If you or someone you know is struggling with balance or mobility issues, a walk-in tub and shower is an excellent way to allow them to bathe safely and privately, and to stay independent in their own home for as long as possible. There are also many other options for homeowners and caregivers that keep a person with mobility issues independent and that allow for easier care by friends and family.
Before you consider a move to an assisted living facility or risk a fall in the bath or on a home’s stairwell, you might consider some suggestions for ensuring a person’s safety no matter their mobility issues. Discuss these options with your doctor or caregiver and then choose the ones that are right for your home or for your aging parents or other loved ones struggling with limited mobility.
What Are Step-In Bathtubs?
A step-in bathtub has a door along its outer wall, allowing someone to open that door and step into the tub rather than stepping over that wall. This is a vital safety feature for many people with mobility and balance issues, as stepping over a tub means having to balance on one foot, something that is often a struggle for those with poor physical strength, lack of coordination, arthritis, and other such health concerns.
A walk-in tub also alleviates the pressure put on a person’s back, hips, and knees when they step up and over an obstacle. A working door also allows a wheelchair user or someone who uses other such devices to easily transfer from their wheelchair or walker to the tub seat, while still balancing themselves on the edge of the tub and staying safely on their feet.
Many walk-in tubs also come equipped with heavy-duty grab bars and oversized faucet handles. These features offer added convenience for those suffering with arthritis or other conditions that make using standard size handles difficult, and which help them to stay safe and secure while in the tub. A soaking tub is also preferred by those suffering from obesity and who might find it difficult to bathe properly in a shower, and who need the convenience of soaking in a tub for thorough bathing.
Why Convert a Tub to Shower
Another excellent option for those with mobility issues to a tub to shower conversion. This project removes the bathtub and uses that same footprint for a walk-in shower surround. A small lip is also added to keep water inside the tub or the space might be expanded for added room in the shower.
A tub to shower conversion is often preferred for wheelchair users and those who prefer a shower versus a bathtub. Opening up or removing the wall of the tub allows a person in a wheelchair to stay in their chair while in the shower, or transfer from the chair to a shower seat without obstruction. A tub to shower conversion also mean less construction than removing the full tub and shower area for a walk-in tub, for less mess and often less cost!
Another advantage to bathtub to shower conversions is that the open space allows more room for shower seat, grab bars, and other such handicap features. Enlarging the footprint of the shower area also means more wall space for grab bars and oversized seating as well as added showerheads for more convenient bathing for wheelchair users.
Choosing Handicap Stair Lifts
Handicap stair lifts are also an excellent option for those with mobility issues and for wheelchair users. A handicap stair lift offers a durable seat attached to a track that glides up and down staircases, allowing a person easy access to upper floors without having to utilize stairs.
A handicap stair lift is also a convenient option for homes with porch steps, and especially those in areas prone to heavy snow and ice. Rather than risking a fall on slippery steps outside the home, someone with mobility or balance issues might use the stair lift to bypass their front steps altogether, reducing the risk of a slip and fall injury.
A handicap stair lift also alleviates the added work of a caregiver who might otherwise need to assist someone with mobility issues up and down stairs. They also allow someone with limited strength to access upper and lower stories while holding heavy, cumbersome items such as laundry baskets or groceries. Rather than risking a fall by carrying such items up and down stairs, someone with limited mobility or impaired strength might simply use the handicap stair lift while holding such items on their lap, staying safe in the lift while easily accessing upper and lower floors.
Other Tips for In-Home Safety
While walk-in tubs and showers and handicap stair lifts are some of the best ways to keep a person safe in their own home, there are many other options you have for ensuring that you or a loved one is always safe no matter their mobility issues. Consider a few tips you might use around your own home:
- Install nonslip treads under areas rugs so that those rugs don’t slip out from underneath someone.
- Install grab bars along hallways and in the bedroom and living room, for added assistance when walking or getting out of bed and your favorite easy chair!
- Raised toilet seats and added grab bars next to the toilet allow for easier use of the bathroom for those with arthritis and mobility issues, and for wheelchair users.
- Nonslip floor mats provide added traction for those who struggle to maintain their balance when transferring out of bed or a chair.
- Slide-out shelves in lower cabinets and pull-down shelves in upper cabinets allow a person to access items in those cabinets without reaching, bending, and stooping.
- A mobility or half-step allows a person with balance issues or arthritis to use stairs with ease. A half-step is just a few inches high and can be placed between stair risers, requiring less movement up and down stairs. They’re an excellent option for short staircases when handicap stair lifts are not needed.
Remember that your doctor or physical therapist can also typically provide added suggestions for making your home safe and risk-free for you or anyone in the family suffering with arthritis, chronic pain, or other health and mobility issues.