Falls in the tub or shower and around the toilet are some of the most common causes of adult injuries and emergency room visits. One good way to prevent serious falls and injuries while bathing is to use a shower chair.
What Is a Shower Chair?
A shower chair is a movable or permanently installed seat for the tub or shower. It usually has a plastic seat with aluminum legs and non-slip, rubber feet, so it’s easy to clean and safe to place in water. Some are basic chairs, some are electric with hoisting abilities, and some, like a tub transfer bench, help you get in and out of the tub safely.
Shower chairs make bathing easier and safer. You might commonly use a shower chair as you get older, but chairs are also helpful if you are recovering from an injury or you have trouble getting around because of an illness, disease, or disability. Chairs and tub benches are often used in nursing homes and hospitals, but you can use one in your home shower or tub, too.
Types of Shower Chairs
There are a few different types of shower seats.
Shower stool. A shower stool is a seat without a back. You can find foldable stools for easy storage, which can be helpful if you have a small shower and you’re mobile enough to move the stool around.
Shower chair. These chairs have a back and might have side handles for extra grip and support. The back gives extra support, and the handles make it easier to get up and down from the chair.
Tub bench. A tub transfer bench is a long seat with two legs sit in the tub and two legs sit on the floor outside the tub. You can sit on the bench and slide across into the tub to bathe. Some are extra long so you can slide across to the tub or sit over the toilet, too.
Fold-down chair. You can wall-mount these chairs in your shower. You flip the seat down when you’re ready to bathe and fold it back up out of the way when you’re done.
Rolling shower chair. These chairs look like a wheelchair except with a commode-style seat. The seat is open underneath so you can access a toilet. The chair rolls and has locking wheels for safety. These are best for accessible showers where you can easily maneuver in and out.
How to Choose the Best Shower Chair
You can rent or buy shower chairs and tub benches, but there are a few things to consider first.
Height. Some chairs come at a set height, while others have adjustable legs. Check the chair details and look for one that gives you enough height to sit and stand comfortably.
Weight limit. Most shower seats hold up to 250 pounds. If you need something larger, check the details before you purchase.
Size. Not all chairs, benches, showers, and tubs are the same size. Measure the width of your tub or shower before you purchase a chair and find one that will fit properly. If you have a shower with a door, measure the door to make sure you can fit the chair through.
Purpose. Consider whether you need help to transfer into the tub or whether you simply need a safe place to sit and rest. Shower chairs and stools can tip if you load onto them the wrong way, so they might be best when you’re able to climb in or walk in and sit down on your own.
If you need to lean or pull on the seat or you need someone to help you, a transfer bench might be better. Also, consider whether you need any extra features, including whether you need to permanently install it, you need hoisting capabilities, or you need a multi-purpose toileting option.
Price. Shower chairs and tub benches range in price from $25 to $50, though ones with extra features might cost more. The more basic the seat, the more affordable it is.
Accessories. It’s a good idea to include a few extra accessories that will make your chair safer. For instance, you can install a grab bar on the wall so you can pull yourself up to stand or hang on to it while you lower yourself down.
You should also get a non-slip rubber mat to put underneath your chair in the shower or use suction cups on the bottoms of the feet. A shower chair safety belt can also be helpful if you’re very unstable.
Where to Buy Shower Chairs and Tub Benches
You can find a shower chair or tub bench in most department stores and pharmacies. Other places include:
- Medical supply stores
- Medical supply websites
- Online sellers like Amazon
- Home supply stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s
Most insurance plans don’t cover a shower chair or tub bench, so it often doesn’t matter where you buy it. The best place will be the one that offers the chair you need with all the features you want for the best price.
Are Shower Chairs Covered by Medicare?
Medicare Part B covers some types of medically necessary equipment called durable medical equipment, or DME. These include things like commode chairs, wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, but Medicare only covers equipment that meets certain criteria.
Equipment must be:
- Used for a medical reason
- Durable, which means it can withstand repetitive use for at least 3 years
- Used in your home
- Non-useful to someone who isn’t sick or injured
While a shower chair makes bathing easier and safer, Medicare Part A and Part B plans don’t cover it. This is because its primary use isn’t medical, and it’s useful to someone who isn’t sick or injured.
Some Medicare Part C or Medicare Advantage plans cover items that prevent illness or injury, though, and some have an over-the-counter spending allowance. Check your plan to see if your shower chair might qualify for coverage.
Shower chairs and tub benches can make bathing easier and prevent falls. Choosing the right one depends on your shower size and personal requirements. If your Medicare or insurance plan doesn’t cover your chair, you can usually find an affordable option. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure which style to use.