With 80% of falls happening in the bathroom, it's imperative for anyone at a risk for falls to examine the hazards in the home and the bathtub is one of them. An alternative to traditional bathtubs are walk-in bathtubs.
Walk-in Bathtubs for Seniors
Walk-in bathtubs are bathtubs that have doors on them. They have doors that open up so the user doesn't have to step over the leading edge of a traditional bathtub. Walk-in bathtubs can be much safer alternatives for elderly and/or disabled individuals and can minimize the risk involved (in falling, etc.) for the less mobile among us.
Walk-in bathtubs have heavy duty sealing (around the doors). The seal prevents water from seeping out when the tub is full of water. Walk-in tubs typically drain faster than traditional tubs too. This ensures that users don't have to sit around for long periods of time (waiting for the water to drain out).
What is a Walk-In Bathtub?
A walk-in tub is bathtub with a door and seat that allows users to bathe safely at home. With a low threshold entry, typically a few inches high, these products allow users to walk into their bathtub instead of navigating the high edge of a traditional bathtub.
Walk-in tubs are also unique, because the molded seat enables bathers to enjoy a bath in an upright, seated position while submerged in water for a therapeutic soak.
These bathtubs have twice the depth of conventional bathtubs. Compared to regular tubs, where the user is commonly in a lying down position, walk in tubs are key for anyone with limited mobility or who cannot get up easily from in a slippery tub.
What Sizes are Available?
Most walk-in bathtub companies have a wide selection of sizes and models to accommodate almost any installation application. From compact tubs to larger bariatric tubs, to wheelchair/handicap accessible models, providers make every effort to offer custom tubs based upon the user’s specific needs.
Tubs can range from 26 inches wide to 35 inches wide. They also come as short as 35 inches and as long as 60 inches. Specialty manufactures even provide taller walk in tubs up to 47 inches tall, compared to more standard models that are usually 38-40 inches high. Because every bathroom space is structured differently and the size of each bather varies dramatically, finding a company that offers a variety of models is essential.
What Other Safety Features Should Be Included?
Leading companies include key safety features to ensure the safety of their customers. Anti-slip floors, safety drains and grab bars are all common elements built into walk in tubs. The door handle is easy to seal and watertight to eliminate any leakage.
Reputable companies should provide a lifetime warranty on the door, seal and frame. Faucets usually have lever handles to help make it easier for those with arthritis to turn them on and off. These bathtubs are configured with an extendable shower head/wand so the bather can use the installed walk in tub as a stand up shower as well. This component is convenient for other family members who prefer a shower to a bath.
Your walk-in bathtub specialist should also discuss adding safety grab bars in other areas of your bathroom surrounding the tub itself. It is not uncommon to install a new ADA compliant commode with nearby grab bars to facilitate getting up and down from the toilet as well.
RELATED: WALK-IN BATHTUB PRICING
Safety features are very important when it comes to walk-in tubs. We recommend checking that a tub has all these features before buying it:
Seniors who need a walk-in tub frequently have mobility and balance issues. Non-slip surfaces, especially the bath floor and on the seat, are a must to help prevent slips.
Handrails make it much easier, and safer, for seniors to climb in and out of the tub.
No one wants a flooded bathroom! Make sure the tub you choose specifies good seals.
Keep seniors safe from potential burns by checking for an anti-scald system that regulates water temperature.
Sitting for a long time in a draining bath is not enjoyable, plus you want to know your senior can get out of the tub quickly in an emergency.
Keeping the water lines clean is vital for preventing build-up of mold and bacteria, so make sure your tub has self-cleaning systems for its lines.
Related: Walk-In Bathtub Prices
Many tub models offer water or air jet massage systems. Your loved one might find these relaxing, or even find they offer some relief from stiff muscles and joints, and help support mobility.
Chat to your loved one about whether they’d like this extra relaxing feature, and if they do, include it on your list of must-haves for your tub.
Ease Of Use
Before purchasing a tub, ask a few questions about its ease of use:
- How big is the step up? Will your loved one be able to manage it?
- How wide and high is the seat? Can they sit on it comfortably?
- How easy to see and use are the controls? How about the faucet or shower head? Are they suitable for arthritic hands?
Always look for a long guarantee – a lifetime warranty is best.
Last but not least, check out how affordable the tub is for your budget. Walk-in tubs range from $3000 for a basic “soaker” with no massage features, to $10,000 and more for one with all the bells and whistles.
