“Help! I can’t get up from the bottom of my tub. Is there something available that can help make it easier?” – Yes!
If you have foregone a bath because you struggle to get up and down from the bottom of the bathtub, but you still long to enjoy the soothing benefits of soaking in a warm bath, then a bath chair lift could be the right solution for you.
|Battery Powered Bath Lift Chairs|
What is a Bath lift?
A bath lift is a specialized bath seat designed to mechanically assist a user to the bottom of the bathtub to enjoy a warm bath and raise the user back up again when they are finished bathing. Bath lifts are available in a multitude of different types and styles, some of which are designed to be installed on the wall, floor or ceiling, while others are portable, free-standing models that do not require any installation.
In the guide below, we cover the free-standing, portable-style bath chair lifts. To learn about the bath lifts that are designed to be attached to the wall, floor or ceiling, click here.
Bath Chair Lift Types
Portable-style bath lifts are available in four different types, which include: battery powered, water-powered, air-powered, and manual crank-style. These four types are summarized below.
1. Battery-Powered Bath Chair Lift
As the name implies, this type of bath lift is powered by a battery. With the push of a button it is designed to lower you down into the bath and with another push of a button raise you back up again when you have finished bathing. Most battery-powered bath lifts can perform somewhere between 4-20 lifts per battery charge before needing to be recharged. Recharging is accomplished by detaching the battery from the lift and attaching it to a battery charger. The actual number of lifts that can be performed between charges will vary based on the bath lift model, user’s weight, and age of the battery. As a safety measure, most models are designed to prevent the chair from being lowered unless there is enough charge for it to come back up again.
Keep in mind that the bath lift’s seat will still be underneath you when the lift lowers you down and that models will vary in their lowest achievable seat height. The lowest achievable seat height of any of the battery-operated bath chair lifts that we are aware of rests 2.3″ above the tub floor. Bath lifts can also vary in the width of the seat. Most are designed to fit in standard bath tubs. Some bath lifts are specially designed for use in wider, whirlpool style bathtubs.
2. Air-Inflatable Bath Lift
This type of bath lift has an air-inflatable cushion that is filled by a battery-powered air compressor. At the push of a button, the cushion deflates slowly lowering a user to within a few centimeters of the bottom of the bathtub and with another push of a button it re-inflates raising a user back up again when finished bathing. The cushion takes on average 3 minutes to fill. Most models are designed to prevent the unit from lowering a user unless there is sufficient battery charge to raise the user back up again. The air-inflatable bath lifts are able to achieve the lowest seat height of all the portable-style bath lifts.
Air-inflatable bath lifts have potential to work well for a person of shorter stature. However, persons of taller stature, larger individuals, or person with severely compromised balance skills may find it difficult to stand up from this type of bath lift because the seat is a soft, flexible surface and because the maximum height of the seat is fairly low.
3. Water-Powered Bath Lift
This type of bath lift is powered by the home’s water pressure. It gets attached to a shower pipe, diverter, or diverter spout and the water pressure acts to raise and lower the bath lift. One benefit for this type of bath lift is that you do not have to worry about recharging a battery. A drawback is that it will only work if there is sufficiently strong water pressure in your home.
At one point in time there were a handful of different water-powered bath lifts available from different manufacturers, but this is not the case any longer. The water-powered bath lifts have become less popular as the battery-operated style have steadily gained in popularity and as a result there are less being offered. To our knowledge, there are no chair-style water-powered bath lifts available a this time. At the time of writing this article, there is still one lying down-style water-powered bath lift available that we are aware of. See example: Aquatec A152112 Aquatec Major Blue Bath Lift
4. Manual Crank Bath Lift
This type of bath lift raises and lowers via manually turning a crank. The benefits are that no batteries or electricity are required and there is less likely to be a mechanical issue that might prevent the lift from raising you back up again after the bath is complete. The drawback is that it can take some patience and can be physically fatiguing to turn the crank the number of times required to successfully lower yourself down and then raise the seat back up again.
What do you need to consider when selecting a bath lift?
- Maximum Achievable Height: Make sure the bath lift you choose is able to rise to a height at least even with the edge of your tub or higher. If you’re tall, seek a model that achieves the highest height possible. Most battery powered bath lift models can achieve a max height of 17”-18”. A few models can achieve a height of 23.”
- Minimum Achievable Height: Be aware that when the bath lift lowers you to the bottom of the bathtub the seat and lifting components will still be underneath you. Of course, the lower the bath lift model allows you to go, the more submerged you’ll be in the water. There are a few battery-powered bath chair lift models that can achieve heights as low as 2.3 inches. The air-inflated models are able to achieve the lowest lifting height, some as low as 2cm.
