If you or a loved one has balance issues or limited mobility, you may be considering purchasing a bath safety product to help prevent falls as much as possible. A transfer bench is one of many bath safety options, and it can be confusing to decide if it's the right option for you. And once you decide, it can be overwhelming to try to find the best of its kind.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about transfer benches, from who best benefits from one to the different factors to consider to find the right transfer bench.
What is a Transfer Bench?
Transfer benches are bath seats designed to be placed with two legs of the bench inside the tub and two outside the tub. This allows you to sit and scoot to the center of the bench and lift your legs over the tub wall to enter and exit the bathtub safely. Additionally, transfer benches can also provide a secure place to sit and rest should the user tire while bathing.
Who Should Use a Transfer Bench?
Transfer benches provide necessary stability while bathing and can be more secure than other options, such as grab bars or safety rails. This added security can be helpful for those:
- With significant balance issues
- With weakness in the legs
- Who have a high risk of slipping or falling
- Who tire easily
If you think you may benefit from using a transfer bench, consider the following pros and cons:
|- Fully supports the body when entering and exiting the tub
- Offers a secure place to sit while bathing
|- Takes up more space than other options
- Can be more difficult to set up safely
Transfer Benches vs Shower Chairs
Transfer benches are very similar to shower chairs, and you may be wondering what the difference is between the two. The main difference is in placement. A transfer bench is designed to straddle the tub wall, while a shower chair sits entirely inside the shower or bathtub.
Because of this, shower chairs are more compact and perfect for small bathrooms or if you need more space for a caregiver to assist you. However, shower chairs can't help you enter and exit the tub the way transfer benches can. Should you decide to use a shower chair, it may need to be supplemented by a grab bar or safety rail. But if you have a high risk of falling and require the utmost support when maneuvering into and out of the tub, a transfer bench is the best option.
What to Consider Before Purchasing a Transfer Bench
If you've decided that a transfer bench is the best option, you should consider a few factors to find the right one for you.
The most important factors to consider are the transfer bench's specifications, such as the length, width, and height. Your transfer bench will be of no use to you if it doesn't fit properly in your bathroom, and many companies don't take returns of bath safety products.
To find the right size transfer bench for your home, measure your tub's width and the floor space outside of it. There needs to be enough room for the length of the transfer bench and room for the user to safely stand and sit in front of the bench. You will want a bench with specifications smaller than your measurements, so the bench isn't being squeezed into the bathroom and can be used safely. If you will be transferring from a wheelchair, you should also consider the space required for it. Additionally, we recommend measuring your tub walls' height, as some transfer benches are unable to be used with walls above 18 inches.
You will also want to consider the bench's seat dimensions so that you can transfer on and off safely and sit comfortably. To determine the best seat width for you, measure your backside's width when sitting on a flat surface. The seat should be significantly wider (6 or more inches) than this measurement for safe transferring on and off the bench.
To determine the best seat depth, measure the length from your backside to the back of your knees. The seat depth should be an inch or two greater than this measurement for safe and comfortable seating.
The transfer bench's weight capacity should be taken into account to ensure that the bench can safely support the user's weight. Most standard transfer benches have weight capacities between 250 and 300 pounds, while heavy-duty transfer benches can support up to 500 pounds. Always check the weight capacity before purchasing to confirm that the product is safe for you.
Although fixed legs may be cheaper, it's best to purchase a transfer bench with height-adjustable legs. The range of heights available with an adjustable transfer bench allows the bench to accommodate the height of the user, whether they're 4'8 or 6'5. The height adjustment feature also allows you to individually adjust the legs inside and outside the tub so that the bench is level and secure.
The product materials are especially important to consider when purchasing bath products like transfer benches. Because it will be regularly exposed to water, you will want to buy a transfer bench made of rust-resistant materials such as aluminum or plastic. A combination of aluminum legs and a plastic seat is typically the best option. This is much more supportive than a bench made entirely of plastic.
You might also consider a bench with drain holes, which can better prevent water build-up and mold and mildew.
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Suction Feet vs. Padded Feet
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.
Padded vs. Unpadded
Transfer benches can be purchased with either padded or unpadded seats. Both options have their pros and cons, and the best choice depends on you and your preferences.
Unpadded transfer benches are the less expensive choice and are easier to scoot on when transferring in and out of the tub. However, they can be uncomfortable to sit on for long periods. On the other hand, while padded transfer benches are more expensive, they are much more comfortable if you are thin and boney or tend to take long showers.
Back vs No Back
Transfer benches can also be used with or without a backrest. Although a backrest may sometimes get in the way and make transfers slower, having one on your bench is the safest option. A transfer bench with a back is not much more expensive than one without, and backrests provide a safe, sturdy place to rest against. This can significantly reduce the risk of falls while bathing and generally be much more comfortable.
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How to Install a Transfer Bench
- Place the transfer bench so that two legs are inside the bathtub and two legs are outside the bathtub. The bench should be facing the showerhead so that when you sit, the water comes out in front of you.
- If the transfer bench is height adjustable, adjust the leg heights so that each foot is firmly on the ground and the bench is level. Because tub floors are typically higher than the bathroom floor, the two legs inside the tub will often be adjusted to a shorter height than the two outside the tub.
- Ensure that the bench's overall height allows the user to sit down comfortably and safely without straining their joints or "plopping" down.
- If the bench has suction feet, secure them to the tub floor.
How to Use a Transfer Bench
- ALWAYS make sure the transfer bench is level and stable before using. Using a wobbly or uneven transfer bench can lead to injury.
- Stand in front of the bench, close enough so that it touches the back of your legs.
- Slowly and carefully lower yourself onto the seat. Maintain control using the bench's handle if available and avoid "plopping" down onto the seat.
- Scoot over on the bench until your legs are near the tub wall. Slowly lift the leg closest to the tub over the wall and scoot a little further on the bench so that foot can rest on the tub floor.
- Slowly lift the other leg over the wall and scoot until you are comfortably inside the tub.
- To get out, repeat the process of scooting toward the wall and lifting your legs. Once you are entirely outside of the tub, slowly ease yourself up, using the bench's handle for support.
- 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 easily.
- If the user has limited sight or poor depth perception, place a brightly colored towel on the bench seat. This provides a contrast that helps them distinguish the difference between the bench and the bathtub floor.
Transfer Bench Maintenance
Because the transfer bench is consistently exposed to water and warm, moist air, it can be easy for mold and other bacteria to grow. To keep your transfer bench looking and performing as good as new, be sure to do the following:
- Wipe the bench 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 bench are thoroughly cleaned. Be sure to clean not only the seat, but also the underside and the legs.
- If your bench 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 bench.
- 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 Cover Transfer Benches?
Unfortunately, no, Medicare does not cover transfer benches or other bath safety products. The only bath safety product Medicare would cover is a 3-in-1 commode, which can be used in both the bedroom and the bathroom.
How Much do Transfer Benches Cost?
Although Medicare does not cover transfer benches, it is possible to find one that is reasonably priced. Most transfer benches cost between $40 and $150.
If you have any further questions about finding the right transfer bench 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.