Are you trying to tackle the problem of getting into and out of your bathtub more easily & safely? Product designers have devised a wide variety of creative equipment solutions to help you do just that. This article presents an overview of the different categories of bathtub transfer equipment solutions available. For each category we have identified some of the key pros and cons to aid you in better determining which type of bathtub solution will work best for your needs.
The solutions found below all have one key thing in common – they can assist you to eliminate the most difficult and dangerous part, which is ‘stepping over the bathtub wall’. The solutions differ in regards to whether they will simply allow you to transfer into the bathtub to perform a seated shower (e.g., shower chair, shower bench) or whether they will help you to also get down and up from the bottom of the bathtub for a hot bath (e.g., bath lift chair, wall lift, ceiling lift). They further vary in whether they are designed to be used by you independently or whether they require you to have the assist of a second person.
- Bathtub Transfer Benches
- More difficult to tuck the shower curtain inside the tub.
- The bench legs resting on the floor outside the tub can make it more difficult for a person using a walker or wheelchair to move and turn around inside a small bathroom.
- Bathtub Chairs
- No installation required
- Bathtub Boards
- Portable-style do not require installation.
- It is fully contained inside the tub, so it will not impede your ability to turn around if you use a walker or wheelchair in the bathroom.
- Makes it more difficult to tuck the shower curtain inside the bathtub.
- No backrest to lean against for support
- The portable-style models may tip forward as you lean down to wash feet or legs.
- This rests at the height of the tub wall, which tends to be too low for tall individuals to easily sit down on or stand up from.
- Bathtub Board Bench Combo
- No backrest to rest against for support
- The seat rests on the tub wall, which often tends to be too low for tall individuals to easily sit down on and stand up from.
- Seat height is not adjustable.
- Makes it more difficult to tuck the shower curtain inside.
- Bathtub Chair/Bench Combinations
- Height is adjustable.
- No installation required
- The tub wall provides added support to stabilize the seat, making it less likely to tip or wiggle when you sit down and stand up.
- Sliding-Swivel Bathtub Chairs
- No formal installation required. Simply tighten the clamping mechanism until it securely grips the tub wall.
- More stable and less like to tip (than a free-standing bath chair might) when you are transferring on and off of the seat.
- The seat rests at the height of the bathtub walls, which is likely to be too low for someone who is tall to easily sit down on and stand up from.
- More difficult to tuck the shower curtain inside the tub.
- Sliding Swivel Bath Benches
- No installation required.
- The seat height is adjustable, making it a better option for taller individuals than bath seats that rest on the tub walls.
- More difficult to tuck the shower curtain inside the tub.
- The legs positioned outside the bathtub can get in the way if you use a walker or wheelchair to move and turn around inside the bathroom.
- Battery Operated Bath Lift Chairs
- The bath lift seat will still be underneath you when you are seated at the bottom of the tub, which means you will be suspended a few inches above the tub floor, thereby resulting in a little less of your torso being fully submerged under the water.
- The bathing solution is typically not ideal if you are a taller individual because the bath lift does not sit flush with the back wall of the bathtub so you will lose valuable space to accommodate the length of your legs.
- The lift is not firmly fixed to the tub or bathroom wall, so it may wiggle a little when you sit down or stand up from the seat. Most models have suction cup feet, which will help to secure the lift in place if the tub floor is smooth.
- Batteries will need to be recharged and replaced.
- Air Inflatable Bath Lifts
- An air-inflatable bath lift will allow you to get closer to the bottom of the bathtub than a chair-style bath lift with legs that fold down underneath the seat (see previous option above), resulting in the ability to more fully submerge yourself in the water.
- No installation necessary
- It you have decreased balance skills, you may find sitting down and standing up from a soft, air-inflated surface to be difficult.
- If you are a taller individual and you experience difficulty standing from low surfaces, an air inflatable-style bath lift is probably not going to be an ideal solution for you because the maximum seat height is likely to be low for you to comfortably stand up from.
