Did you know that 80% of falls in the home occur in the bathroom? While the bathroom takes such a small space in our home, it represents a huge risk for falls and accidents.
Because of water and slippery items like soap and shampoo, bathrooms can become dangerous when people take a shower, get in and out of the bathtub, or even simply walk across the bathroom floor. The dangers are amplified for seniors who have mobility and stability problems and are, therefore, more prone to falling.
Thankfully, bathrooms and bathtubs for seniors have evolved and are now offering new, safer, and highly enjoyable solutions for safe bathing in the form of walk-in tubs
Walk-in tubs allow seniors to enjoy a long soak without risking their safety. They remain seated throughout their bath and a water-tight door seals the bathtub. The door allows seniors to enter and exit the bathtub without having to climb over a high threshold, which represents a significant danger for seniors.
As they remain seated throughout their bath, seniors don’t risk slipping because they are not standing up to bathe themselves. Walk-in bathtubs are necessary additions to any senior’s home and will add peace of mind and bring enhanced safety to their living conditions.
Dangers of traditional tubs and showers
Statistics from hospitals show that 81% of injuries are caused by falls, 80% of which occur in the bathroom. Traditional tubs and showers can become high-risk areas for seniors. Bathrooms are slippery because of water and bath cosmetics. Moreover, the absence of any handles to grip can make seniors lose their balance and fall before they have had a chance to hold on to something.
All this makes the simple act of showering while standing particularly tricky for seniors: they have to bend, lift their feet, and stand up. While many seniors face no problems taking baths and showers, a significant percentage may easily lose their balance. The hard bathtub and bathroom surfaces can turn a simple fall into something dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
Falls are not a one-off event, either: one-third of people over 65 will fall at least once a year. This means that falls can be a recurring problem that must be addressed. A 2014 study of the circumstances and outcomes of falls among high-risk community-dwelling older adults offers some ideas on that. The study concluded that “the likelihood of injury in the bathroom supports the need for safety modifications such as grab bars, and may indicate a need for assistance with bathing.”
What is a walk-in tub?
A walk-in tub is an elevated tub with a waterproof door. The person opens the door and steps into the walk-in tub, which has a far lower edge than traditional bathtubs. Once inside the walk-in tub, the person will turn on the water that will fill the bathtub.
Seniors take a bath while seated, which is much safer than standing up. They can enjoy a good soak, relax in the water, and do gentle exercises with their legs and arms while seated. Water helps with gravity and makes movement gentler and easier.
When the senior is ready to get out, she can drain the water and get out of the walk-in tub safely by opening the door. She won’t have to climb over a ledge or risk losing her balance.
Walk-in tub features
The most important aspect of walk-in tubs is safety: they carry special features that make them particularly safe and suitable for seniors.
Lower ledge and entry
The most significant feature of a walk-in tub is that seniors don’t need to lift their leg high up to enter the tub—all they need to do is open the door. The entrance has a much lower step that is easily accessible by seniors, even those with mobility or stability problems.
The floor and the seat itself are made of non-slippery materials that help seniors stand without slipping. All materials of walk-in tubs have been designed to be safe. Some materials may be slightly grooved, textured, or carved to turn their surface less slippery and safer for users.
Handrails are essential for seniors. Studies suggest that seniors often lean on bathtub doors for balance. However, these doors can easily slide or open and are not meant to support a person’s full weight. This turns the bathtub into a high-risk, potentially lethal, environment.
Handrails and bars can help seniors hold on to them when they get in and out as well as stand up and down. These grab bars have been specifically designed to withhold the weight of a person and to be strongly secured to the wall of the walk-in tub.
No sharp edges
Walk-in tub designers are aware that seniors will be the ones using them the most and have taken great care to make most edges rounded. Even if a senior loses her balance, there are no sharp edges to fall onto, thus enhancing her safety.
Walk-in tubs are equipped with a watertight door that seals the tub effectively and doesn’t let water slip through. Most walk-in tub companies equip their doors with rubber to make them as watertight and sealed as possible, thus avoiding any sort of leakage.
Opening the door
An extra safety measure is that the door will not open if the tub is filled with water. People are forgetful, so this is an extra safety measure to make sure that seniors don’t attempt to open the door while the tub is still full, thus risking flooding the whole bathroom. Once the water has been drained, the senior can freely open the door and step outside the walk-in tub.
Some people worry that it will take a while for the water to drain and users could get cold while waiting to exit the bathtub. Walk-in tubs have special fast-draining systems that drain the water far faster than normal bathtubs. This makes filling and emptying the tub fast and is an extra incentive for seniors to use their walk-in tub more often.
Can a walk-in tub have a shower?
Some walk-in tubs include showerhead or shower wand options. This is usually an extra that can be convenient if the senior wants to wash off the soap quickly while seated. Likewise, if other people will be using the walk-in tub, they may like having a shower facility without having to fill in the tub for water. Such an extra adds versatility and flexibility in a multi-member household.
Lever instead of knobs
To help people with arthritis, many walk-in tubs offer levers instead of knobs on the faucets since it’s much easier for someone with limited finger mobility to push a lever rather than turn a knob. This makes their bath easier, quicker, and less psychologically taxing when they are trying to get the water running.
Are there any alternatives to walk-in tubs?
If you don’t want to install a walk-in tub in your bathroom, you can still convert your bathtub into a safer option for a senior by following the ideas below.
Grab bars around the bathtub
You can install grab bars around the bathtub, especially at the place where the senior enters and exits. A grab bar is also helpful around the faucet where the soap and sponge are positioned.
Non-slip mats in the bathtub
To protect the senior from falling on slippery bathroom floors, you should install mats and textured materials that are slip-proof.
Install a showerhead
You can install a showerhead for seniors to help them take their shower while seated and still manage to wash off the soap and clean themselves. Such showerheads require minimal movement and limit the possibility of a fall.
Make the bathroom brighter
Provide as much light as possible in the bathroom to make it easy for seniors to look and find what they are looking for without bending and searching.
Unclutter your bathroom
Too many things in the bathroom can cause a senior to trip and fall. Put away cables and any other things that can cause a person to slip. Have a bathroom space that is level and uncluttered.
Also, avoid having too many toiletries and other products in the bathroom as this can confuse a senior. Too much clutter can make them look for things, but they risk falling or slipping if they lose their concentration. Make things simple and easily accessible.
How much does a walk-in tub cost?
Walk-in tub prices vary depending on the add-ons you choose and the size of the tub.
The typical cost of a walk-in tub including installation and warranty can cost well over $20,000. The cost can vary depending on the walk-in tub you choose, you can enjoy several kinds of therapy such as hydrotherapy with jets, color therapy, and massage. Other extras include a showerhead for rinsing off the soap more easily, grips, and heated surfaces. Some models even have a self-cleaning option that can come in handy for seniors who find it hard to clean the tub.
Call Total Home Renovations for your walk-in tub
To install a walk-in tub in your home or simply to explore your options, contact Total Home Renovations online, call us at (913) 444-2342, or visit us at 11100 W 82nd St #105, Lenexa, KS 66214 to get a quote. Our customer-focused service, competitive prices, and proven commitment to quality ensure you’ll get exceptional value for your home-improvement dollar and that you’ll love the final results.