Walk in Bathtub Basics - The Benefits and What to Look For

Walk in Bathtub Basics

What is a Walk-in Bathtub?

A walk in bathtub is a variation of the traditional bathtub, designed to help seniors or those with physical disabilities easier access into and out of that enclosure.

Walk in tubs come in a variety of models and are made by a multitude of manufacturers, offering enhanced safety, ease of use and greater independence to seniors. Holding anywhere from 45 to 60 gallons, walk in tubs are easily accessible by individuals with a variety of needs and capabilities.

In most cases, the height of walk in bathtubs can range anywhere from about 20 inches to 44 inches, depending on the level of the floor. Most walk in models are equipped with fold-up or pull-down seats, though some models offer a prefabricated bench inside the tub.

What are the Benefits of a Walk in Bathtub?

Walk in's enable seniors easier access into and out of the tub enclosure. Such models are also easier on caregivers, as individuals can be placed onto the seat inside the bath enclosure with less bending and the need to bear your parent's weight while helping them into and out of a traditional bathtub.

Wheelchairs may be placed beside the walk in tub enclosure for easier transfer, and require the senior to step over a small (often less than 2 inches) bathtub rim or lip to get into or out of the bathtub enclosure.

The walk in tub helps to reduce risk of slips and falls and provides a variety of optional features, including wall mount slide bars, water jets, hot water protection, and grab rails or poles that also help provide security, support, and safety when entering and exiting the bath.

What to Look For

Choose a walk in tub based on current as well as prospective needs in the near future. For example, determine whether your parent needs limited, minimal, moderate or maximum assistance for bathing, which includes preparing for a bath, standing up, transferring, and whether or not the individual can bear weight on at least one leg.

Individuals requiring leaning or resting support may need models that offer more secure features, such as grab bars, a lower height range, and a specific maximum depth of water. Choose a walk in tub that offers a bench or pull down seat, which enhances security, support and safety for the individual in the tub, as well as reduces the risks of slips or falls.

Make sure that the walk in bathtub size will fit in the space you have available. Walk in bathtubs come in many different sizes and shapes, and you may need a building permit or home improvement permit from your local city building department to install a tub, especially if walls need to be removed to make room for the tub.

Determine the adequate threshold height of your new tub. For example, some tubs have a higher threshold to step into or out of the tub, which defeats the purpose of a walk-in tub in the first place. Choose thresholds with a maximum 2 or 3 inch lip for ease of use and safety.

Determine the type of door closure you would prefer in your environment. Walk in door closures may swing inward or outward, while some use levers and others use button action. Determine the physical capability and need not only of the senior, but of caregivers before choosing specific models.

Keep in mind that in inward closing door doesn't offer caregivers emergency access into the tub. An outward swinging walk in tub door not only offers safer access to the bather, but has less instance of leakage.

Cost Considerations

Walk in bathtubs can range in price from $2,000 to $10,000, which may or may not include installation costs. When considering a walk in tub, find out about financing options at your local retail store.

Companies such as Sears, Loews, and Home Depot may offer special financing for such home improvement items.

The IRS may also allow tax deductions for certain special equipment installed in a home environment when it's used primarily for a specific individual. Check out the IRS web site or contact your accountant for additional information.

Making the Right Choice

Take the time to research different models of walk-in tubs to best suit your loved one's physical and mental capabilities in order to ensure a safe and pleasant bathing experience.

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