Accessibility Devices for Traditional Bathtubs

May 04, 2016

This article will discuss five mobility seats and chairs that are meant to help seniors access and use traditional bathtubs independently. What you should consider when you look for a mobility device are the features it comes with, its weight capacity, seat width, seat height, the backrest's reclining options, and the functions that are most helpful to you personally.

Bath Lift Chair

Bath Lift Chair

The bath lift chair allows you to slide on laterally and - using the remote in your hand - control the seat's height for you to enjoy a bath with your body immersed at a comfortable depth.

Bath lift chairs enable you to have a bath in a traditional sized bathtub without having to strain yourself while sitting or standing; the bath lift does all the work for you.

The Advantages of Bath Lift Chairs:

  • Privacy: You don't need anyone to help you access or leave the bathtub.
  • You can soak again: Straining to find your balance when you're trying to sit in the tub can be the cause of a lot of accidents, especially if your bathtub's design is not oriented around safety. The bath lift takes the unnecessary effort out of the equation and enables you to gain the benefits of soaking once again.
  • Easy installation: The bath lift only requires simple placement into the tub floor and it will be ready to go.
  • Stability: The suction cups at the bottom of the legs keep the chair immovable and stable.
  • Prices vary: You can get a reliable bath lift for $500 up to $1,000 while more advanced bath lifts with quicker responding functions and longer battery life can run up to $3,800.
  • Wheelchair accessibility: If you are a wheelchair user, the bath lift allows you to get on laterally from seat to seat.

The Disadvantages of Bath Lift Chairs:

  • Battery-operated: Depending on the quality of the device, bath lifts have 7 to 12 lifts before the battery drains, which means you'll have to keep count so you're not left stranded. 
  • Requires planning ahead of purchase: Bath lifts take up a lot of space if your bathtub is smaller than normal. Know your measurements ahead of time to make sure you don't get squeezed in or feeling cluttered.
Transfer Benches & Seats

Transfer Benches & Seats

There are two types of transfer benches to choose from: The fixed seat and the sliding swivel seat - both of which are stabilized either by four leveling legs or clamping them to the bathtub's rim. Whichever one you go for, you will need to lift your legs over the tub walls for you to slide all the way in, although, it takes less effort than if there were no bench at all.

The fixed seat covers the entire bench and requires you to slide in all the way until you're inside the bathtub. The sliding swivel seat, on the other hand, only covers the portion where you would be sitting; once you get on you can slide the seat itself back inside the tub and lock it in place to get started with your shower.

The Advantages of Transfer Benches and Seats:

  • Very affordable: You can get a very reliable transfer bench or seat for $50 - $300 since they are easy and cheap to manufacture.
  • Does not take up a lot of bathtub space: Transfer benches and seats are very small when compared to bath lifts and mobile seats.
  • Easy to install: All it takes is a simple clamping into place at the most.
  • Wheelchair accessibility: Transfer benches and seats allow the bather to slide on laterally, making them ideal for some wheelchair-bound users.
  • Compatible with bathtub modifications: Transfer benches and seats go very well with cut-out modifications to your existing bathtub and tub door inserts. The combination of these also makes it that much easier to access the bathtub since they lower the height of the step-in.

The Disadvantages of Transfer Benches and Seats:

  • Gets in the shower curtain's way: The shower curtain will need to be pulled over and above the clamp or chair legs where some water could leak through.
  • Cannot be used for soaking: Since the seat cannot sink low enough for a soak in a traditional bathtub, you will not be able to use it for anything besides a shower or a legs-only soak.

Power Seats

Power Seats

A perfect match for traditionally sized walk-in bathtubs, the power seats function very similar to transfer benches only you will need to be in the tub before you get to sit in one of them. 

Once seated, the height of a power seat can then be adjusted to be used for bathing or showering alike.

Belt-style and molded plastic power seats are the two types that you can choose from.

The Advantages of Power Seats:

  • Soaker-friendly: The height of the seat can be controlled to lift you in and out of a bath.
  • Sturdy seat: Only in the case of the seat being made of molded plastic.

The Disadvantages of Power Seats:

  • Takes up bathtub space: Depending on the interior of your tub, the seat itself doesn't occupy a lot of bathtub space but stretching your legs out while bathing might.
  • Wheelchair-inaccessible: The position of the seat does not support lateral access from a wheelchair.
  • Frail seat: In the case of a belt-style seat, you might not feel secure enough for a bath knowing that the seat will be moving about in the water.

Mobile Seats

Mobile Seats

Very similar to the bath lift, mobile seats differ in that they can rotate and lift simultaneously with easy-to-use controls.

They can transport you in and out of the tub at your leisure without having to step over the bathtub walls. Simply lift, turn, strafe, and sink to a comfortable level for a shower or bath.

Apart from the comfortable recline of the backrest, the posterior parts of your legs are supported by the chair as well. If you find trouble in lifting your legs, this chair won't let that be a problem as it can lift them for you when needed. 

The Advantages of Mobile Seats:

  • Full control: With the push of a button you can guide the seat in and out of the tub whenever you need to.
  • Can be used for showers and baths: Thanks to the strength of the chair's mechanical build, you can take the baths that you couldn't take before in a traditional-style tub without the help of a caregiver.
  • Comfortable seat: The seat and backrest are padded and slip-resistant.
  • Wheelchair accessibility: With a simple lateral motion, you can transfer from seat to seat and let the mobile seat do all the work. 

The Disadvantages of Mobile Seats:

  • Requires maintenance: The components will need maintenance and replacements in the long run.
  • Expensive: Unused mobile seats can be $2,000 and up.

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