Buyer's Guide: Selecting the Right Shower Seat
Suppose you or a loved one has started experiencing balance or mobility issues. In that case, you may be considering purchasing bath safety products to help prevent falls and other injuries in the bathroom. A shower seat is one of the many options that can keep the bathroom safe and allow you to maintain independence while bathing.
This guide will help you assess whether a shower seat is the right bath safety option for you and, if so, how to find the best shower seat for your needs.
What is a shower seat?
Shower seats, also known as bath seats, are water-resistant chairs or stools designed to be placed inside a shower or bathtub. This provides you with a safe and comfortable place to rest while bathing if you tire easily or cannot stand for long periods.
Who Should Use a shower seat?
With so many bath safety products, it can be hard to know which option is best for you. Shower seats provide more security while bathing than other options, such as grab bars or safety rails. This added stability might be necessary for you if you:
- Have significant balance issues
- Have weakness in the legs
- Have a high risk of slipping or falling
- Tire easily
That said, there are other options for those who need extra stability, such as a transfer bench. Consider the following pros and cons to determine if a shower seat is the best option for you:
|- Offers full-body support while bathing
- Compact, will fit in smaller bathrooms
- Allows more space for caregiver assistance
|- Does not offer much support while entering and exiting the tub or shower|
Transfer Benches vs Shower Chairs
Another bath safety option to consider is a transfer bench, and you may be wondering what the real difference is between that and a shower seat. Shower seats and transfer benches have many similarities, and both offer a safe place to sit while bathing. The main difference is the type of placement they are each designed for.
Shower chairs are smaller and designed to be placed entirely within the tub. This makes them most compatible with smaller bathrooms and allows more room for a caregiver to assist the user if necessary. On the other hand, transfer benches are designed to straddle the tub with two legs inside the tub and two outside. This makes them bulkier but allows them to provide support when entering and exiting the tub. Shower chairs can only offer support once you are inside the tub.
If you have a small bathroom but need assistance getting into and out of the bathtub, you might consider pairing a shower chair with a grab bar or safety rail. However, if you have a high risk of falling and need a considerable amount of support, a transfer bench is the best option. For more information, check out our guide to selecting the right transfer bench.
What to Consider Before Purchasing a sHOWER sEAT
Once you’ve determined that a shower chair is the best option, there are a variety of factors to consider to ensure that you find the right one. Because of the nature of bath safety products, most companies do not accept shower seat returns, so you will want to consider each factor carefully and thoroughly before making a purchase.
The shower seat’s overall dimensions are essential to bear in mind when shopping around. Your chair will be of little use if it doesn’t fit inside your tub or shower! To ensure that you find a shower seat with the right dimensions, measure the width of your tub floor or the width and depth of your shower floor. You will want to choose a shower chair with dimensions smaller than these measurements to easily and safely fit inside.
You will also want to pay close attention to the chair’s seat dimensions to find one you can sit safely and comfortably on. To find the proper dimensions for you, measure your backside’s width when sitting on a flat surface. The seat should be somewhat wider than this measurement so that you can sit securely on the chair without risk of sliding or falling off.
Your shower seat should be able to support your weight safely. Shower seats can support anywhere between 250 pounds to 400 pounds depending on the model. If you need more support, a bariatric shower chair might be right for you. Always check the product’s weight capacity before purchasing to ensure it can be used safely.
Most shower chairs come with height-adjustable legs, but you will want to confirm this before purchasing. Height-adjustable legs allow you to adjust the seat’s height to a most comfortable level for you. This way, you can sit comfortably without straining your joints or “plopping” down. The height range the chair is capable of will vary from chair to chair, so be sure to check the specifications and choose a seat that meets your individual needs.
Since you will be using it in the shower or bathtub, you will want a seat made of materials that can withstand regular exposure to water. Seats made of rust-resistant materials such as plastic, aluminum, or steel are most common. While chairs made entirely of plastic are available, the best, most sturdy option is a combination of a plastic seat and aluminum or steel legs.
You might also consider purchasing a shower chair with drain holes in the seat, which can better prevent water build-up and mold and mildew.
There are two common styles of shower chairs, stools, and seats, and the best option for you is mostly up to your own needs and preferences. Stools are more compact, but because of this, they are narrower and typically don’t have backrests. This can make them uncomfortable and less safe to sit on. Comparatively, seats often have a wider space to sit and can come with or without a backrest. However, they don’t always offer the same features as shower stools. For example, the swivel feature is most often available on stools.
