In 2013, one of our clients was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a progressive, neurodegenerative disease. Having ALS meant that him and his wife had to search for a single-level home that could be modified to meet his physical limitations. Fortunately, they were able find a ranch-style home nearby that provided a solid foundation for accessibility modifications.
As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, he reached out to the Veterans Administration for a VA Specially Adapted Housing grant that would help to fund the modification of the new home. He then called on a personal friend who is a builder. The builder realized that the majority of the renovations were related to very specific bathroom modifications, and advised him to work with the experienced team at Re-Bath and More of Lancaster. His company had recently worked with Re-Bath to create an award-winning master bathroom that utilized elements of universal design. Knowing that Re-Bath is also Certified Aging-in-Place designated, the builder trusted that they would find all the care and expertise they needed.
THE LEARNING CURVE
Re-Bath’s first meeting involved gathering information about his needs. At this point, he needed assistance with most of his daily activities, so Re-Bath got a crash course in the level of support he required both in and out of the house. We evaluated access to the house from the garage and driveway, door sizes, flooring transitions, what an accessible bathroom would look like, how it would be used. We also paid attention to future considerations, like the new power wheelchair he’d ordered that would be larger in size.
The next step in the process was to contact the VA about their requirements in order for him to get approval for the grant. (This was the biggest challenge of the entire project. While some of the requirements were straightforward and complied with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), others were vague and left to interpretation.) We also made sure that we complied with the Federal Housing Accessibility Guidelines (FHAG), and state and local guidelines as well. Ultimately, we did a lot of research before submitting any plans or proposal for approval.
The home had two small bathrooms. Only one had a bathtub, and it was a cast iron tub that was difficult for him to get in and out of. In fact, he had fallen several times. The room’s size also made it difficult for anyone to assist him. The other bathroom was on the other side of the house and was even smaller! It was located in the corner of the laundry/mud room, and had a shower stall and small doorway.
The solution we devised was to turn the small bathroom and the surrounding laundry/mud room into a large, accessible bathroom. By removing the walls that constrained the smaller bathroom and utilizing the entire laundry/mud room, the new room would be a spacious 12×12 feet. It would include:
- A 5 x6 foot ramped shower area – roomy enough for an aid, the turning radius of a wheel chair, a bench, multiple shower heads, grab bars and shelves
- A 5-foot roll-under vanity with motion activated single-lever faucet, that can be used manually or to adjust temperature
- A comfort height toilet with surrounding grab bars, and a bidet functioning toilet seat that makes it convenient for whoever assists him while removing the need to transition him to a separate traditional bidet.
In addition to making sure that his renovation met all his accessibility needs, we also made sure it looks great! We chose products that simulated natural stone and natural wood. We used accessories in polished chrome for a sharp clean look with high contrast. And, we made sure there was plenty of lighting.
For continuity, we replaced all the flooring, from the bathroom, to the kitchen, and into the dining area, with rich-looking vinyl planks that meet slip resistant requirements. We also stained all the new baseboard and door trim to match the rest of the house. The end result is a new accessible bathroom that blends seamlessly with the existing home.
Remodeling is an always a disruption. It’s messy, dusty, and can seem to drag on and on. But after the eight month long VA approval process, the construction process went quickly. To help reduce the inconveniences, Re-Bath always plans and executes a schedule that completes the bulk of construction in consecutive working days, and addresses any punch list items soon thereafter. Re-Bath was able to do the entire renovation in just 3 weeks!
The outcome is awesome. The Walkers now have one of the most accessible bathrooms ever seen. It’s safe, convenient, and durable. It allows for unimpeded movement and boasts a blend of form and function.