Benefits of Tub Bathing with use of Hoists & Tub Lifts
Blog ©2017 Charles M. Schwab Architect, Reprint from a PN Magazine, October 2016.Reprint with permission.
The activity of bathing for a person who uses a wheelchair is one of the most important activities in making the home usable, accessible and ultimately, satisfying. A wet room approach or tub removal and replacement with a new curb-less shower unit is a common response. Before you do remove the tub, let’s look at benefits of tub bathing and products that can assist you when getting in and out.
Several factors will influence your decision as to utilize a tub or not, including the needs of the rest of the family as well as the number of available bathing units in the house. If you have young children up to age 10 the traditional bathtub is important for their health and natural development because they learn through water play and bond with their parents in the earlier years and that is also social learning. Realtors will tell you to be very careful when removing the tub primarily when there is only one bathroom if future resale is in the foreseeable future.
Submerged Bathing and Hydrotherapy
Even if you utilize the curb-less shower option you may still want to enjoy the bathtub from time to time and there are health benefits for doing so. If you are building a new home or addition why not consider inclusion of a hydrotherapy type tub? We will save that topic for next time and now focus on access.
Wheelchair Clearances at the Tub
For tub access, whether it is a whirlpool or not you need a minimum of 36 60″ along the width of the tub side. It is best if there is at least 12″ of space behind the control wall on the room side, so you can more easily reach the water controls. I design a base detail in bathrooms to inhibit wall damage where the wheelchair footrest typically hits the wall at locations such ass these.
You may have great arm strength and have no need for a lift. That’s awesome and congratulations for staying fit. In this case an integrated, yet separate built in tub seat will be most beneficial behind the tub so you can transfer off your chair and onto this built in, preferably tiled, tub seat. You can then move your legs over the tub side ,one by one then, with use of your arms glide yourself down into, and then out of the tub. The seat width should be 16″ min. but preferably 20″ and preferably the same height as your wheelchair seat. Side and rear grab bars need to be provided in all cases. One benefit of the integral built in bath seat, and the ability to self-lower and rise out of the tub, is that there is no additional lift equipment necessary. This seat is not intended for shower use as the controls are on the opposite wall in most cases.
Tub lift Options
If arm strength is not sufficient, a bath lift can safely lift and lower a person into the bath tub and allow the bather to maneuver without the help of a caregiver. This makes bathing more safe and increases independence of the bather. The most common tub lift chairs are low voltage, battery powered units that rise and lower with a push button for simple hand held operation. These lifts have flaps on the side that cover the space between the actual seat and the tub ledge, making for a “pinch free” transfer. The flap with hinge, then folds up against the tub edge as the seat submerges.
It is important to consider the width, length and depth of the tub itself prior to selecting chair lift units. There are also hydraulic tub lifts that attach to the tub spout utilizing water pressure to lift it up and down and some have a swivel seat that turn to face the bathroom making it easier to transfer or sit down, swivel back around and then submerge into the tub.
The longer the tub is, the further back you can locate any tub lift, thus allowing for maximum leg stretching. Safety factor of the lift may outweigh whether or not you can fully stretch out your legs. A newer 6′-0″ therapy type tub or a traditional 5′-0″ tub may suffice. It is very important that the top height of the bath lift seat be equal or greater in height than the inside depth of the tub otherwise transfer could be made more difficult. The tub lift must be removed if the shower is to be used by a standing person, meaning it is also portable to take with you when you move. With this type of lift, there are no tub or room modifications necessary. All that is required is a ground fault interrupter (GFI) outlet nearby to recharge the battery.
A boom type lift sits within a sleeve and pivots toward the tub. A motor then lowers and raises the person in a sling. This unit remains outside the tub and can be picked up and stored in a closet. This is another option and can be installed in new or existing home.
These bath lifts can take the place of a personal assistant providing privacy and independence allowing you to lounge in the tub as long as you see fit.