Suction Feet vs. Padded Feet
Because shower chairs are regularly on a wet surface, most chairs feature rubber, slip-resistant feet to ensure that the seat remains stable when you sit down. Be sure to confirm your shower seat of choice includes these before purchasing. If you have significant balance issues, you might consider suction cup feet that completely secure the chair to the floor for maximum stability.
When deciding between a bench with suction cups or padded tips, it is ultimately up to what you prefer. Suction cups are the recommended option, as they secure the bench to the tub and floor and entirely prevent it from slipping. However, if you do choose padded tips, be sure that they are considered 'non-slip' tips to ensure your safety.
bACK vS. nO bACK
If you decide on a shower seat rather than a shower stool, you will also have to choose between a seat with or without a backrest. Generally, a shower chair with a back is recommended, especially if you have balance or back strength issues. Although it may create a slight inconvenience when transferring into and out of the tub, a backrest provides additional stability and further reduces the risk of a fall.
Arms vs. No Arms
You may also have to decide whether you want a shower chair with or without armrests. A shower chair with arms can help you lower yourself onto and stand up from the seat with ease. This can be a useful feature if you can safely step into and out of the tub to sit onto the chair from the front. However, if it would be safer for you to sit onto the chair from the side and lift your legs over the tub wall, a chair without armrests is a better option.
Padded vs. Unpadded
Shower chairs can come with either padded or unpadded seats. Padded seats provide additional comfort that may be necessary if you take long showers, are thin and bony, or are prone to skin tears. However, unpadded chairs are often less expensive and are easier to transfer on and off.
As mentioned previously, some shower chairs have a seat that can swivel or slide. This feature can make getting into and out of the tub a bit easier. If you choose a sliding or swivel shower chair, you might also look for one with a locking mechanism that can safely keep the seat in place while you bathe.
How to Use a Shower Chair Safely
- If the seat’s legs are adjustable, adjust them to an appropriate height for you. The seat should be at a height that allows you to sit comfortably without straining your joints or “plopping” down. Check each leg to ensure it is locked in place after adjusting.
- Place the seat entirely inside the bathtub or shower.
- ALWAYS make sure your shower seat is level and stable before using. Using a wobbly or uneven shower chair can lead to injury.
- Carefully step over tub walls and stand in front of the seat, close enough to touch the back of your legs.
- Slowly lower yourself onto the seat, using armrests for support if available.
- If you have trouble safely stepping over the tub walls, you might lower yourself onto the seat from outside the tub and lift your legs over the tub walls. This method is not typically recommended with a shower chair, so always carefully assess the technique’s safety before doing so. If you need to do this often, a transfer bench might be a better option for you.
- Be patient with yourself and don't rush. It is necessary to take your time to prevent falls or other injuries while in the bathroom.
- If possible, use a handheld showerhead. This can help you maintain independence while bathing. It allows you to thoroughly rinse yourself while seated and will enable you to adjust the water pressure if you desire comfortably.
- If the user has limited sight or poor depth perception, place a brightly colored towel on the seat. This provides a contrast that helps them distinguish the difference between the chair and the bathtub floor.
How to Maintain a Shower Seat
Because your shower seat is regularly exposed to water and warm, moist air, it can be easy for mold and other bacteria to grow. To keep your shower seat looking and performing as good as new, be sure to do the following:
- Wipe the chair clean of soap and other residues after each use.
- Dry with a towel or soft cloth after each use to avoid damage from water build-up.
- Clean regularly using a mild detergent and warm water. A bristle brush is best to ensure even the crevices of the chair are thoroughly cleaned. Be sure to clean not only the seat but also the underside and the legs.
- If your seat has drainage holes, they can be regularly cleaned using a cotton swab. These holes are just as susceptible to mold and mildew growth as any other part of the seat.
- Rinse and dry thoroughly after cleaning with detergent.
- Check often to ensure there are no cracks or other damage and that the legs are locked in place.
Does Medicare Pay for a Shower Chair?
Unfortunately, no, Medicare does not cover the cost of shower seats or any bath safety products. Medicare covers equipment that is used for a specific medical need, and shower seats typically do not meet this requirement.
How Much do Transfer Benches Cost?
Although Medicare does not cover shower seats, most can be purchased for a reasonable price. Most shower seats cost between $25 and $70 depending on their materials and features.
If you have any further questions about finding the right shower seat for you, consult with your doctor, or feel free to speak with a Carex representative. For more information about staying safe in the bathroom, check out our Ultimate Guide to Bath Safety.
About the Author
Stephanie Schwarten is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelors degree in Professional Writing. She specializes in content marketing as well as both developmental and copy editing.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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