Safety Bathtub Options

Beyond a Walk-in Bathtub

When most people think of a safety bathtub, they think only of the expensive installation of a walk-in bathtub. Often times, the high cost and major remodeling required to install a walk-in tub makes it impossible for some families to install.

But there are other, less expensive options you can look at to make your bathroom safe for your elderly loved one.

Bathroom injuries account for the majority of slip and fall injuries in the elderly. Any area of your home that can cause the floor to become wet poses an increased risk for the elderly.

Making your bathtub a safety bathtub does not require a lot of money. You will just need to review the steps below and implement the options appropriate for your home and your unique situation.

Listed below is a series of questions. I recommend you print it out, go into the bathroom and look at each feature to decide what adaptations you can make to assure that the bathroom is as safe as possible.

I have also researched available products from reputable companies and provided a link for you. Please do your own research and read the reviews provided to make sure the product you purchase is best for you.

    Bathroom Safety: Bathtub and Shower

  • Shower Door or Shower Curtain?

  • If you have a glass shower door, seriously consider removing it. Studies have shown that even if there are grab bars available, the elderly willutilize the shower door for balance and to assist with transferring in and out of the tub. These pose a high risk for injuries should the door give way with the pressure applied.

    Changing to a shower curtain will provide for more safety and also allow you easier access should you need to provide assistance.

  • Grab Bars?

  • A safety bathtub must include grab bars. Actually get in the bathtub where your loved one will bathing and see where grab bars need to be installed to provide assistance. You do not want them using faucets, shower doors and the side of the bathtub to assist them from a standing to a sitting position.

    Inside of a tile or fiberglass surround, you can easily install a suction cup grab bar. If you are going to install grab bar, make sure you are screwing it into a solid stud behind the way. Dry wall does not have the strength to support the pressure being applied.

    A bathtub transfer bar is another inexpensive but very reliable device. It slips over the side of the bathtub and provides a safe and secure grab bar right where it is most needed ... for assistance in and out of the tub.

  • Non-Slip Surface?

  • A safety bathtub must also have a non-slip surface. Assure that the bottom surface of the bathtub in non slip. You can use a simple rubber bath mat that can be put in place and easily removed for other members of your family.

    Another option is to apply bathtub stickers to the bottom of the tub that can not be removed easily. The advantage of this system is that you won't have to remember to replace the rubber bath mat.

    There is a more permanent option available as well. There are actually products you can spray onto the surface of the bathtub, spray onto the surface of the bathtub, and any other surface that is slick, that provides a more permanent, non-slip surface for your safety bathtub. I have not personally used this product though.

  • Is the shower head accessible?

  • If you actually get into the safety bathtub in the position your loved one will be in, most likely you will have a difficult time reaching the faucets and the shower head.

    The installation of a hand held shower head is not difficult and can by easily done by most homeowners. You want to make sure that they can easily reach the shower head. A shower head with an on/off switch on it may be useful as well.

  • Where are the temperature controls?

  • Elderly skin is more fragile and but may be less sensitive to temperature changes due to chronic illnesses like Diabetes. Your hot water tank should be set to the safety level of 120 degrees F. But you may find that temperature to be too high for your loved one.

    There are devices you can purchase that allow you to adjust the water temperature that is allowed into the safety bathtub. One of those products is shower valve that you, or a contractor, can install.

  • Do you have a shower chair?

  • A shower chair is an inexpensive but vital necessity in any safety bathtub. The heat and steam of a shower of bath can make the elderly more lightheaded and weak than a healthy adult. Having a safe and secure seat to bathe in can help eliminate this risk.

    There are stand alone shower chair that can by easily placed in and out of the bathtub. They are simple to use and the surface of the chair is non-slip, preventing falls off from the chair.

    There are chairs that are adjustable, have backs as well as seats and some that actually are wide enough to assist with transferring in and out of the tub and have handles built in. If you need this type of assistance, a bath transfer chair may be the perfect option for you.

  • Product Dispensers?

  • You may want to install a product dispenser close to where your loved on will be sitting during bathing. You do not want them having to stand up to reach shampoo or leaning down to pick up the soap that they dropped.

    These products can be easily refilled with their favorite shampoo, condition and body wash and prevent falls related to reaching or bending.

  • Where are the towel racks?

  • Most towel racks are placed at a level that is comfortable for a healthy adult to reach. But with aging and arthritis, raising their arms to that level may be painful and unsafe.

    Install a towel rack at a level that is easy for them to reach from where they will be standing. You could even install a heated towel rack, but make sure to follow all safety instructions.

  • What is the floor surface?

  • Most bathroom floors are tile or linoleum. Both are very slick surfaces.

    If you choose to use shower rugs, make sure they have a rubber backing and that the pile is low to the floor. You don't want them having to step up to step on the rug. If the pile is too high, the rug itself can actually be a safety hazard.

    Another inexpensive option you may want to consider would be to purchase a low pile, flat carpet remnant and cut it to size. Placing that on the bathroom floor will provide a smooth and consistent, non-slip surface throughout the entire bathroom.

    That advantages of using a carpet remnant is that the cost is low and it can be easily removed and replaced if necessary. It also does not permanently change the bathroom floor, so if at some point it is no longer needed, you can simply remove it and return to having your tile or linoleum flooring.

A safety bathtub does not have to be expensive. You just need to make sure that each aspect of the bath process is as safe as you can possibly make it.

From a safety standpoint, the installation of a walk in bathtub is probably your best option. But not everyone has the financial resources for this, and the options listed above can be very effective without the high cost of other options.

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