- Bath Lift Chairs with Manual Crank
- No installation required
- It does not require batteries so you don’t need to worry about charging it or replacing the batteries.
- It does not take much strength, but it does require some endurance to crank it down and then back up again.
- This bath lift seat does not have side flaps to help make the transfer between the bathtub wall and the chair seat safer and easier. (For reference see the picture of the previous bath lift).
- The lift’s legs fold down below the seat when you lower to the bottom, which means you’ll still be suspended several inches above the bathtub’s floor.
- Sliding Bathtub Transfer Chairs (with Wheels)
- No installation necessary.
- This bath transfer system makes it much easier and safer for both you and your caregiver by successfully eliminating two of the most dangerous transfers – namely stepping into and out of the bathtub.
- The transport chair is narrower than most wheelchairs, so it can often fit through a narrow bathroom doorway where your wheelchair may not.
- Most of the bathtub transfer systems on the market have a cut out portion in the center of the seat, which allows the chair to dual as both a shower chair and a toilet transfer chair.
- Battery Powered Belt-style Bath Lifts [NOT AVAILABLE IN THE USA]
- It lowers you all the way to the bottom of the bathtub
- It mechanically raises and lowers you with the push of a button
- The belt is not a solid, stable surface to sit on. This product is not recommended if you have poor balance skills or poor upper body strength.
- This type of solution is not ideal if you are tall because it rests at the height of the bathtub walls, which will be too low for most tall people to easily sit down on and stand up from.
- It does not have a back to lean against, so if you were to lose your balance as it lowers you down there is a potential you could fall backwards and knock your head against the wall.
- It requires installation, which adds additional cost.
- Batteries will need to be recharged and replaced
- Water Powered Bath Lifts [CURRENTLY OFF THE MARKET]
- There is no battery to recharge or replace
- Some models (not all) offer a swivel seat that allows you to sit down while your legs are outside the bathtub and then swivel into the bathtub, eliminating the need to step over the tub wall.
- It sits on the flat, bottom part of the bathtub. If your bathtub curves inwards at the bottom, the lift will sit forwards from the back wall, meaning you will have less space in front of you to stretch out your legs when it has lowered you down.
- If the water bladder develops a leak it is expensive to replace
- It requires some installation and may require additional parts in order to hook it to your faucet
- Wall Mounted Bath Lifts
- No physical exertion required
- Reduces physical strain on a caregiver if one is involved
- In most cases it requires a second person’s assistance to swing the device into and out of the bathtub, though some individuals may be able to swivel themselves from a wheelchair into the bathtub independently.
- It requires installation and adequate wall studs for support
- Cost (This will vary based on lift selected,architecture of your home & the installer’s fees.)
- Floor Mounted Bath Lifts
- It allows you to sit almost on the bottom of the bathtub
- It assists you both to transfer into and out of the bathtub, as well as up and down from the bottom of the bathtub
- It requires installation
- Cost (This will vary based on the lift selected and the architecture of your home.)
- Ceiling Lifts
- Some versions can be self-controlled so a caregiver’s assistance would not be required
- The track is installed on the ceiling so the equipment does not impede mobility in the bathroom. The sling portion can be removed when not in use.
- It will require periodic maintenance and tune-ups
- Cost. (This varies based on the complexity of the system desired.)