Keep this list handy when choosing a walk-in tub so you can choose the ideal one for your needs, and your budget.
How To Buy A Walk-In Bathtub
Because these tubs don't come standard in a typical home, families will either reach out to a walk-in bathtub dealer (who can order the appropriate tub, and arrange for installation, etc.) or they will find a tub at Home Depot (or other big box stores) and hire someone separately to perform the installation.
Walk-in bathtubs can come with many features including jacuzzi style water jets. Doors can open inside or outside, depending on the make and model of the tub, and they come in a variety of (stale) color combinations. Newer walk-in tubs aren't one-size-fits-all either. They can come in small, medium or large sizes… and many different shapes!
RELATED: 6 TIPS FOR BUYING A WALK-IN BATH TUB
The Down Side
There are other considerations to make when considering walk-in tubs. First, you have to understand the overall experience of bathing in a walk-in tub. It's different than it is in a traditional bathtub. For example, in a walk-in bathtub:
- You must get in your tub, shut the door behind you, and then turn the water on so it slowly rises to the desired depth and temperature.
- Getting out involves the same drill in reverse. You have to wait for the tub to empty until you can get out of your walk-in tub.
- Because many of these tubs have fast-draining systems, your plumbing may or may not be able to accommodate the faster draining systems. You'll want to find out before ordering.
- A bare bones walk-in bathtub (without installation) is going to start at $2,000, and they go up from there. The nicer models retail between $4,000 – $6,000. Often times the bathroom will need a remodel to accommodate the new tub, and this could involve both an electrician and a plumber. So price is definitely a consideration when considering a walk-in type bathtub.
Types of Walk-In Bathtubs
Did you know that (more than) one in three seniors over age 65 fall each year? The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that 80% of these falls are in the bathroom. To prevent such occurrences, many families consider walk-in bathtubs to mitigate the risk of injuries.
Walk-in bathtubs are great considerations for the less mobile among us. For aging adults, falls can lead to debilitating injuries. Today's post focuses on the different types of walk-in bathtubs available.
Walk-in bathtubs are an alternative to a traditional bathtub. Walk-in tubs have doors on them. They open up so the user doesn’t have to step over a leading edge like you might find on a conventional bathtub.
Walk-in bathtubs can be safer alternatives for elderly and/or disabled individuals, but there are many different types of walk-in bathtubs. If you're considering a new walk-in type tub, you need to know your options.
RELATED: WALK-IN BATHTUB PRICES
A soaker tub is a basic walk-in bathtub. It has no hydrotherapy jets, and is generally less expensive than other models with additional features. This is considered an entry-level walk-in tub. A soaker tub comes with a leak-proof door, usually includes a grab bar and a hand-held shower accessory.
A hydrotherapy tub includes the leak-proof door, and some additional options that help with circulation in some folks. These tubs come with water jets (and usually air jets as well) in order to circulate and/or agitate the water. It feels good, and it can help loosen up stiff joints and muscles.
RELATED: 6 TIPS FOR BUYING WALK-IN BATH TUBS
A bariatric tub is a walk-in bathtub made for larger individuals. You can purchase a bariatric tub with minimal features, or all the bells and whistles like water jets, etc.
Wheelchair Accessible Tub
The wheelchair accessible walk-in tub usually has an outward opening door frame, and allows for the easy transfer from the chair to the tub.
As you can see, there are many different types of walk-in bathtubs. Wheelchair accessible showers are another area of interest, and a topic for a later discussion. Be aware that these walk-in tubs can get expensive.
Another consideration is the installation, which can range from $500 to $5,000 depending on what is necessary for the job. If you're worried about the safety of your loved one at home and the bathroom is a concern, see a professional about adding industrial grade grab-bars, and other safety equipment in and around the bathtub or shower. You'll be glad you did.
The Bottom Line
There's a big difference between stepping into a traditional bathtub vs. a walk-in bathtub, especially for the elderly and/or less mobile folks out there. Imagine stepping into the tub below, vs. some of the walk-in tubs illustrated above. Cost should always be a consideration when making the decision to invest in a walk-in tub, but the safety of your loved one should be your primary consideration.
In the end, you must do a good bit of research to understand what makes the most sense in your specific situation. We'll continue to write about these interesting products, in order to help you make the best choice you can make. Until then… Happy Soaking!
Click here for tips on how to gently shower your aging parent.
If you have any tips about ordering or using a walk-in bathtub, please tell us your story in the comments below!