A walk in bathtub is one of the most popular ways to bathe for seniors looking to age in place at home. Not only are they safer than regular bathtubs and walk-in showers, but they can even provide water-massaging joint relief and an easy way for seniors with mobility restrictions to safely bathe.
This is especially important for seniors, since falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits for the elderly. And the bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the house, with roughly 235,000 people going to the emergency room each year due to injuries in the bathroom. The elderly are particularly at risk, since injuries increase with age and peak at age 85. Around 28 percent of these emergency room visits are due to bathing.
Walk in tubs reduce bathroom injury risk
These tubs remove potential hazards by providing easy entry-exit, non-slip surfaces and a seated position for bathers. It’s no wonder why so many retirees and seniors look to replace their old tub with a new, safe walk-in tub—often one that’s much nicer than their previous bathtub.
Source: Cain’s Mobility
Walk-in bathtubs come in a variety of forms. All walk-in tubs will come with a leak-proof door, and often they have one or two built-in grab bars for safety. Buying one of these tubs may be unfamiliar to you, so to make the right choice, consider these things first:
First, look at the dimensions of the space you need to fill
You will also need to have enough room for your walk-in tub. A typical walk-in tub is usually around 60 inches long—the same size as your standard tub. Their width ranges from 25 to 60 inches (30 to 32 inches is the most common width size) and they typically have a height of around 40 inches.
Next, consider your hot water capacity
Many walk-in tubs require upwards of at least 50 gallons of water to fill. Check the size of your water heater—if you have a 40 gallon tank, you will probably need to wait for the water to reheat in the tank. Consider upgrading to a larger water heater or purchasing an additional tank-less water heater so you’re never sitting in cold water, or sitting in a half-full bathtub waiting for more hot water to come pouring in.
Pick a walk in tub type that fits your needs
While looking for the best kind of walk-in tubs, we had to consider the following types of tubs and their various features. If you are looking for the simplest, most cost-affordable tub, you’ll want a soaker tub. Still, other tubs can serve specific needs and should not be overlooked — particularly if you plan to age in place. In other words, consider your long-term needs. The various walk-in tub types include:
- Soaker tub
The soaker tub is your basic walk-in bathtub. If you aren’t looking for anything too fancy, like water jets, this is the type of tub you’re looking for.
- Wheelchair accessible tubs
A wheelchair accessible tub is beneficial for both those who use wheelchairs and those who need to move from a seated position into the tub itself. These walk-in tubs have a door which swings open wide, allowing for an easy transfer into tub’s seat.
- Bariatric walk-in tubs
Bariatric tubs are very similar to wheelchair accessible tubs but they are heavier duty, designed to accommodate individuals 300 lbs or heavier.
- Aerotherapy (air jet) tubs
These tubs are basically gentle massage tubs. The jets are designed to move water in a gentle way, provide a champagne-like bubbling. Additionally, these tubs have a cleaning feature: after a bath, drain the tub and run the jets to clean out water and prevent bacteria build-up in the jet piping.
- Hydrotherapy (water jet) tubs
Hydrotherapy tubs (may be referred to as whirlpool tubs) use jets to provide a massage-like experience. These jets are stronger and the extra water pressure is said to relieve some pain associated with joint pain like arthritis. The added power may be uncomfortable for seniors with sensitive skin.
- Aromatherapy tubs
Aromatherapy tubs mix essential oils with the water, which creates a relaxing scent that some bathers love. If you don’t want to mess with second-market products to get your water smelling like lilac or other types of pleasant scents, this is the way to go.
Walk-in tub with chromatherapy use subdued, colored lighting to enhance the relaxed mood of bathing.
- Combination tubs
Walk-in tubs aren’t restricted to just these categories only. In fact, most tubs you will look at will be a combination – for example, a wheelchair accessible bariatric whirlpool tub.
- Soaker tub
Insist on these walk-in tub features
Moreover, you should seriously consider investing in these useful and/or necessary features will help you maximize the benefit of using your walk-in tub.
- Hand rails
The right walk-in tub should come with hand rails already installed. You don’t want to depend on using the door or slippery outside parts of the tub for stability when getting in or out of the tub. Depending on your needs, it can also be a good idea to install a hand rail on the wall near the tub.
- Textured flooring
It’s very important for a good walk-in tub to have non-slip, textured flooring. Non-slip mats aren’t an option for all seniors because it may be too difficult to clean and replace them on a regular basis—not to mention they might not adequately fit the entire tub’s bottom. Therefore, we felt the best tubs should have non-slip flooring already built-in.
- Quick drainage
You don’t want to sit in quickly cooling water, waiting for it to drain out when you’re done bathing. Remember, the tub door cannot be opened until the water has been drained.
- Easy cleaning
To find the best tub, we looked for tubs that did not require extensive manual cleaning of the jet piping. Good options have a self-cleaning option, such as an ozone cleaning system. Keeping the tub clean should be a priority, because research reveals bacteria can grow in a tub.
- In-line heating
If you want to soak for a while, you don’t want to be sitting in lukewarm water after fifteen minutes. An in-line heating system keeps your bathwater warm.
- Sitting or lounging layout
Most walk-in tubs come with a seat so the bather can sit. While many seniors will find this preferable, some may also want the option to sprawl out.
- Step-in height
The lower the step-in height on a tub, the better. Most tubs have a step-in clearance (meaning the height from the floor to the tub’s doorway) between 3 and 7 inches. Seniors with limited mobility should look for the lowest clearance possible.
- Hand rails