A transfer bench is equipped with a seat that is long enough to extend over the bathtub wall, making it possible for you to sit down on the bath seat first, prior to entering the tub. From a safe, seated position you can then lift one leg at a time over the bathtub wall and scoot your bottom sideways across the bench top until you arrive in the center of the tub.
|Bathtub Transfer Benches (Price range: ~$50-$100)|
|Pros:||No installation required.|
|Note:||Bath benches generally work best in tubs with a square-ish shaped bottom. Be aware, if your tub’s walls curve inwards significantly at the bottom edges, then the two interior bath bench feet (which will rest where the floor becomes flat) will be forced to sit further towards the center of the tub, consequently forcing the center of the bath seat out over the bathtub wall. This could result in you sitting with one leg inside and one leg outside the tub.|
|More:||To learn more about what features to consider when selecting a bath bench and to see examples, visit our bath bench guide.|
Bathtub chairs have a smaller seat than a bathtub bench and all of the legs reside inside the tub. Some (but not all) bath chair models have a wide enough seat to allow you to sit down on the side of the seat, prior to entering the tub. Once seated safely, you can lift one leg at a time over the bathtub wall and turn your hips to face the shower head.
|Bathtub Chairs (Price range: ~$35-$60)|
It requires more balance skills to lean backwards over the tub wall and sit on a chair that is positioned inside the tub, than to sit down on a bath bench with a seat that extends over the tub wall.
|More:||To learn more about what features to consider when selecting a bath chair and see examples, visit our bath chair guide.|
Bath boards rest on top of the bathtub walls. Most bath board models are portable and come with rubber stoppers or suction cups attached below the board to prevent the board from sliding when you sit down. Some models are designed to be screwed to the wall, making them even more secure and less likely to move or wiggle when you sit down and stand up.
|Bathtub Boards (Price Range: ~$20-$400)|
|Note:||Confirm that you have enough of an exposed ledge present on top of each of the bathtub walls to safely accomodate the board. Models will differ in the width of the ledge required.|
|More Info:||To see examples and learn more about what features to consider when selecting a bath board, visit our bath board guide.|
One side of this bath seat rests on the bathtub wall and the other rests on two legs, which extend down to the bathtub floor. You can sit down on the side of the seat prior to entering the tub. Once seated, lift each leg over the tub wall and turn yourself to face the shower head.
|Bathtub Benches that rest on one tub wall – no backrest (Price range: ~$380-$450)|
|Pros:||The clamps help hold the bath bench in place so it isn’t likely to move or wiggle when you sit down on it.|
|More Info:||To see examples and learn more about what features to consider when selecting a bath board seat, visit our bath board guide.|
This bath chair is equipped with an extra attachment on the side of the chair that rests on the bathtub wall, making it possible for you to sit down on the seat, prior to entering the tub. Once safely seated, lift your legs one at a time over the tub wall and scoot yourself across the seat and into the center of the tub.
|Bathtub Chair/Bench Combinations (Price Range ~$1000-$1,500)|
Some bath chair’s are specially designed with a seat portion that slides and swivels. The chair can be turned to face the outside of the tub, allowing you to sit down on it as if you were sitting on a regular chair. Then the seat assists you in sliding yourself backwards into the bathtub and turning to face the shower head.
|Sliding-Swivel Bathtub Chairs (Price range: ~$275-$375)|
|More:||To learn more about what features to consider when selecting a sliding swivel bath chair and to see examples, visit our sliding swivel bath seat guide.|
The swivel bathtub bench is similar in many respects to the swivel bathtub chair, but it has three distinct differences: it is free standing, it has a height adjustable seat, and it has legs that sit on the floor outside the tub.
|Sliding-Swivel Bathtub Benches (Price range: ~$140 – $350)|
|More:||To learn more about what features to consider when selecting a sliding swivel bath bench and see examples, visit our sliding swivel bath seat guide.|
Battery operated bath lifts are specially designed to lower you down to the bottom of the bathtub for a hot bath and raise you back up again when your bath is complete.
|Battery Operated Bath Lift Chairs (Price range: ~$380-$1,500)|
|Pros:||No installation required. Minimal assembly may be required.|
|More:||To see examples and learn more about what features to consider when selecting a bath chair lift, visit our Bath Chair Lift Guide.|
This battery-power style bath lift does all the lifting. At the push of a button an air-inflatable lift cushion deflates slowly lowering you to within a few centimeters of the bottom of the bathtub and with the push of a button re-inflates to raise you back up again.
