What to Know About Bath Chairs for Older People

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on June 30, 2022
5 min read

One of the greatest threats to older people's safety isn't illness or disease — it's falling. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented 3 million emergency visits for older adult falls. Falling is considered the leading cause of injury-related death for adults ages 65 and older.

As you grow older, your muscles weaken. You also become more prone to conditions involving the inner ear, circulatory system, and brain, all of which can cause problems with keeping balance.

Not everything that can cause balance issues is serious. It can be anything from blood pressure changes to medication side effects to fluid buildup in the inner ear. Even a simple lack of energy can make you less steady on your feet.

Regardless of your age, no place is easier to slip and fall than in the shower. Bath safety chairs can help to prevent these horrible accidents.

As you age, assistive devices can become more and more helpful. When used properly, devices like canes, crutches, and walkers improve balance and allow for higher activity levels. But assistive devices are for more than being on the go — they can also help you go about your day-to-day life at home.

Bath chairs, also called shower chairs, are a type of assistive device that can help you in one of the most private places in the home: the bathroom.

Shower chairs are seats that can be placed in baths and showers. They allow you to sit comfortably as you bathe without the risk of falling. These chairs can be portable or permanently installed. They're often used in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities but can also be used to provide better at-home care.

Shower chairs for elderly people are a great option to provide extra support for the person who can't reliably stand to bathe, and for whom sitting on the floor would be uncomfortable. This allows for more agency and independence, the loss of which can be hard to cope with in later life.

Bath chairs are designed with safety in mind. The seats are made of waterproof materials such as plastic, water-repellent wood, or even stone. Chair legs are usually made of rust-resistant aluminum or steel, with rubber non-slip feet for stability. This creates a durable device that can aid you for years to come.

When it comes to safe bath chairs, you have plenty of options. Ultimately, the safety of a shower chair depends on both the specific chair and your needs. That's why it's important to choose your chair wisely.

Standard bath chairs. A basic chair for your bath has the usual four legs and two arms and may or may not have a back. The arms and hand grips make it easier to sit and stand. The ease of sitting and the additional back support make this a great shower chair for older people.

Folding bath stools. Stools are useful for people who still have decent balance and mobility. A simple shower stool is small and lightweight enough to be placed in the bath for use and removed after. These seats don't provide handles or back support, so they're a good option for a bit of extra stability while keeping a wider range of motion.

Fold-down bath chairs. Fold-down chairs are permanently installed directly in your bath or shower. The back of the shower chair is mounted to the wall for the most stability. These bath chairs usually have handlebars, and an additional support rod can be installed in the shower. These chairs can be folded up to the wall for more space when not in use.

Transfer bench. For people who struggle with the act of stepping into the tub, a transfer bench can make the transition easier. These long benches sit half in the tub and half out, with two legs on each side. This allows you to sit down on the bench outside of the tub, then simply slide along the bench to sit over the bathtub and wash.

Rolling bath chairs. With rolling chairs, the typical rubber feet are replaced with wheels that can lock in place when needed. This allows for extra mobility and support around the bathroom. These chairs may also feature a liftable seat, allowing you to roll over the toilet for easy use.

These bathroom chairs are most useful in spacious bathrooms with open showers. They can be a great help for people whose extremely limited mobility prevents them from easily using different amenities.

The safest shower chair is one that’s perfectly suited to your needs. For this, you need to account for some numbers.

Size and fit. An important consideration is whether a chair fits in your bath or shower. If you have a standing shower, be sure to take note of whether the chair you're looking at latches onto the rim of a tub. If a chair has legs and you have a bathtub, make sure the floor of the tub isn't so curved that the feet of the shower chair can't sit in it.

Weight. Make sure your shower chair can hold your weight. Many chairs can hold up to 250 pounds.

Height. Most bath chairs for elderly people allow for height adjustment. Make sure the chair can be at a height that allows your feet to be flat on the floor while sitting with a healthy posture.

Shape and comfort. The shape of the seat itself is important as well. You should be able to sit both securely and comfortably upright.

If you still aren't sure about your decision, your doctor can help you find the best aid for your situation.

Depending on your health insurance, the cost of an at-home shower chair may be fully or partially covered. Though Medicare doesn't generally cover bath chairs themselves, some of its coverage plans offer an allowance for over-the-counter items.

Shower chairs are a great tool for both safety and comfort. Bathing is a perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, and your mental health is vital for aging with grace. You deserve to have that peaceful moment to yourself without having to worry about slipping and falling.