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Custom shower seat frame

A simple task like washing her sister Anna’s hair required complex logistics for Edith, as Anna mustn’t get any water in her ears. Anna has short stature and an intellectual disability, and Edith is her primary carer.

“Initially we were using a commode chair in the shower, and I was washing her hair in the kitchen sink and a visiting carer would hold her so she didn’t get her ears wet,” Edith said. “Or sometimes I would go to my friend’s place and she would help me. But it meant I had to plan around when there was someone available to help.”

Anna’a therapist at suggested that Edith could get a commercially available chair to support Anna in a tilted-back position in the shower. “It was like a beach chair,” Edith said, “but it was low on the ground so it was very hard on my back, and it was difficult to click the back of the seat up and down.”

There was a stand that went with the chair which would have raised it to a more comfortable height, but this had been discontinued. Anna’s therapist suggested that Edith contact TAD and ask for a stand for the chair.

Made by volunteer Bill Jenkins, the unit has a flat seat and a hinged seat back, which are both covered with outdoor furniture fabric.

Bill made the seat back adjustable between 80-20° using a customised deckchair-style prop. This means Anna can lean right back for hair washing.

The seat back has a separate upper section which supports Anna’s head when the seat is more upright, but can be removed which she is tilted back to make the hair washing easier. There are also armrests to assist Anna to stay in position and give her something to hold onto when she is coming up from leaning back, and a pelvic belt and crotch strap.

When the unit first arrived, Anna didn’t like it and wouldn’t use it. “She doesn’t like anything that she thinks looks like ‘special needs’,” Edith said. Eventually Edith persuaded Anna to give it a try and she found it very comfortable, so she was a bit more positive.

After this first use Anna went away for respite, and Edith had an inspiration – she spray painted the entire unit bright pink, which is Anna’s favourite colour, and it certainly makes the unit look very attractive. Anna loved the new look and has been using the unit enthusiastically ever since.

Now Edith can wash Anna’s hair without assistance, whenever it is convenient. “Something simpler and easier ended up being better for us,” she said. “Most of the commercial devices are a standard design, and that was why TAD was good – we needed something that was made specifically for us.”

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