We don’t automatically think of the bathroom as dangerous, but falling in the bathtub or shower is a genuine concern for senior citizens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that:
- 95 percent of all hip fractures are the direct result of a fall
- Most traumatic brain injuries occur due to accidental falls
- In 2015, the medical cost for falls exceeded $50 billion, of which Medicare and Medicaid covered over 75 percent of that cost
- By 2030 there will be seven fall deaths per hour
Also, did you know that many of these falls occur in the bathroom?
These statistics can be significantly reduced and possibly eliminated for the elderly and disabled if one simple modification is considered for the bathroom – a bath chair, also referred to as a shower chair, to make bathing safer.
What is a bath or shower chair?
A bath chair or shower chair has four aluminum or stainless steel legs with suction cup feet and a plastic, waterproof seat. Bath chairs may also feature a backrest and armrests. Some models have vinyl seats, vinyl backrests, and vinyl armrests. Other models are made of wood.
The first bath chair debuted in 1973. At that time, the manufacturer converted a wheelchair by removing the wheels and replacing them with rubber feet. Since then, the materials used to make the chairs have evolved into the various types of chairs used today.
Types of bath or shower chairs
There are four types of bath or shower chairs. They are:
- A bath stool or bath bench
- A bath chair with or without a backrest and arms
- A transfer bench or sliding transfer bench
- A bath chair on wheels
Each type of bath chair is designed to fit a specific need. The bath stool or bath bench is perfect for small bathtubs or shower stalls. Features usually include height-adjustable aluminum legs, lightweight for portability, supports up to 250 pounds, and available in foldable or stationary styles. Some models feature crossbars underneath the seat for bariatric users.
Bath chairs also feature height-adjustable aluminum legs and come with or without a removable backrest and arms. Most bath chairs are made with antibacterial polystyrene to prevent mold or mildew from forming and drainage holes to allow the water to flow through to guard against rust stains. Almost all bath chairs are adjustable and come in heavy-duty models for bariatric users. These heavy-duty chairs support up to 500 pounds or more.
The transfer bench is slightly different from the standard bath chair. It has four legs like a bath chair, but the legs are further apart than the traditional bath chair. Two legs are placed outside the tub and lower than the two legs inside the tub. This feature allows the user to slide out of and in the tub with ease. It usually comes with one armrest, is height adjustable, and sturdy. Transfer benches also come in lightweight or heavy-duty models that can support 500 pounds or more.
Finally, there is the bath chair on wheels. The wheels come with locking brakes to keep the chair stable when in use. This type of rolling bath chair may also come with a flip-up or removable seat with an attachable bucket, functioning as a bath or shower seat and a commode.
How To Choose The Bath Chair That’s Right For You?
When choosing a bath chair or shower stool, always consider your height, weight, and mobility limitations. Height is important for safety reasons. When using a bath chair or shower stool, your feet should always be placed comfortably on the floor.
How much you weigh is important because you need to choose a chair that will support your weight. Standard bath chairs will support weights up to 350 pounds. Users who weigh more than 350 pounds should consider purchasing a bariatric or heavy-duty bath chair.
Wheelchair users and users requiring a caregiver should consider purchasing a transfer bench or a bath chair on wheels. A transfer bench makes it easier to transfer from a wheelchair to the bath bench with or without assistance. Rolling bath chairs or bath chairs on wheels are easier for caregivers to move users in and out of shower stalls.
All of these bath chairs, shower stools, and rolling shower/commode chairs are designed to prevent accidental slips and falls in the bathroom. They help make bathing safer and easier for the disabled and elderly people with mobility issues.
The types of bath chairs mentioned here are the basic bath or shower chairs. Manufacturers are improving their chairs and adding new features constantly. The use of a bath or shower chair helps elderly users with mobility limitations and disabled users with conditions like multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury, or those recovering from a stroke remain independent while eliminating accidental falls while bathing.
Purchasing a bath chair for yourself or a loved one can enhance their bathroom safety and provide much needed stability when taking a shower or bath.