|Air Inflatable Bath Lifts (Price range:~$1,000-$2,500)|
This bath lift has a manual crank. You simply need to turn the crank and the seat lowers you down into the bath water and raises you back up again after the bath is complete. The crank handle can easily be removed from the lift while you are bathing.
|Manual Crank Bath Lift Chairs (Price range: ~$530 – $570)|
The chair portion can easily be detached from the track and functions like a wheelchair, making it possible for a caregiver to transport you safely into and out of the bathroom. Once inside the bathroom, the chair is re-connected to the track. Then the seat part (and you) can be easily slid across the track, over the tub wall, and safely into and out of the bathtub.
|Sliding Shower Bathtub Transfer Chairs (with Wheels) (Price range:~$2,800-$5,000)|
|Cons:||It will not work in all bathroom configurations. There must be enough space to turn the chair sideways and for the person seated sideways to be able to lift their legs over the tub wall.|
|Note:||The upfront cost of this type of bathtub solution may seem like a lot at first sight. However, if you plan to use the equipment for several years, it has potential to result in money saving in the years ahead by helping to prevent the need to perform an expensive bathroom remodel and by making it possible for a family member to single-handedly assist with the transfer in and out of the tub, thereby reducing the need to hire a pay a caregiver to assist.|
At the push of a button, a battery operated belt assists to lower you to the bottom of the bathtub and back up again.
|Battery Powered Belt-style Bath Lifts (Price range:~$1,300-$1,700)|
A water powered bath lift attaches to your bathtub or shower fixtures and the water pressure acts to raise and lower the chair. Your water pressure needs to be able to achieve a minimum of 20-30psi for the lift to function.
|Water Powered Bath Lifts (Price range:~$800-$1,400)|
A wall mounted lift assists to pick you up from a wheelchair seat and transfer you more safely over into the bathtub. (Some wall lift models are only able to assist you from a wheelchair to a chair positioned inside the bathtub, others can also assist you up and down from the bottom of the bathtub.)
|Wall Mounted Bath Lifts (Price range: ~$5,000-$9,000 Installed)|
This style of lift assists you over the edge of the bathtub and also to the bottom of the bathtub and back up again.
|Floor Mounted Bath Lifts (Price range: ~$4,000- $9,000 Installed)|
This style of lift can assist you from a wheelchair over into the bathtub, as well as down to the bottom and back up again.
|Ceiling Lifts (Price range: ~$5,000-$10,000+)|
OK. So you arrived at this page wondering if there was one solution to help you get into and out of your bathtub more easily – and now you are seeing that there is not just one or two possibilities, but there are in fact a dizzying number of possibilities.
Once you have determined the general type of solution you feel will work best for you (bath chair, bench, wall lift, floor lift, ceiling lift etc.) then it will be necessary to narrow it down further to which manufacturer, make and model you like within the given categories. In future articles we will be exploring each of these categories in more detail, including the specific models and manufacturers. To stay up to date as new articles are added, sign up for the Homeability Newsletter. Also feel free to post a comment or question to this article (scroll down to comments).
Perhaps you are someone who is able to use a bath transfer bench to slide yourself over the tub wall, but still find that you experience some difficulty lifting your legs up one at a time over the wall. If this is the case, a simple gadget called a “Leg Lifter” can be used in conjunction with a bath transfer bench to make getting in and out of the tub easier. It has a loop, allowing you to catch hold of your foot. Once your foot is positioned in the loop, the lifter can make it easier to move your leg up and over the tub wall.
To learn about more bathing alternatives, read:
- Sliding Swivel Bath Seats Guide: The Basics
- Buying A Walk-In Bathtub – Your Biggest Mistake?
- Slide-in Bathtub Buying Guide
- What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Bath Chair Lift
- Accessible Bathtubs: An Amazing Diversity!