Bathrooms can oftentimes be difficult to navigate for people with mobility issues. Bathing and showering can also pose a great challenge.
Engaging a physical or occupational therapist for an in-home consultation can be a great first step if you’re looking to overcome these challenges and make your home more accessible. These consultations are often covered by MassHealth. During the consultation, the therapist will give you suggestions for things like grab bars, sink and counter layouts and lighting solutions.
Then comes the bathtub.
There are different options available to help someone who uses a wheelchair or is unable to step over a tub’s rim. While the most obvious solution is a new tub or shower installation, you may also elect to do a tub cut. The AFCNS team recently had the opportunity to talk with John Natale of Natale Company and Safety Care. He explained how a tub cut works.
First, the existing tub (made of fiberglass, steel or cast iron) is cut, and the hole is sealed with a fast-drying epoxy resin mixture. The tub is ready for shower use once the resin dries, which takes about 48 hours.
The advantages of the tub cut versus a new shower installation are:
- Cost – a tub cut may cost about $1,500, while a new shower installation can cost up to $10,000.
- Time savings – a tub cut is finished in a day.
- Reversibility – if you save the tub cut insert and later want to convert the tub back to a full bathtub rather than a walk-in shower, the insert can be replaced and sealed into place.
Do-it-yourself (or DIY) kits are available for tub cuts, and they typically cost about $400. According to John Natale, a DIY tub cut is doable, particularly if the tub is fiberglass, but it is an intense project. Tubs made of cast iron are extremely difficult to cut.
If you want to make your bathroom more accessible but aren’t quite ready for a tub cut or shower installation, some simpler bath modifications include:
- grab bars
- raised toilet seats
- handheld shower heads with long hoses (at least 60 inches)
- overhead lighting
- non-slip flooring
- shower seats
The goal behind adding these modifications is to create an accessible and safe space for everyone who uses the bathroom.
While these modifications can be expensive, you should know that a lot of durable medical equipment – like shower seats and raised toilet seats – is covered by insurance.
For non-covered home modifications, the Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) is available through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The HMLP provides interest-free loans for home improvements that are intended to improve handicap accessibility, and anyone may apply. Typical home modifications that are covered include ramps, lifts, showers and more.
The Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP) is administered by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. For more information about the program, go to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission at Mass.gov. In Essex County, the program is administered through Community Teamwork (978-654-5741). Your AFCNS team can help you make the initial call.