A couple in Houston, Texas, wanted to reconfigure and enhance their home’s existing master bath to meet their needs for the significant disability health challenge of ALS and for Aging in Place. Designs Anew Houston created a master bath that is now flexible, accessible, and beautiful, incorporating numerous Universal Design and Aging in Place features and components.

The most urgent needs were for the wife, to be able to access the toilet and shower safely and comfortably. She has ALS, a condition that leads to rapid deterioration of muscle strength and the ability to breathe. Gaining access to the bathroom was not only a very difficult ordeal, it was fatiguing and stressful as well. She was not able to fit her everyday scooter through the small doorway to her master bath. She had to transfer to a different scooter to use the vanity and shower and was only able to use a powder room toilet that did have sufficient transfer room, which was located, however, in another area of the house.

Bathing was also extremely difficult. The client could not use the bathtub and there was limited space for her care assistant to help her in the cramped space. I worked with the client and her husband to assess needs for her present accommodations and for future use as her condition worsens, becoming ever weaker and totally dependant upon her husband and caregiver. We also planned for functionality for her husband to allow him to Age in Place. Primary and future needs were met by expanding the area for wheelchair/scooter clearance, enlarging the doorway to 3’ wide, installing a barrier-free shower, and building an easily-accessible vanity area. The client now has access to the comfort-height toilet/bidet, where her caregiver has ample room to use a special belt to lift and transfer her. Grab bars are in place.

Another major lifestyle enhancement was to create a shower with numerous Universal Design and Aging in Place features for all three people who use the shower. Small slip-resistant tiles were selected for the floor and the added bench gives the option to sit or stand, to help prevent back strain. The floating bench is also designed for the husband, for present and future use as he grows older. Non-institutional looking decorative grab bars and shampoo niches are strategically placed at sitting and standing heights for easy reach. A beautiful bay window ledge holds shower supplies and decorative accessories. The spacious roll-in shower allows the woman to enter on her scooter. Her caregiver can safely transfer her to the shower chair, remove the original scooter from the wet area, and then have the necessary room to maneuver all around the client for comfortable and safe bathing. A stationary shower head was included, as well as a handheld showerhead on a slide bar with its own temperature control. The main shower head control is positioned at the front entrance, to warm up the water before entering, preventing cold water shock. A heat/vent/light was also added to aid in air quality control.

The cabinetry was modified with a vanity constructed for scooter access underneath, side-base pullouts for beauty products, and side-mounted sink faucets with lever controls for easy reach and grasp. The linen closet was replaced with a tall cabinet with roll-out drawers.

Before: This shows the unusable tub being utilized as a storage shelf and a tiny shower with an ineffectual temporary grab bar.

After: Designs Anew Houston created a Master Bathroom that is flexible, accessible, and beautiful, incorporating numerous Universal Design and Aging in Place features for a client with significant disabilities and her husband and caregiver. The shower interior boasts a temperature control at the entry, a convenient built-in bench, beautiful grab bars, a hand-held shower wand on a slide bar, and the easy to reach soap niche. This safer, finished room now has an aesthetically appealing, scooter-accessible shower with the tub removed.