How to Get in and Out of the Bathtub Safely: A Step-by-Step Guide

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There's nothing better than a relaxing soak in the tub. But what happens when things go wrong and what was meant to be relaxing turns into a trip to the emergency room?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that every year 235,000 people over the age of 15 end up in the emergency room due to an injury that occurred in the bathroom. The risk of such an injury increases with age – a time when one needs help getting out of the bathtub - and seniors with mobility issues have the highest risk of falling. Statistics show that more than one out of four people over 65 fall each year, and 2.5% of these falls happen in the bathroom.     
   
According to studies, a fall can threaten an older individual’s health, independence, and quality of life. This is why elders and their caretakers need to ensure that they make the bathroom and the bathtub area safe with additions like a sturdy bath step stool or bathtub steps to prevent falls among seniors, especially if the senior in question has chosen to age in place.
This article describes many things that can help seniors get in and out of the bathtub safely.

senior’s safety when getting in and out of the bathtub

The Best Way for Seniors to Get In and Out of the Bathtub Safely     

The following steps will ensure a senior’s safety when getting in and out of the bathtub.

While Getting In:

Step One:

Seat yourself gently on the edge of the tub while holding on to the edges. Keep your legs firmly planted on the bathroom floor. If the tub wall is a bit too high to negotiate, then ensure that a good, wide and handy bath step stool is placed at the edge conveniently. 

Step Two:

Slowly turn around while being seated and still holding the edges of the tub. Lift one leg and gently place it on the tub floor. Bathtub steps for the elderly built inside the tub are also a good idea to help ease into the tub.

Step Three:

Once you are confident of your feet being stable on the tub floor, gently lift your other leg and bring it into the tub. Be careful to gently turn your body while still being seated on the tub edge to avoid sudden jerks.

Step Four:

Now that both your legs are in the tub, gently push yourself up using your hands and legs, and grab the other edge of the tub with one hand. With this, you will have both your feet in the tub and both hands on either side of the tub to support you while you seat yourself down. This is another point where bathtub steps with handrails provide crucial support.

While Getting Out:

Step One:   

  • Grab the edge of the tub while sitting.    
  • Ensure that you place a towel (or mat) for grip on your legs, as the floor would be wet and slippery.

Step two: 

Move onto your hands and knees. In this position, you will be facing the bottom of the tub.

Step three: 

Push yourself into a kneeling position with the help of the sides of the tub or the handrails of the bathtub.   

Step Four: 

Keep a firm hold on the tub's edges or the handrails of the bathtub steps and slowly lift the knees off the floor and into a standing position. 

Step Five: 

Slowly move one leg out of the tub. You can maintain your grip on the edge of the tub and secure your footing outside the tub.  

Step Six: 

Once you are stable on the leg outside the tub, raise the other leg and step entirely out while still holding onto the side of the tub.     

While getting in and out of the bathtub may seem easy and doable, we advise you to install bathroom aids and accessories like grab bars and bath step stools or use a bathtub step with a handrail to reduce the risk of falls or injuries.


Note: You can also ensure that the entire bathroom is safe and risk-free with the help of a bathroom safety checklist.

Step by step guide on getting in and out of bathtub

How to Get In and Out of the Bathtub with Limited Mobility     

As we age, maintaining balance and mobility becomes a challenge. In addition, various health issues catch up, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, joint pains, weak bones, etc. With age comes a myriad of problems, but the one that tops the charts usually involves balance and mobility. 

To tackle these issues, seniors must engage in various activities and simple exercises to keep them fit and mobile. Along with this, they have to take the assistance of mobility aids to avoid the risks of falls and injuries.

Various products help elders feel more independent as they age in place. Maintaining their self-reliance and productivity, here are a few mobility devices that help seniors accomplish simple day-to-day tasks, like having a bath, without having to rely on others.     

  • Bath Chairs   

Bath/shower chairs provide much-needed stability to seniors by offering them a comfortable seat while showering. They are lightweight and durable and enable seniors to bathe independently without worrying about falls or injuries. They come with a backrest, arms, and also a wall mounting option when not in use. However, bath chairs are not fool-proof in a tub. They may not fit properly in the tub and leave limited space to move about while getting out of the tub.

  • Bathtub Transfer Benches   

These are a better alternative to bath chairs as they have two legs in the tub and the other two outside it. With the help of the bathtub transfer bench, you can lift your legs one by one and get them in and out of the tub.

While using a transfer bench, it will be helpful to use non-slip mats in and outside the tub.

  • Bathtub Step Stool

Seniors struggle with mobility and may not always be able to lift their legs high enough to step in the tub on their own. This difficulty poses a challenge and an invitation to a slipping hazard. A bath step stool is a device that helps seniors in getting in and out of the tub easily and safely. It provides a wide landing base with an anti-slip surface and extra height to make the transfer easy while reducing the risk of falls. While choosing the best bathtub for seniors, consider their needs. There are several features, such as bath steps with handrails, that provide added support and safety. 

