According to the CDC, an average of one out of four seniors aged 65+ falls each year. Out of these falls, around 20% lead to a serious injury like a broken bone or injury to the head. Areas of the home with slick surfaces, such as the bathroom, can be especially dangerous places. Fortunately, there are some modifications that can be made to a senior’s home to help reduce the risk of slips and falls.
While one of the options that seniors might invest in includes walk-in tubs, this style of tub can sometimes be out of a senior’s budget. Additionally, their home’s bathroom may not have enough space for a large walk-in tub, and they must find a way to continue using their current tub safely.
An easy, cost-effective solution is to invest in a tub transfer bench. A tub transfer bench is a device that serves as a way for seniors to safely get in and out of the tub without making modifications to the tub itself. While their exact designs vary greatly by brand and model, they all serve the same purpose—to make entering and exiting the tub easier.
Virtually all tub transfer benches operate on the same principle. When the senior is ready to bathe, they sit down on the edge that extends over the wall of the tub. The person can then easily slide along the bench into the bathtub. Some versions incorporate a chair or seat rather than just a bench, but the idea is the same.
Tub transfer benches are removable, which means others in the household can continue to use the tub as they typically would. Since the bench can easily be removed, cleaning doesn’t become any more time-consuming. Depending on the specific type of bench purchased, many of them are generally affordable.
Considerations When Purchasing a Tub Transfer Bench
No one style works perfectly for everyone. Each type of transfer bench has pros and cons that you’ll need to take into account before deciding on which one to purchase. The perfect tub transfer bench for one person may not work for someone else with other needs.
Some things to consider before investing in a tub transfer bench:
- Check the weight capacity. Not all styles are designed to hold all weights. Be sure to check the specifications of the bench you’re considering. Using a bench designed to hold a weight less than your own could result in it breaking and possibly leading to an injury.
- Consider your tub dimensions. Be mindful of the fact that not all styles of transfer benches fit all sizes of tubs. Measure your bathtub (including its height, width, and length) and compare its dimensions with those of the bench you’re considering.
- Determine your budget. Transfer benches come in a variety of styles, and each brand uses its own materials. Decide your budget before searching to help narrow your choices.
- Consult your doctor. It’s never a bad idea to include your doctor in your plans for switching to a tub transfer bench. They can give you insight into your medical health history and offer their opinion of devices that will best suit your needs at this time.
- Consider using your FSA. Some products are eligible for purchase through your FSA. Check with the retailer or your health insurance provider to determine if a product is eligible.
Shared Features of (Most) Tub Transfer Benches
No matter which style of tub transfer bench you choose, there are some features to look for that make bathing safer for virtually any senior. Most benches include:
- Rubber feet: Some form of skid-resistant feet is important for ensuring the bench remains firmly in place, especially when wet. These feet will help stabilize the bench as the senior moves around on the device.
- Grab bars: Most tub transfer bench styles have built-in grab bars. These bars offer support for holding onto while transitioning to and from the tub.
- Safety belts: Securing yourself in with a belt can prevent slips during the bathing process. A belt can also help you from falling forward when you’re washing yourself.
- Back support: While some tub transfer benches are available without back supports, most of them do come with some form. Having a sturdy structure for your back to lean against can help prevent you from falling backward. It can also help prevent fatigue as it supports your core and back.
The Best Transfer Bench Depends on Your Needs and Preferences
There is no shortage of variety in benches to choose from. While certain medical conditions may require that you use a particular style, at other times, the best tub transfer bench for a senior may come down to mere preferences and comfort level. Doing your research before investing in a product can save you time and money.
Sliding Tub Transfer Bench
For seniors that want an affordable transfer bench, the sliding style is one that is simple and easy to use. Seniors can simply slide along the bench to help them get into the bathtub. The sliding mechanism consists of an attachment fastened under the seat. This attachment allows the seat to slide from one side of the bench to another via a track system. Security belts are an extra safety precaution that is often featured on these benches. They also typically come with a handle to hold on to as the person slides towards the tub.
Bariatric Tub Transfer Bench
Certain styles of tubs are designed to hold people with nonstandard weights. For seniors who are diagnosed with obesity, bariatric tub transfer benches are often suitable for their needs. The weight capacity for this model of bench is typically around 500 pounds, meaning they are safe to use for many individuals.
Some models contain holes that allow excess water to drip through, an added safety feature. While bariatric tub transfer benches are built to be extra durable, they don’t typically weigh a lot themselves, as this particular model averages around 10 pounds. Check the weight capacity for any bariatric tub transfer bench to ensure it is appropriate for your own needs.
Swivel Tub Transfer Bench
Another type of transfer bench that makes the bathing routine easier for seniors is the swivel style. This version of a transfer bench twists up to 360 degrees to help a person transition from outside the tub to inside the tub. As with the previously mentioned transfer benches, swivel tub styles also have back support and reduce the risk of falling since the user is seated during the entire transfer process. Depending on the model, your swivel tub transfer bench may also come with a strap to help you remain in the seat while bathing.
Padded Tub Transfer Bench
Seniors that are more prone to bruising or have otherwise fragile skin may want to opt for a padded tub transfer bench. They can also be a good option for seniors who are thin, with more pronounced bones, as the padding reduces the pressure on the body. Even if you don’t have special skincare issues, you will likely find padded benches more comfortable than unpadded. You may want to keep in mind that a padded tub transfer bench could be a bit more difficult to use, as you will “sink” a bit into the padding, causing slight resistance as you slide along the bench. Additionally, padded tub transfer benches have the possibility of tearing, which could lead to bacteria getting into the cushion if not cleaned properly.
Shower Tub Transfer Bench
Some transfer benches are suitable for use in both the shower and tub. Like with any of the styles mentioned above, you’ll want to confirm that the model you’re interested in fits your shower and tub’s specifications. Some shower transfer devices are also referred to as “shower transfer chairs.” (However, ensure you’re purchasing a transfer device rather than simply a shower seat. Shower seats aren’t designed for assistance with getting in and out of the tub, as they’re typically just a seat to be used solely in the shower.)
Tub Transfer Bench Videos
Using a tub transfer bench can take a bit of getting used to at first, but with a little practice, you or your loved one will likely be able to bathe easier and more safely than before. The videos below offer assistance with choosing and using tub transfer benches:
Although there are several styles of tub transfer benches out there, choosing the best one for yourself or a loved one is a decision that should be made after considering several factors. Keep in mind health needs, preferences for comfort, and budget to find a tub transfer bench that will work well in your home. Don’t forget to consult your physician before making any changes to your routine, as they will be able to provide a medical opinion regarding the best device for your health needs.
- Keep on Your Feet—Preventing Older Adult Falls, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html