Bathroom & Bedroom Disability Modifications
I am a master electrician and plumber, and have given some thought to what can be
done and what's available commercially to make the bed and bath work when you're temporarily or permanently disabled.
I've had both my knees
done, have gone through the recovery (and have directly experienced
what's needed) and now, alas, have had the lower right knee to tibia
joint fail and have to have that knee 'revised' the medical term (doc
said the joints he put in fail 1.5% of the time....me: would you fly a
plane that fell out of the sky 1.5% of the time?). So I've made more accommodations
for this. Untile you're recovering from surgey or otherwise
disabled, this will all seem like foolishness. Just wait. Time
will come when you need every help you can get to retain some feeling
of ability and control.
This shows you what I know is available and have done in my home
Perhaps the most important thing in a bedroom
is not falling, which means grab bars, grab bars that are firmly
mounted. I loathe flimsy towel rack mounted to sheet rock which
tear out and mess up the sheet rock (besides maybe dumping you on the
floor). Usually you try to tie the grab bar to a stud to solidly
mount it....but that rarely works out. Avoid suction cup grab
bars; they may be a good travel expedient but
they are not trustworthy...they will pop off without any warning and
dump you. Since it will rarely be that studs will happen to be
right, there are two other grab
bar mounting alternatives
Once you get the hang of mounting them, I'd suggest that you think
about replacing your towel bars with grab bars. They look fine
that way and disguise the fact that you have grab bars
everywhere. Remember: you only have to need them once and you'll
thank God you're not on the floor with a broken hip. Think about
getting them with a roughed up or peened surface which makes your grip
more secure. You'll see in the picture here that I have put grey 3M 370 safety-walk non-slip tape
available from Amazon and Ebay on some of my grab bars with a slippery
glossy finish. Besides, with a smooth finish, towels will slip
off unless they're centered.
- "Letting" plywood into the stud behind the sheet rock when
redoing a bathroom: When I redid the hall bath, I cut out the face of
the studs and put up 3/4" plywood behind the sheet rock. Then I
mounted real grab bars as towel racks, wherever I'd done that.
I (and you) will want to put up a grab bar where this hasn't been
done. Moen makes a really nifty molly bolt on steroids to allow
you to cut a hole in sheet rock anywhere, no stud, and end up with a mounting point that will support 300 pounds. It's called the Moen Home Care SecureMount Anchor and costs about $25 a pair of them. They go in easily after drilling an 1-1/4"hole (instructions here
plus there are videos on YouTube). It needs a 3-1/2" (or bigger)
wall cavity and works with as thin a wall thickness as 1/8" (like a
fiberglass tub) or thick tiled walls.
If you have a tiled wall, you can get a diamond hole saw for as little
as $10on ebay...Google "drilling tile diamond hole saw". You
drill the same sized hole in a small piece of plywood, duct tape it to
the wall in the correct position. This keeps the diamond saw in
position while you dribble water as you drill to keep the saw wet and
Grab bars themselves
Moen has a nice comprehensive (some 226) line, you can see them here, then find them competively priced in HD, Lowe's and the full range from Amazon.
There are some specialty grab bars that I want to particularly point out.
Toilet Grab bars
Help getting on and off the can, two grab bars.
Here's the two of them together. One the left the swing down bar
is down, on the right, it's swung up, double click to see full size.
Note the wireless remote control for the bidet seat atop the toilet
tank, more on that here
The swing down toilet grab bar doesn't have a
mounting plate that would work with the Secure Mount Anchors, so I tied
a piece of 3/4" plywood to the wall behind the toilet and bolted it to
that. The lag bolts nearest the door tie into the stud by the
door, but the rest of the mounting plate is screwed to the plywood. This is the one mod I did that required relative ugliness to mount it..
Shower & Tub Grab bars
Moen has a really nice wrap around (the corner of the shower/tub surround) grab bar
ties to the wall in three places. It comes in three sizes (what changes is mostly the length of the long side) and
only in SS finish. Mine tub and shower surround with it looks
When I installed it, I only knew of the smallest one, the 8992. If I was doing it again, I'd get the biggest one, the 8996, which would run the full length of the tub surround. Check the dimensions will work in your surround before you order it.
