AN EXETER pensioner claims she has to shower while standing in a child's plastic paddling pool following a five-month wrangle with care services.
Mary Lowry, 79, who lives with her 82-year-old husband in College Avenue, St Leonard's, has had colon cancer, suffers from diabetes and lacks the mobility to get in and out of her bath.
Problems began in August when she asked Care Direct, the county council's first point of contact for all social care calls, if it could install a walk-in bath and shower as her husband would rather have a bath and she was happy to take a shower.
Care Direct responded by saying there were "dangers" associated with walk-in baths and advised a low access shower instead. It also suggested as alternatives either a hoist system to raise and lower Mrs Lawry in and out of the bath, a home help who could bathe her, or even that she visit her daughter to shower there.
Mrs Lowry has rejected the ideas and has made her own arrangements.
She said: "I went to Argos and bought a plastic blow-up child's paddling pool for £3.99 and a plastic picnic tablecloth from Aldi for £2.40.
"I laid the cloth on the bathroom floor under the paddling pool and stand in that while using a hand-held shower unit attached to the bath's mixer taps.
"At first I would bail out the water with a jug when I finished but this was so laborious that I bought a ship's bilge pump for £15. This was hand-operated and rather tedious so I purchased a battery operated pump.
"I think it is grotesque to expect a 79-year-old woman to go through all that when she quite obviously qualifies for help. I believe they are being dictatorial in insisting I have a shower.
"My husband likes a bath. He has always had one and at 82 it should be his right to have a bath in his own home."
Mrs Lowry, a retired market researcher who is registered disabled, said she was provided with a blow-up bath bubble which inflated and deflated at the touch of a button, allowing her to use the bath. But she was not happy with the apparatus and lost confidence in it when it led to a fall on the bathroom floor.
She said: "I have a dread of breaking a hip in a fall as my mother did. I admit I was frightened of using it after that and sent it back to Care Direct."
A spokesman for Devon County Council said: "We have sympathy for Mrs Lowry and her husband.
"We're keen to support them as much as we can, but having assessed Mrs Lowry's needs, we feel that a new shower is the safest and most appropriate option and would meet their longer terms needs.
"With their agreement we'd be willing to help them towards that solution."
But Mrs Lowry, who has taken up her campaign with Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw and local county councillor Richard Westlake, said her solution would prove more cost effective.
She said: "I have been told by Care Direct that a shower unit would cost £4,000. I made my own inquiries with Exeter Disability who said I could have a walk-in bath with shower fitted for a total of £2,200. It would actually be saving money."