Hi! I was wondering if you could give us your opinion. We are considering converting a bathtub to a shower so our 86 year old (feeble) Mom can gain access. It is my sister’s thinking that the warm shower will help sooth aches and pains as well as the obvious shower advantage. The other alternative would be to take the money spent on doing the tub to shower conversion and just have a CNA come in twice a week to give her a bath. Mom is quite feeble, so we realize that additional assistance will be needed eventually. I live here with my Mom right now and give her sponge baths and she takes care of keeping her personal hygiene maintained. She has major problems with incontinence and has to change her pull ups a couple of times per day. At this point, what do you think is the best idea…investing in shower or using that money to have someone come in and help her with total bath. I’m just thinking what’s best as we move forward. Thanks for your feedback! Pam B

Hi Pam,

Thank you for your question.

There are a number of things to consider when contemplating a bathroom remodel, the first, of course, being cost vs benefit. Will rerouting of the current plumbing be necessary? (Sometimes the drains from a bathtub will not match up to where the drain from a shower will need to be placed). Space is also a consideration. Is there enough space for a conversion? Additionally, will the remodel increase or decrease the resale value of the home?

From what I am reading, I am thinking that the bath tub that your Mom is using right now does not have a shower attachment above the tub. If you are simply wanting to add the shower component, I think that it would be a worthwhile investment. Be sure that the shower attachement is one that is convertible and can be used like a wand.

You also mentioned ease of access which leads me to believe that you’d prefer something other than JUST the addition of a shower attachment.

Ease of access is a big consideration with elders, espcially with women who are more prone to osteoporosis and possible hip fractures. (Treatment and recovery of one hip fracture would be almost the same cost of a small bathroom conversion.) Of course, it is also generally easier for caregivers to assist with bathing a care recipient in a shower than in a bath tub.

There are actually 4 types of conversions that you could consider.

The first one is the handicap-accessible shower which features a slightly slanted floor and allows for a wheelchair or rolling shower chair to be placed directly into the shower. It’s probably not the best option for you.

The second option is the walk-in bath tub/shower combination which can also be purchased with massage therapy jets. These are also expensive (about $9,000 – $13,000 after installation), are definitely not for persons who have dementia and will not add resale value to your home (unless, of course, the person buying your home has an aging loved one). (I will tell you that this is the option that I chose for my father and I regretted that decision.)

The third option is also a version of a walk-in bath tub. A piece of the bath tub is taken out and fitted with a small door. The piece is saved and can be used to convert the tub back to a regular bath tub at a later date. A shower attachment can be added above. The cost of this conversion can be $4000 – $9000 depending upon your plumbing needs.

Lastly, a conversion from a bath tub to a walk-in shower may be possible, depending upon space and current plumbing. I can’t give you an estimate on the costs for this as I don’t know your current set-up. Real estate agents used to say that having just a shower without a bath was not considered a “full bath” and thus decreased the value of the home, but with more people “aging in place” and boomers becoming older themselves, they are seeing the advantages of stand alone showers.

So those are your options. My personal opinion is that seniors ought not be having to step over bath tub siding in order to bathe. It is difficult and dangerous for both them and the caregiver who is trying to help them (even if that’s the hired CNA). When elders are nervous about getting hurt while bathing, they are less likely to want to take their baths which can lead to additional complications.

Also, remember that whatever option you choose, safety grab bars, a bath chair, anti-slip flooring and good lighting should be available.

Best wishes.


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