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Saturday October 25, 2014

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

What to Consider When Choosing a Walk-in Bathtub

I’m interested in getting a walk-in bathtub for my mother that’s easy for her to get into and out of, but could use some assistance. Can you offer any consumer tips?

A walk-in bathtub is a great option for seniors with mobility problems who have trouble getting in and out of a traditional tub. With so many options available today, choosing one can be challenging. Here are a few tips that can help you make an informed decision.

Bathtub Basics


Walk-in bathtubs are specialty products that have a watertight, hinged door built into the side of the tub that provides a much lower threshold to step over (usually 3 to 7 inches) versus a standard tub that’s around 15 inches.

In addition to the low threshold, most walk-in tubs also have a built-in seat, grab bars, anti-slip floors and a handheld showerhead. Many higher-end models also offer therapeutic spa-like features that are great for seniors with arthritis and other ailments.

The kind of walk-in tub you choose will depend on the size and layout of your bathroom, your mother’s needs and preferences and budget. Prices for a good walk-in tub typically run between $3,000 and $10,000 installed. Here are some other things you should know.

Quality check: The best walk-in bathtubs on the market today are made in the USA. Also, make sure the company you choose has a lifetime “leak-proof” door seal warranty and lengthy warranties on both the tub and the operating system.

Tub size: While walk-in bathtubs vary in shape and size, most models have high-walls (three feet or higher), are 26 to 32 inches wide and will fit into the same 60-inch long space as your standard tub without having to reconfigure the room. If the walk-in tub doesn’t quite fit your old bathtub space, extension kits are available to ensure a good fit.

Door options: Most walk-in tubs have an inward opening door, but if your mother uses a wheelchair, an outward opening door may be a better option because they’re easier to enter and exit. Be aware that because these doors swing out they require more bathroom space.

One other style to consider is the “rising-wall” bathtub made by Kohler, which sits about two feet off the ground and has a side panel that slides up and down. These tubs can be entered from a seated position, which makes it a nice option for wheelchair users.

Tub type: Most companies offer several different types of walk-in tubs. The most basic type is a soaker tub. You can also get a therapeutic tub that offers either whirlpool water jets, bubble massage air jets or a combination of the two.

Fast fill and drain: One drawback to using a walk-in bathtub is that the bather must sit in the tub as it fills and drains, which can make for a chilly experience. To help with this, choose a tub that has fast-filling faucets and pump-assisted drainage systems, which significantly speeds up the process.

Where to shop: While there are many companies that make, sell and install walk-in bathtubs, some of the best in the industry are Safe Step (safesteptub.com, 800-346-6616), Premier (premiercarebathing.com, 800-934-7614), American Standard (americanstandard.com, 866-423-0800) and Jacuzzi (jacuzzi.com, 800-288-4002). Many big box retailers like Lowes, Home Depot and Sears sell walk-in bathtubs, too.

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover walk-in bathtubs, but many companies offer financing with monthly payment plans.

To get started, contact a few companies who will send a local dealer to your home to assess your bathroom and give you product options and estimates for free.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 17, 2014
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