A walk-in tub

Understanding Walk-In Tub Types

Falls in the elderly can be life-threatening – and they happen often. In fact, one in four Americans over the age of 65 falls every year. Luckily, preventing falls is possible. If you’re worried about your loved one’s potential to slip or fall, you should consider fall-proofing his/her home. A good place to start is the bathroom, especially showers and tubs. Bathing is a risky activity for slips and falls because of the water involved, but also because many showers and tubs aren’t designed for the elderly. Regular tubs can be difficult to step into and any areas without grab bars could become dangerous. A possible solution to the dangers of bathing for the elderly is a walk-in tub. Walk-in tubs make it easy for seniors with low mobility to bathe themselves. Let’s go over the benefits of these tubs, as well as the different walk-in tub types available. 

How is a walk-in tub different from a regular tub?

A walk-in tub is designed with a watertight door. Instead of stepping up and into the tub, a senior can simply open the door to get in before filing the tub. This way, there’s no risk of losing balance or falling. These tubs also come with other mobility-related features. For example, they often include a seat, grab bars and a no-slip texture.

Why get a walk-in tub?

A walk-in tub is a good investment in your loved one’s daily safety. It’s also a way for seniors to keep their dignity. For many, being able to bathe themselves risk-free is important to maintain their independence and comfort as they age. 

How much does a walk-in tub cost?

Walk-in tubs range in price, but customers typically pay around $2,000-$6,000. Of course, this price can quickly rise if you add bells and whistles, such as hydrotherapy or other features. The most luxury option the market hovers around $15,000. 

Price considerations for walk-in tubs

Keep in mind that the price of the walk-in tub isn’t the only cost involved. Once you purchase the tub, you’ll also have to cover related costs, including:

  • Installation, especially if current plumbing has to be rerouted. 
  • Maintenance to ensure the tub stays up to par.
  • Any extra mobility aids around the tub, such as grab bars.
  • Hot water costs, especially if a larger heater is required.

It’s also important to note that Medicare doesn’t typically cover the cost of a walk-in tub, as they’re not typically classified as durable medical equipment. So you’ll most likely have to cover these costs out-of-pocket. 

Key features of walk-in tubs

Despite the high price tag, a walk-in tub can be an excellent investment in your loved one’s safety and dignity. As you look into which tub to buy, you’ll want to make sure it has all the key features. While some of these may be considered extras, most are vital safety features, including:

  • Low step-in height
  • Padded seating
  • No-slip textured surfaces
  • Grab bars
  • Quick drainage
  • Self-cleaning systems
  • In-line heating
  • Anti-scald valves
  • Warranty

You’ll want to check that these features are present in any tubs you’re considering. 

Types of walk-in tubs

There are several types of walk-in tubs to be aware of. Depending on your loved one’s needs, some types may be better suited for size, comfort and features. Let’s go over the main types below. 

  • Soaker tub: Basic tub, typically includes grab bars, seat and textured floor.
  • Wheelchair-accessible tub: This tub has a wide-swinging door so the senior can easily transfer from wheelchair to tub seat.
  • Bariatric tub: This tub is heavy-duty and designed for seniors 300 lbs. or heavier. 
  • Two-person tubs: This large-sized tub typically has two seats to fit two people.

Some of these tubs may even be combinations of the above. For example, a wheelchair-accessible tub may also be bariatric. You’ll want to look carefully at the features for the tubs you’re interested in.

Therapeutic features of walk-in tubs

In addition to the types of tubs, there are certain therapeutic features that may be beneficial for your loved one, including:

  • Hydrotherapy: Strong water jets provide massage to relieve joint pain. It’s considered a more intense massage than aerotherapy and may not be right for every senior.
  • Aerotherapy: Jets provide a bubbling gentle massage in the tub. 
  • Chromatherapy: This tub comes with colored lighting to create a relaxing mood. 

Once again, you can combine these features depending on your needs. Remember that these features are often more expensive. 

Dimensions for walk-in tubs

Walk-in tubs come in a wide range of sizes. This will depend greatly on the brand and the tub type you’ve selected. 

However, to give you a sense of size, the smallest walk-in tub we’ve seen is Meditub’s Compact Walk-In Tub, which is 27 (W) x 39 (L) inches. This is definitely on the small side for a tub. 

A more standard walk-in tub would be 30 (W) x 60 (L). Almost all these tubs have dimensions similar or a bit smaller. A good example would be the Gelcoat American Standard Walk-In Tub.

Of course, some walk-in tubs are even bigger. For example, a tub for two can run even larger. For example, Ella’s Big4Two Walk-In Tub is 36 (W) x 80 (L). 

Best brands for walk-in tubs

It can be challenging to find the right tub for your loved one. To help out, we’ll highlight top tub brands to start your search. These brands are typically the highest rated: 

  • Jacuzzi
  • Safe Step
  • American Standard
  • Kohler
  • Boca
  • Elevate
  • Independent Home
  • Universal Tubs
  • Ella’s Bubbles
  • Walk-In Tub Prices

Be sure to check out our guide to the Best Walk-In Tubs for 2021 here. You’ll get an idea for the best tubs available. 

You can contact these manufacturers directly, or buy their products at a retailer such as Home Depot or Amazon.com. Just keep in mind that the installation costs are often separate.

Final takeaway

As you search for the perfect walk-in tub for your loved one, keep in mind the different types of tubs. You can start looking at the top brands listed here, or simply visit a retailer to get more details. Whatever walk-in tub you choose, make sure it has all the features your loved one needs to feel safe and comfortable. 

Interested in getting more info on senior products and resources? Check out My Caring Plan for guides on a variety of senior-specific topics. 

Sources:

  1. Falls Prevention, NCOA, www.ncoa.org
  2. Best Walk-In Tubs For 2020, Aging in Place, aginginplace.org

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