November 4, 2016 | 6:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
Learning to shower on your own as a paraplegic is a major step toward increased privacy and independence. Safety is always the top concern whenever you do any type of activity that involves transferring in and out of your wheelchair. There are a few tools and strategies you can use to make showering safely and independently a reality.
A shower chair is an essential piece of equipment for your bathroom if you want to shower independently as a paraplegic. There are several types of shower chairs and benches to choose from and most of them are affordable. As you look for a shower chair, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, does the design allow you to easily transfer in and out of the chair? If transferring is difficult for you, you may want to consider a shower bench because it has more surface area than a typical shower chair. The second thing to consider is your weight. You should be able to easily find the max weight capacity for any chair you consider. The third thing to think about is the durability of the chair. You will use the chair on a regular basis and need one that will hold up over time. A good person to ask about shower chair selection is your occupational therapist.
Strategically placed grab bars in your bathroom can be very helpful when you shower independently. They can help you avoid a fall by providing something secure to grab onto if you start to slip. In addition, grab bars can help with maneuverability as you wash yourself and dry off. It is a good idea to have grab bars professionally installed because they need to be able to withstand a lot of weight. A professional contractor will know where and how to install them in order to ensure that the grab bars will not break loose when you have to quickly grab onto one.
Another key to showering independently as a paraplegic is having all the essentials within easy reach. If you use a transfer board to get from your wheelchair to your shower chair, keep one in the bathroom solely for that purpose. That will keep you from getting into the bathroom, realizing you forgot your transfer board, and then attempting to transfer without it. Transfer boards are relatively small and inexpensive and keeping in the bathroom at all times will reduce your risk of fall. Before you start your shower, make sure that everything else you need-such as soap and shampoo-is within easy reach. This will keep you from needing to lean over or get out in the middle of your shower in order to find what you need. The final item to keep close by is your towel. When your towel is within arm’s reach, you can dry off before you transfer back into your wheelchair. This will keep you from dripping water everywhere and decrease the likelihood of you slipping due to wet surfaces.
Showering independently as a paraplegic is all about preparation. A few minutes of preparation before each shower will help the process go smoothly. Plan your showers during a time of day when you are not rushed so you can complete all of the necessary steps to insure your safety.