- Weight Capacity: On average, the lifting capacity for most portable bath lifts falls within the range of 250 lbs. to 400 lbs. If you require a lifting capacity greater than 400 lbs., a specialized custom bath lift can be ordered with a weight capacity of up to 500 lbs called the Aquatec A152112 Aquatec Major Blue Bath Lift
- Width: For the battery-operated chair-style bath lifts, it is generally recommended to pick the widest bath lift your bathtub will accomodate. When the seat’s side flaps extend to or over the bathtub wall, it can help to create a bridge between the inside and outside of the tub, making it possible for you to back up to the tub wall and sit down on the lift while your feet are still positioned outside the tub. Then from a seated position, you can lift each leg one at a time over the tub wall. Bath lifts can be found in seat widths ranging from 15.5” to 35.5”.
- Flaps (Wings): Many battery-powered bath lifts have flaps attached to the sides of the seat that are designed to extend out over the tub wall when the lift is at its fullest height. The flaps cover the open space between the seat and the tub wall, making it easier and safer to transfer on and off of the lift. They are designed to fold upwards when the lift moves down to the narrower bottom of the tub.
- Upright vs. Reclining Back Rest: Some battery-powered bath lifts have a backrest that remains fixed upright; some have a backrest that automatically reclines as the lift lowers down and others have a backrest that can be self-controlled, giving a user the option to recline or stay upright. Models that can be self-controlled allow a user the option to remain upright while washing or shaving legs and to recline back when ready to soak and relax. Oftentimes the versions that don’t recline at all claim to offer more legroom, potentially making them a better option for taller individuals.
- Swivel Seat (Rotating Disk): Some manufacturers offer a rotating disk, which can be added to the top of the bath lift seat or may be integrated as part of the bath lift seat to help you more easily turn your bottom to get in and out of the tub.
- Seat Surface: Some bath lifts have a smooth seat, while others have a textured, slip-resistant surface. From a safety standpoint it is better to have a slip-resistant, slightly textured seat so you don’t slip off. However, if you plan to sit down on the side of the seat and slide across the seat to arrive in the center of the tub (or slide from a wheelchair seat onto the bath seat) then a bath lift with a smooth seat surface can make this easier.
- Frame Materials: A bath lift’s frame can be made of plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel, with the stainless steel models being the strongest.
- Suction Cups: Most bath lift models have suction cups attached to the bottom to help secure the lift to the floor of the tub, making it more stable and safer to get on and off of the lift. The models with the suction cups are designed to work with tubs with a smooth tub floor. The suction cups won’t work well (or at all) if the tub has a textured bottom.
- Safety Feature: Most models come equipped with a safety feature that prevents the lift from lowering you down to the bottom of the tub if there is not enough battery capacity to raise you back up again.
- Accessories: Some offer headrest attachments for taller individuals, chest straps and seat belts for individuals with poor sitting balance, wedges to prevent slipping forward or washable hygienic seat covers.
- Last but not least: Always check to see if any complaints have been filed against a specific bath lift model, prior to making your final decision. A quick web search for the name of the model you are interested in along with the word “complaint” can help provide some leads to any publicly available negative user reports or experiences.
Is a portable-style bath lift right for you?
Portable-style bath lifts are a good consideration if you enjoy taking a hot bath, but don’t have enough physical strength to safely get yourself up and down from the bottom of the tub.
In order to use a portable-style bath lift, at a minimum, you must have the ability to:
- Transfer onto a seat that may wiggle a little when you get on and off.
- Lift your legs one at a time over the edge of the tub from a seated position.
- Remain seated upright while the lift lowers you down and raises you back up again.
The surface of your bathtub’s floor should also be taken into account when determining if this type of lift is right for you. Most freestanding bath chair lifts have suction cups attached to the bottom, which help to secure the lift to the tub floor. The suction cups are designed to work with smooth tub surfaces, but do not work well (or at all) in tubs with a textured floor.
The Homeability Advice™
Since a portable-style bath lift is not permanently fixed to the wall or tub, it may have a tendency to wiggle a little bit when you sit down and stand up. For more support, consider adding a grab bar on a nearby wall to give yourself a stable place to hold onto when sitting down and standing up. If you do not feel you have the skills to sit down on a seat that is not firmly fixed in place, visit the guide on Getting In & Out of the Bathtub to learn about other alternatives.
Most portable-bath lifts are designed to prevent you from being lower you down if there isn’t sufficient power to raise the seat back up again. It is important to be aware that even with this safety feature that this is a mechanical device with moving parts, so there is always the inherent possibility that it might not function as it should. Therefore, we highly recommend that you always keep a portable phone within reaching distance of the bathtub if you live alone and/or to use the lift when someone else is present in the home.
We have adressed the portable, battery operated-style bath lifts in this guide. To learn about bath lifts that are installed on the floor, wall or ceiling, click here.
More Topics You May Be Interested In:
- A Curbless Shower – A Great Age-Proof Bathing Solution!
- Accessible Bathtubs: An Amazing Diversity!
- Walk-in Tubs: Homeability Uncovers Scams & Shady Practices
- Getting In & Out of the Bathtub: Benches, Lifts, & Transfer Chairs
- Sliding Swivel Bath Seats Guide: The Basics