ALS From Both Sides, Care of an ALS Patient By Diane Huberty, Retired RN, Certified Neuro Nurse and ALS Patient

An Accessible Half Bath

When the process of getting me from wheelchair to chair lift in our small entry hall was getting difficult, it was time to move our bedroom down to the family room. However, standing transfers were getting risky, getting me from my scooter in the downstairs hallway, through the half bath door, turned around and lowered onto the toilet was just not safe either. Since it was the only bath on the main floor, we had to figure something out. The cost of adding on a bathroom was beyond our means. I wasn't ready to accept using a commode all the time nor give up on shampooing at the sink. We had a bed shampoo tray that worked well but it was time consuming to use.

I was, however, perfectly willing to give up on showering. Even though I could shower in our upstairs bathroom by using a transfer bench, I had long since switched to daily wash-ups and increasingly infrequent showers. The whole process wasn't worth the effort and extra time. Too many transfers, too shivering cold for me and too sweaty hot for my husband. A daily wash, sometimes just pits and bottom, other times a full scrub down while I sat on the toilet and a shampoo at the sink was fast, easy on both of us, and more than sufficient to keep me clean. Although a roll in shower would have been nice, it wasn't critical.

So, with a roll in shower off our list of must-haves, the possibility of using the half bath was there - if we could figure out how to get me into it. With the goal of making the toilet and sink usable, we came up with what has turned out to be a very good solution that didn't require major remodeling or changes to the layout of surrounding rooms. Here is the "Before" floor plan:


Simply widening the doorway wouldn't do the job. So we W-I-D-E-N-E-D it to 72" to accommodate double doors. Regular doors would be in the way of driving the wheelchair in. The key to success was using 2 two bifold doors. Instead of hanging them from a track, we put them on hinges like a standard door. They fold and swing! When open, they close off both ends of the hallway, turning hall space into bathroom space, nearly doubling the size of the bathroom.

before and after

Since we have a basement under the bathroom it was quite easy to move the toilet about a foot away from it's original position. This allowed my wheelchair to be along side the toilet for transfers. Removing the vanity and putting the sink in a corner mounted counter top made it possible for me to roll under the sink for shampooing, etc. Even though I am now on a vent, I can still lean forward over the sink.

We added a tall cabinet in the corner and a cabinet over the toilet for storage. Because the hall closet becomes part of the bathroom, we use half of it for my clothes. A shelf unit holds sweaters, shoes, socks, underwear, etc.
Here is how my power chair (about 46" x 25" with footrests up a bit) fits in the space.


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