Choosing a Walk-in or Accessible Bathtub – Part 1: Product Choices

Best Bath Woman in blue robeBuying an Accessible Bathtub is a major decision. It involves a substantial amount of money, and the inconvenience of a bathroom renovation. It is important to fully research the options before you make a decision.

There are four main areas to look at: product choices, the bather, installation and feature/benefit considerations. We will be exploring these four areas in the next four blogs.

At the conclusion of our series, we will be publishing a printed Walk-in tub purchase guide that will be available in a free download.

Accessories: Grab Bars, Lift Seats, Bath Benches

Bathroom Safety Accessories can help protect yourself and your family against falls.

Some suggestions:

Solid Step Cote Non-slip Shower kitNon-slip coatings or shower mats. Try applying a product like Solid Step-Cote to turn any surface into a non-slip finish.

A weighted shower curtain will keep water off the floor to prevent slips.

Add grab bars or rails around the bathtub, shower and toilet. Some grab bars do double-duty as shampoo shelves, towel racks, soap dishes and toilet roll holders. When grab bars are
installed properly, they’ll help you balance as you stand or sit and give you something to hold on to if you do slip. Improperly installed grab bars, or regular towel bars are not safe and may pull out to the wall when weight is put on them.Accent Grab Bar

Invisia Towel BarYou should also consider a higher “comfort height” toilet or a toilet seat extender to get up safely and with less effort.

If you can no longer safely step over the bathtub edge, then you can use a bath transfer seat. Bath seats are relatively inexpensive, and can be taken with you when you move.
Cons are that you still need to lift your legs over the side of the bathtub and that you can only shower in the tub. Make sure the bath seat is very stable and that you can reach the shower controls. Many people have been injured by a seat that flips over or by slipping off when reaching for the water controls.

Aquatec Lift Chair

Invacare Aquatec Lift Chair.

Another option is a lift seat for in your bathtub, these can be either hydraulic or electric. They do work well, but do not offer a deep soak, can be too-wide for some bathtubs and are very difficult to clean.  These range from around $1500-$2000.00.

A handheld shower head can allow you to have a seated shower.

Tub-cut (door insert for your bathtub):

tub cut photo

Tub cut with transfer seat.

A tub cut is another option for bathroom safety. You cut a hole in the side out of your bathtub and put in a door that either stays open or is fitted with a removable doorway. This modification is permanent and when you move, you will need to replace the bathtub.  It needs to be used with a bath-seat as most who need a tub-cut cannot lift themselves out of the bathtub floor safely or with assistance. Essentially, a tub-cut turns your bathtub into a low-threshold shower. This is not an option for metal tubs due to the difficulty and noise of cutting the tub wall. Pricing with installation ranges from $700-$1000.00.

Walk-in bathtubs

After - Escape Plus installed with deck extension and custom tile.

Escape Plus Walk-in tub installed with deck extension and custom tile.

Walk in bathtubs are bathtubs with a door and a seat. You open the door and step over the ledge, sit down on the seat, close the door and then fill the bathtub. Typically they replace an existing bathtub Walk in bathtubs are great for people who want a seated bath with the option of a stand-up or seated shower, as well as people who are more comfortable in a seated position, vs a reclined bathing position.

Disadvantages of walk-in tubs include that they take time to fill and drain, that you need to be able to walk to enter or exit the tub and that they take more water than a traditional bathtub. They are also not suited for assisted bathing or for bathing young children.

Liberty Walk-in Bathtub

Liberty Walk-in bathtub with 3-wall surround and sliding glass doors for showering. This one also has custom colours.

Time to fill and drain the tub varies widely – from 5 minutes to 15 minutes or more to fill. Fill and drain time is dependent on the amount of water the tub takes, particularly how big the foot well is, and what fixtures are on the tub. Faster fill fixtures make a big difference in product satisfaction.

Things to look out for in walk-in tubs include knowing the size and height of the seat, clearance for the door and how wide the tub is to get through doorways. Warranty on the door, quality of the fixtures and hinges, and finishing options are also important.

Walk-in bathtubs can be used with top-hung glass sliding doors, or with a shower curtain and rod for seated or stand-up showering.

Barrier-free Showers

barrier-free showerA barrier-free shower is a shower with either a low-threshold or no threshold so that you do not have to step over a lip to enter and exit the shower. Best-Bath Systems makes a wonderful line of shower systems and shower pans that are available in hundreds of models. Roll-in shower pans have beveled thresholds or are recessed or used with a ramp so that wheelchairs, mobility aids and shower chairs can be rolled into the shower.

roll-in shower with wheelchair

If not using a roll-in shower chair, then a shower seat is a great addition and is also the latest home design trend, especially in wood finishes.Shower Seat

The shower should be equipped with grab bars and any new shower installation should either have blocking built in or added behind the walls. In many areas, this is now code. The reason is for secure attachment of future grab bars and accessories.

Pay close attention to where the fixture controls are located. Consider installing on the back wall of the shower so that they are in easy reach of a seated person. Glide bars and handshowers or multiple shower heads also accommodate bathers of different heights and abilities. Consider an anti-scald device or a temperature limiter to prevent accidental scalding.

Foot on WaterStopperBarrier-free showers can be used with a weighted shower curtain and flexible water-stopper, caregiver doors or attendant curtains, or with glass shower doors, either top-hung frameless, or framed with special guides and water stopper.



Slide-in Bathtubs

woman in ADL Spa bathtubAquassures Active Living (ADL) Spa Slide-in Bathtubs are full size bathtubs on a pedestal base with a sliding door in the side of the tub. The bather sits or transfer into the doorway, slides back in, closes the door, fills the tub with water and lays back and enjoys a deep soaker bath. The ADL Spa is at chair height for easy entrance for those using mobility aids like walkers or doing seat-to-seat transfers from a wheelchair, or a lift.

The advantages of a slide-in bath are that it offers a reclined deep-soak bath with less water than a walk-in bathtub and is accessible to people with a wider range of mobility challenges.

After - Active Living Spa installed with hydrotherapy and door handle extender.

Active Living Spa installed with hydrotherapy and door handle extender.

The raised up position makes it easier for caregivers to reach the bathers entire body, it is safe for bathing children (supervised only). It even has optional accessories like harnesses, seatbelts, thermostatic anti-scald fixtures and extender bars that make it easier to use for people with paralysis. The sliding door eliminates the clearance issues of a swing out or swing in door.

ADL Spa with children

The ADL Spa is the fastest filling and draining accessible bathtub on the market! Less than 3 minutes to fill and 90 seconds to drain!

The main disadvantage of the ADL Slide-in Bathtub is that it is not designed for stand-up showering. So if you only have one fixture – a walk-in bathtub might be a better choice if you still want to shower standing up.

PART 2 – Bather considerations.

Posted in Home Safety, Products, Resources.