Are walk in tubs safe for seniors? No method of bathing is 100% safe, but it’s fair to say that walk-in tubs offer one of the safest options out there.
That’s hardly suprising as walk in tubs are designed to make bathing safer and more enjoyable for anyone with limited mobility. Most walk-in tubs come with grab bars already installed, a low entry threshold unlike having to step over a bath and anti-slip floors. See our list of our walk in tubs reviews here where we have taken safety into account.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 3 million older adults are treated in emergency rooms annually after a fall. They also note that “approximately 50%-60% of all falls among older adults occur at home.” The majority of falls happen in the bathroom.
Are Walk in Tubs Safe For Seniors?
With walk-in tubs all you have to do is step in and sit down. That greatly reduces the risk of harm from stepping into a traditional tub and then having to lower yourself down. Many users find that they can be more independent this way as they don’t require much, if any, assistance unlike a shower transfer bench.
Most walk in tubs also include a shower wand which means you can shower while sitting down in a secure environment. Washing your hair simply means reaching for this wand that’s an arm’s length away. The same cannot be said for the way most shower and tub combinations are installed. Then there’s the anti-scald technology applied to some walk in tubs that reduces the chance of harm from hot water.
There are also ergonomic benefits to consider like headrests to prevent neck damage.
But are their ways in which a walk-in tub might not be safe for seniors? As mentioned no solution is entirely without risk.
How Might Walk In Tubs Be Unsafe?
One issue with walk in tubs if you have to be in them and ready to bathe while they fill because of the low door. That means there are a few minutes while you wait that you are naked in the bath while the warm water only covers your toes. Most modern designs overcome this by filling relatively quickly but it is worth keeping in mind.
The reverse of that situation is if you need to get out of the bath in a hurry. Most walk in tub designs mean you have to wait for the water level to go down. Some have safety features where the door can be opened in an emergency but this is definitely only for emergencies as you can imagine the cascade of water over the bathroom floor.
If you’re simply uncomfortable – or want to get a drink – you have to wait for the bath to drain first. We’re seeing more and more designs attempt to speed up the draining process like American Standard and Ella’s Bubbles, but you’re still committing to either being in the bath or emptying it and not being in the bath. You can’t simply step out and come back.
That fast draining is also important as well so that no one is left shivering wet in the tub while waiting for it to drain so they can get a towel.
In terms of slipping this is still a risk in a walk in tub just as it is anywhere there is water. There have been rumours of walk in tub users slipping and getting stuck in the footwell but this seems to be rare if it is true.
The final consideration when asking are walk in tubs safe for seniors is psychological. If you decide a loved one needs a walk in tub and go ahead and install one, there is a risk they won’t accept it. They’ll see it as acceptance that they need help and potentially go without bathing.
Psychological conditions like Dementia come with a need for continuity and sufferers may reject things that disturb that. The solution is to talk to your loved one and see if they would like a walk in tub. There are plenty of materials out there on the luxury side of walk in tubs – jet spas and aromatherapy – which can make them seem less like something only disabled people would use.
Overall when it comes to are walk in tubs safe for seniors the answer is generally yes, but only you know the condition of your loved one and can decide how to balance the support they get and the new installations they may require for a happier and more comfortable life.