Things to consider when researching mobility aids and accessible bathing solutions include budget, degree of mobility challenges, future mobility needs, current bathroom configuration, independence, bathing benefits and lifestyle factors.
Budget – How much are you able/willing to spend? Bathroom accessibility options range from a few hundred dollars for extra grab bars to $6-$25,000 for an accessible bathtub to be installed in your home. Most medical plans do not pay for accessible bathing solutions, so you need to consider financing solutions.
Point to consider: Putting in an accessible bathtub often enables seniors and disabled people to remain in their own home rather than go into a care home. Since care homes usually run $2-3000 per month, doing an accessibility renovation is often the more economical choice.
Degree of mobility challenges – Is the bather able to walk without risk of falling and can they lift their feet over a lip? If not, then a walk-in bathtub might not work well. Consider a slide-in bathtub instead.
Future mobility needs – Often people’s mobility declines as we age and our medical conditions worsen. If this is the case, then future needs must be considered. If you cannot walk, you cannot use a walk-in bathtub, but you can use a slide-in bathtub. Avoid purchasing a product that will only accommodate today’s disability, but is unusable in a year or two. Try for a 10-year solution instead.
Current bathroom configuration – The size and layout of the bathroom may limit what models of bathtubs or accessibility solutions that may work for you. You need to have clearance for swing-out doors and room to maneuver into and out of the tub and on and off the toilet safely. If there is a walker, wheelchair or lift being used, more space will be needed. Some models of walk-in bathtubs are difficult to get through doorways for installation. Make sure you measure and sketch out your current bathroom sizes and layout and consult with accessible product suppliers to make sure that their product will fit and work well in your bathroom.
Point to consider – Getting a bathtub with a sliding door, rather than a swing out door reduces the clearances needed.
Independence – What level of independence is possible for bathing? For very disabled or frail people or those suffering from Alzeheimer’s, assistance may still be required for bathing. How easy is it for a caregiver to help a person into and out of the bath? Can they wash the bather’s hair easily? Can they reach the person’s whole body for hygiene? Will the bathing solution chosen provide the maximum level of privacy, independence and dignity, while still providing a safe bathing experience?
Bathing benefits – Hydrostatic pressure from immersion (by soaking in a bath) has health benefits including increased circulation, relaxation and wellness, better sleep, reducing pain and loosening stiff joints. Many people find that they can maintain or improve the mobility that they do have by soaking in a bath nightly.
Lifestyle factors – A final consideration is one of quality of life. If you enjoy soaking in a bath to unwind and relax before bed, would the idea of never bathing again (only showering) for the rest of your life be unthinkable? This is often the choice people make when removing their bathtub and putting in a low-threshold shower. Think about this one carefully – for about the same price as a walk-in shower, there are accessible bathtubs on the market that may accommodate your needs AND preserve your ability to stretch out and soak.