The bench can be mounted on the wall, like this one...
As you can see, there's quite a variety of solutions offered for accessible bathing in the various hotel rooms around the world. Sometimes, though, even that can't be found. If nothing else, putting a bunch of towels on the bed and doing a sponge bath can get you through until you land at and arrive at your next destination that has the proper or adequate bathing facilities for a person with disabilities.
There's even this solution...made for travelers and sometimes derisively called a 'whore's bath'...that will work in a pinch.
Probably the biggest hurdle for most handicapped travelers is the bath situation but, as you see, that really doesn't need to be a problem. Just be flexible with your bath habits, plan ahead, call your hotel before arriving, and you should be fine.
-Written By: Darryl Musick
-Edited By: Tim Musick
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