  • Walk-In Bathtub 

While it looks very similar to a traditional bathtub, it comes equipped with a watertight door that easily lets you get in and out of the tub. However, this option is the most expensive and includes construction costs in the bathroom as it is a whole new unit. At the same time, in a walk-in bathtub, you would have to get into the tub before filling it with water and then wait for the water to drain completely before getting out, which makes the entire process of taking a bath very time-consuming.

Walk-In Bathtub

A bath lift is a device that lowers you into the tub to bathe usually, and when finished, it will raise you back into a position that is easy for you to get in and out of the tub. These come in two types - powered by a motor and air inflatable.

While the one with a motor is easier to use with just a click of a button, it has its limitations with how far down you can go. This, in turn, taints the bathtub experience and maybe a deal-breaker for most users.

The air inflatable lift is more comfortable than a motorized one and allows the user to submerge themselves deeper into the water. However, they have a lower seat which makes getting out of the tub more complex than the motorized lift.

However, a bathtub lift is usually a preferred option to a walk-in bathtub as it is less expensive and attaches to your existing bathtub.    

An Expert's Additional Tips to Getting In and Out of Bathtub Safely   

I was a former ICU nurse at the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Hospital in the Cardiac ICU. With years of working on the frontlines as an ICU nurse, I have noticed the struggles of older adults and people with mobility issues that became an impediment for both patients and their caretakers. For bathroom safety, I recommend the following:

  • Install grab bars around the bathtub for the senior to hold on to while moving. These provide firm support and stability. 
  • Use a bathtub step stool with a handrail. These come with a height-adjustable base to step on without lifting your legs too high and a handrail to hold while transferring yourself to the tub. 
  • Never use a towel bar instead of a grab bar. Most people make the mistake of thinking that a grab bar and a towel bar are the same. However, a towel bar cannot take the weight of an individual. If you were to put even just a little bit of pressure on the towel bar, it could do more harm than help.       
  • Use non-slip mats outside the tub. The tub is not the only unsafe place in the bathroom. Even the area around the tub gets wet and may result in a fall or injury. To prevent such a fall in the elderly, it is best to use a non-slip mat outside the tub and inside it.     
  • Place commonly used items, such as shampoo, soap, scrub, etc., within reach. Keeping everything at hand before getting into the tub can go a long way in making the bathroom a safe place for the elderly.     
  • Make sure the lighting is adequate in the bathroom, especially for those with weak eyesight. Adequate lighting can help identify any fallen objects or tripping hazards in the bathroom.   
  • Install a medical alert button. Medical alert buttons can be handy in the case of an emergency. You can install a waterproof one near the tub, which is easily accessible if the person has slipped in the bathtub or while getting out of it.
Consider doing some balance exercises regularly to improve muscle strength. Simple balance exercises are a great way of keeping yourself fit and mobile. It also helps reduce the risk of falling. 
 

Final Thoughts

Having a bath should be more relaxing than risky. While aging is inevitable, mobility is extremely important for seniors to age well. You can take necessary precautions and steps to improve daily living, such as maintaining a home safety checklist, installing mobility devices around the house, and engaging in physical and mental activities to stay fit.

If you are facing any mobility issues and struggle to get in and out of your bed, here is the next step for you - Choose the best bed step stool for seniors.

FAQs

How do you senior-proof a bathroom?    

The bathroom is one of the most dangerous places for a senior as the risk of falling is very high. However, you can use several bathroom aids such as the bath step stools, like the step2tub, non-slip mats, grab bars, bathtub lifts, and bathtub transfer benches to make the bathroom a safe place for your loved ones.  

How do you modify a bathtub for the elderly?    

To help seniors in getting in and out of the bathtub safely and easily, you can attach a bath step stool like the Step2Tub that clamps onto the edges of the tub, add a transfer bench, or redo the bathroom to install a walk-in tub.          

How do you get out of a bathtub with bad knees or arthritis?    

If you have bad knees or arthritis, you cannot use the usual method of getting in and out of the bathtub, which puts a lot of pressure on the knees. Instead, you can use bathroom mobility aids such as a bath step stool, a bathtub chair, bathtub steps with handrails or transfer bench, or a bathtub lift.      

What are bath steps?    

Bathtub steps for the elderly help seniors step in and out of the tub safely. Some step stools, like the Step2Tub, can easily be attached to a bathtub. The Step2Tub, for example, is a sturdy non-slip bathtub step that you can adjust to the most comfortable height for the person using it. In addition, it is lightweight and portable and can be stored away when not in use.

Author - Vince Baiera

Vince Baiera is the founder of step2health, a mobility aids and wellness company for older adults. He is a former ICU Nurse of the Cleveland Clinic and Duke University Hospital in the Cardiac ICU. With years of working on the frontlines, Vince noticed the struggles of older adults and people with mobility issues that became an impediment for both patients and their caretakers. He then designed and created the patented product, Step2Bed (and its variants) that helps seniors and those with mobility issues safely get in and out of bed. His philosophy concerning aging is to plan ahead and start with simple home and life modifications to avoid being overwhelmed at retirement.

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