The most difficult (and potentially dangerous) item of bathroom furniture to use is a bath. Indeed, for an individual with reduced mobility, or someone who is unstable on their feet, taking a bath can be a major challenge.
Just getting into or out of a bath requires balancing on one leg, stepping over the bath's top edge and standing on a smooth and slippery surface. Even filling the bath requires bending over to turn on the taps (faucets) and to check the water temperature.
For this reason a bath will often be the first item of furniture that will require replacing to assist a person with reduced mobility. When this is the case the options are either to replace a standard bath with a shower and a seat, or to select one of two bath options. These options are, a walk-in bath with its own hinged water tight access door, or a bath that uses a side lift or motorized seat to raise and lower the bather into and out of the bath.
Types of walk in bath
Walk in mobility baths come in two main formats, both including a hinged outward opening door panel.
The first is a short tub (where the bath is typically sized between one half and two thirds of the length of a standard bath).
The second is a standard sized bath in length.
In both cases the majority of these baths tend to have high side panels and an integrated and adjustable seat at one end.
Some of these baths are designed for someone to lay in (as one would in a normal bath), however others are designed for seated bathing, which some older or less-abled people find more comfortable and relaxing.
Different manufacturers and different walk in bath models offer differing features, however any (or all) of the following may be available in a walk-in bath. Some feature will be additional cost optional extras.
Low entry step-in base that requires a minimum of effort to enter the bath.
None slip bath base to reduce the risk of sliding or falling and to give the bath a feeling of security.
A seat with adjustable seat height to enable the most comfortable sitting positions available for any height or size of individual. These seats normally have arm rests both for comfort and to assist in the standing up and sitting down movements.
The seat adjustment facility (described above) may be motorized and controlled with either a remote finger pad (hand held control unit) or a fixed control panel mounted on the bath or an adjacent wall. When this is the case the seat will usually lower to the level of the bath base for fully reclined (lying down) bathing.
An easy open and easy close entry panel (door) with a watertight seal that locks from the inside.
Easy to operate thermostatic temperature controls to achieve the perfect bathing temperature.
Dual wastes to drain the bath as quickly as possible once the bathing session is over.
A circulation pump to help fill the bath as quickly as possible once the bather has closed the watertight access door.
Jacuzzi and hydrotherapy systems can be included in some walk-in baths to aid relaxation and ease tired or aching muscles.
A separate (power) shower hose so that the bath can be used as a shower, or so that a seated person can use the shower nozzle to wash the upper part of their body.
Most manufacturers can supply these baths in a number of different colours although white is the most popular.
Baths can come in standard and extra deep depths.
Most walk-in bath tubs can be fully installed and fitted in a single day, so disruption is usually kept to a minimum. They have the same pluming requirements as regular baths and all of the bath features are integral to the unit.
Because walk in baths come in different (and also smaller) sizes than standard baths they can be fitted into corners or even added to a bathroom where the standard bath is still retained.
The main disadvantage to a walk in bath is that it is necessary to enter the bath when it is empty and then fill it whilst you wait inside. The reverse is true when leaving the bath in that it must be emptied before the bather can open the door and leave. To counter this most baths of this type have circulation pumps for fast filling and dual wastes for speedy drainage.