Bathrooms are one of the most accident-prone rooms in the home, and this is even truer for the elderly. Conventional tubs with high sides pose dangers that cause falls and injuries. Traditional tubs were not designed for people with disabilities or limited mobility. Vision and balance are also affected with age, and these factors add to the risk of bathroom injuries. Some professionals estimate that over 30% of elderly people required hospitalization following an incident in the bathroom. A portion of elderly people will die every year as a direct result of a fall in the bathroom.
One study videotaped elderly people age 60 and over who showed – while fully clothed – how they would get in and out of the tub or shower. One appalling discovery was that up to 75% of participants would use the sliding shower glass doors for balance or to lean their weight on for stability.
The shower door looks safe but it isn’t. They weren’t designed to hold up a person’s weight. Part of the problem is that they might slide while grabbing them for support and the other problems are the slipperiness of the glass and the instability of the door in general for supporting weight.
A walk-in tub on the other hand, has a very low threshold to step over. They either have a built-in seat or a place to put a bath chair. The walk-in units are usually designed with handles and grab bars in strategic locations, and a floor with grip pads or you can install your own.
The seat used in the walk-in tub should be the one that came with the tub or one that is specifically designed as a tub chair. They have been made to sit squarely on the floor of the tub and have rubber feet on the bottom of the chair legs to help grip to the tub to reduce slips.
Walk-in tubs can be installed in a pre-formed unit that fits into a certain size spot, or they can be constructed with fit-together panels and sections that come as a kit and can be purchased in a number of different sizes. Doors have different design depending on the type you want to purchase. Some doors open out to allow for more room to get in and then they lock in place to avoid leakage. Other doors open inward and are kept closed and sealed by the pressure of the water against the door.