I’m an occupational therapist and a big part of my job is assessing for adaptations to people’s houses – wet floor showers, ramps, stairlifts, occasionally an extension, that kind of thing. I’ve been qualified more than 18 years now, and working in this particular job for more than ten, so although my side of the adaptations is the needs of the disabled person rather than the technical side, I’ve picked up enough technical knowledge to know what’s possible and what’s not. Most OTs are women, most contractors are men, but we very rarely experience any problems with contractors thinking we don’t know what we’re talking about.
Service users and their families though, that’s another matter. Today I went to see a couple. She has a long term deteriorating life-shortening illness, he has a terminal illness. He has built her a shower cubicle with a high step into it. She is a wheelchair user and can’t get into the shower cubicle. It needs to be changed to a level-access tray or wet-floor. But the cubicle is too small, bearing in mind that the woman will require assistance to shower – it needs to take two people plus a sizeable shower chair.
The cubicle backs onto a cupboard and it would be easy enough to knock through into the cupboard to give more space for the shower area. It would mean the couple losing their cupboard, which is not ideal, but the other option would be to remove their bath and put the wet floor shower in there, and they want to keep the bath. Now, I have done dozens, if not hundreds, of shower adaptations in my career, and I usually know what works and what doesn’t. I know that there is no way we can create a usable shower space for this woman within the space taken by that cubicle. But he doesn’t believe me. Apparently I don’t understand that it’s a load-bearing wall and can’t be knocked down. Yes it can, I say, but we’d need to put an RSJ in, or a lintel, depending on what’s above it. But the space doesn’t need to be any bigger, he says. Yes it does, I say, there’s no way any care worker will be able to shower your wife safely in thst space unless we make it bigger.
I’m going back on Monday with one of our technical guys, partly to get his opinion, but mainly because I know this man won’t accept what I’m telling him until he hears it from a man. Never mind my 18 years of experience, it’s MFIF.