Seniors in the Bathroom— Walk In Tubs vs Showers For Elderly Family Members

A senior man bathes. Resolving the question of walk in tubs vs showers can be a crucial step to maintaining seniors' independence.

Even the most able-bodied seniors are at risk of injury from falling. In fact, every 11 seconds, a senior citizen is admitted to the emergency room to be treated for a fall. A whopping 80% of those falls occur in the bathroom.

Not all accidents are predictable. However, there are precautionary measures you can take to make bathrooms safer for yourself or an elderly family member. The most important thing to do is minimize the risks that could lead to falling.

Deciding between a walk-in tub or new shower can be difficult, as there are a lot of factors to consider. For many seniors, walk-in tubs can be a safer alternative to standard showers. For some, however, walk-in tubs are not the better option and a walk-in shower may be preferable.

Let’s cover facts underlying the walk in tubs vs showers question, so you can make the best choice!

The Pros of a Walk-In Tub

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a walk-in tub, imagine a tub that is deeper than a standard tub but not as wide. A seat is built into one side, usually across from the tap, and one wall of the tub functions as a door.

The door seals tightly shut to prevent leakage. Many walk-in tubs may come equipped with hydrotherapy jets, which can help ease the pain of arthritis or muscle pain. This is a great option for seniors who have a limited ability to exercise and need muscle and joint stimulation.

The seat keeps the bather from sinking fully into the water and keeps them from having to exert a great deal of energy when getting into or rising out of the tub. Most of the time, these seats are equipped with textured pads to prevent slippage. A smaller amount of effort is often needed to use walk in tubs vs showers.

Walk-in tubs are most useful for seniors who have mobility issues or suffer from disorders such as vertigo. When the door is open, the entrance to the tub is not far above the bathroom floor, eliminating the need to step over a high threshold. This reduces the difficulty of balancing and the risk of tripping and falling.

The Cons of a Walk-In Tub

While walk-in tubs can solve many problems related to bathroom safety, they may not be the best fit for all seniors. When comparing walk in tubs vs showers, it’s important to keep the abilities and needs of your loved one in mind!

In the US, it is estimated that approximately 1 million citizens over the age of 65 use wheeled mobility devices. Not all walk-in tubs will be suitable for those who use wheelchairs, because transitioning from the wheelchair to the seat in the tub may not be possible for them to handle on their own.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues with a walk-in tub for seniors is the need to remain seated in the closed tub while it is both filling and draining. Depending on how long this process takes, it could leave your loved one feeling chilly and uncomfortable. To accommodate this issue, many walk-in tub manufacturers have updated their technology to include fast-fill faucets and an efficient draining system. We exclusively install Kohler walk-in tubs, and many of their models incorporate these features and heated surfaces to keep the bather warm.  

The Pros of a Walk-In Shower 

For those senior citizens who would prefer a shower over a tub, it is still recommended that the high threshold of a tub/shower combination is eliminated. If both are desired, it would be best to have a shower that is completely separate from the tub to eliminate the need to step over that threshold when showering. 

Showers may be preferable because they can provide a more efficient and thorough cleaning. The steady stream of water coming from overhead can make tasks like washing hair or the upper half of the torso and shoulders easier than when seated in a tub. 

Some showers can also be specially designed to accommodate people who use wheeled mobility. Though these are much larger than a traditional shower, they do solve the problem of bathing for many who use a wheelchair or other support. 

Ultimately, how well a walk-in shower will help your loved one will depend directly on how mobile and independent they are.

The Cons of a Shower

If you don’t have space or resources to make a shower safer for use by elderly people, there are a lot of hazards at work. 

For a shower to be safe for a person who is elderly or has limited mobility, you will need to install safety equipment such as handrails and sturdy, slip-resistant seating. It’s also likely that you’ll need a detachable hand showerhead so they can spray anywhere they need to while sitting.

If the shower floor does not have any texture or grip, the surface will become very slippery when wet. Without handrails or seating, there is very little an elderly person can do to increase their balance or catch themselves if they begin to fall.

Additionally, showering can require a lot more movement, like bending to pick up soap or shampoo and turning to rinse off all sides of the body. For elderly people with balance issues like vertigo, this can be very triggering and lead to dizziness or possible collapse.

Lastly, remember the wheelchair-accessible showers we mentioned in the “pros”? Because of their size, there simply may not be room in homes with smaller bathrooms, or those where renovation cost is a major factor.

Walk In Tubs vs Showers

Of course, you want the senior citizens in your life to be safe and happy. Now that you’ve reviewed the pros and cons of walk in tubs vs showers, it may be time to have a family conversation. Sit down with your loved one and discuss their own wants and needs. The change in abilities that comes with aging can be a sensitive subject, but if everyone is involved in the decision, they will feel empowered and know you’re listening.

Once you’ve discussed your options an made your decision, the only thing left to do is get an estimate and move forward with renovations! Fill out this form to get a free quote and a free consultation today.