It's tough to install:
- You need someone to hold it against the wall and not let it shift while you precisely mark where the anchor holes will be. Three people would be even better:one
standing outside the tub at the front holding that end firmly, another
at the back also outside and then the third person drawing a circle
around the mounting flange with a Sharpie.
- The middle securely point is tough because the dress flange
allows very little room to get in to tighten the screws that hold it to
the anchor. I had to use a short screwdriver bit gripped by a pair of Vise-Grips
The other end of my tube surround looks like this:
- that if you have sliding glass door in a tub, you will have
to remove them (they lift out with some difficulty due to their weight
and put them somewhere else. You will need the full width of the
opening to get in and out of the surround and lift your leg over the
- You will want grab bars immediately outside the tub to help you with the tricky business of getting out of the tub surround. Have them at both end of the tub.
You want one that slides up and down on a track...and you'll need to
have it permanently plumbed in or connected to the shower head with a
diverter. Another possibility: I replaced the telephone shower head with a bidet spray head,
which looks like a kitchen sink sprayer (but has the threads for
tehephone shower hose) and does a dandy job of blowing the shaving crud
out of my multiple-blade Gillette razor.
The Toilet...should be an elevated one. If you are
anything over 5'9", you will find the height of regular toilets,
ridiculously low (they have to work of kids, remember) and hard to get
down to or up from if you've any kind of disability or
limitations. I had an lovely old American Standard Luxor
toilet that looked like a piece of 1950's modern art, flushed better
than anything I've ever had and was designed so that it could not
overflow (tank was at the same height as the bowl) and was very
quiet. But it was too damn low. Any plumbing supply
store/Lowe's/Home Depot have elevated height toilet, 17" to 19"
high. Try them. If it isn't enough, you can special order
even taller ones or build in a platform
Bidet Toilet Seat
Ha-ha. Bidets are silly French bathroom weirdness. No. Bidets mean you get really clean
(when did you ever get your hands clean by just rubbing paper towel
over them?) and you don't have to dance on the can to get to yourself with the
toilet paper. And then, at least for guys, you never use toilet
paper again, and your hands don't get dirty. Finally, if you have
IBS or colitis of C. Diff. or the like, your bottom will thank you. You can
see a bidet toilet seat in the picture of the swing-down toilet grab
bar. I've had mine for 5-6 years and greatly appreciate it.
Brondell has an excellent line of them; you can usually get one for around $300 on sale or an open-box. Installation involves three steps:
The seat has a wireless remote control...jet selection for girls and
boys, water temperature control, warm air toasting your bottom and like
that. In the picure above of the swing-down toilet gragb bar, you
can see the remote control on the toilent tank top next to the
- replacing the seat, big deal
- putting a simple tee in the water line, which is very simple,
just disconnecting the water supply on the underside of the toilet
tank, connecting the supplied tee in that place and then reconnecting
the water supply to the bottom of the tee.
- The possibly difficult part: you need a GFI (shock protected,
required by code in all bathrooms) outlet to plug the bidet seat
into. I've used an extension cord. But you may need an outlet installed by an electrician
I put together my master bed in the early
'70's when I found a 6' diameter round mahogany table with leaves,
damaged and cast off at an antique store. The half that wasn't
damaged I made the headboard, the rest of it I cut up to make a dresser
attached to the back of the headboard. A king-sized bed in our
room takes up too much room for bedside table, so I have stuff on the
headboard. Present and useful are:
- Trapeze bar for pulling yourself up to move in bed (for
when it doesn't hurt to use your upper body but your hips/legs are in a
bad way); they rig them on hospital beds
- Insteon remote for master bedroom light. Insteon is neat;
turn off lights from the bed. For that matter any lights anywhere in
- Kleenex box
- House phone(I make prodigious amounts of ear wax)
- remote control for mattress top electric heater. Not an
electric blanket, but heat on the top of the matress just at the foot
of the bed (a twin mattress pad top heater put across the foot of the
king-sized bed); this makes for toasty toes in the winter, such a goodness
- Bose radio remote
- Tactical vest velcro backed pocket patch for nail file, cuticle clipper, pen, dry-eye drops, glasses cleaner bottle
- Fleece eye-glasses cleaning cloth on a spring reel (like for a badge)
- two prescription bottles mounted to headboard using a hole in the bottom and a fender washer. One holds Q-tips (I make prodigious amounts of ear wax), the other, cough drops
Double click to see it enlarged with the annotations readable.