Choosing a Walk In Shower

Advice For Seniors

walk in shower

Image credit: Safe Step

When it comes to falling, your bathroom is one of the most dangerous spots in your home. Multiple studies reviewing older adults falls in the home have demonstrated that the majority of slips and falls happen somewhere in the bathroom. Even more startling, falls in the bathroom were more than twice as likely to lead to an injury as compared to falling anywhere else in the house. If you want to make your bathroom a bit safer, a walk in shower is an excellent place to start.

Why is the bathroom so dangerous? In part, it’s the environment. Slick materials like the tub floor or the hard tile floor make every step hazardous. In addition, bathrooms are often small, making bumping your head on a cabinet or faucet during a fall more probable. Finally, bathrooms are also dangerous because older adults can experience fatigue more quickly while managing hygiene tasks in a hot, steamy room. More fatigue translates to a higher risk of making an unsafe choice or unsteady step that could lead to a fall.

Is a Walk In Shower Right For You?

Choosing to invest in a walk in shower is a good first step to making your bathroom safer and more accessible for your current and future needs. However, how can you be certain you are making the right decision?

walk in shower

Today’s walk in showers are beautiful and trendy. Image credit: Senior Safe

Here are a few factors that could indicate that a walk in shower will benefit you and your health:

  • You have fallen at home or outside of the home in the past 6 months
  • You have a chronic medical condition that causes pain
  • You become out of breath or fatigued when getting in and out of the shower
  • You have had a hip or knee replacement that limits your mobility
  • You have a diagnosis of arthritis, gout, or other condition that limits your joint mobility
  • You have a diagnosis of asthma, COPD, or another condition that causes you to become easily fatigued or out of breath
  • You find yourself skipping showering or other hygiene tasks because it is simply too difficult or taxing to navigate the shower or tub you currently have

Benefits of Walk In Showers

Walk in showers may not solve all of the dangerous conditions in your current bathroom, but it is an excellent start. Benefits of this alternative to the more traditional bathtub/shower combination can include:

  • More accessible for wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices. Wheelchairs can roll right up (and even into) barrier-free walk in showers
  • Stepping into a walk in shower requires less hip and leg joint mobility, making it ideal for people with arthritis, joint issues, or recent replacement surgeries
  • Stepping into a walk in shower requires less balance than stepping into a more traditional shower
  • Decreased risk of falling or slipping while entering or exiting the tub

Choosing a Walk In Shower

walk in shower

Some contractors can convert your current tub/shower combo into a safer step-in option. Image credit: Tub to Shower

Today, you don’t have to be a senior in order to have a walk in shower. In fact, many barrier free and low step shower options are trendy right now. Fortunately, you have multiple options to choose from that will meet your current and future needs without decreasing the value of your home or compromising your own style.

The most common types of walk in showers are the barrier free entry version and the low step options. If you currently use a wheelchair or walker, the barrier free option could be your best bet for current and future needs. However, you may also want to explore other style options that include cut-outs, transforming your current shower/tub combo into a safer walk in style.

Once you have the style set, you can review the types of tiling or other materials with your contractor. Look for options that are easy to clean and that resist mildew so that you aren’t spending most of your weekend scrubbing your new shower. Your contractor will have a variety of materials for you to choose from that will match your current style while keeping with the overall aesthetic of your home.

Finally, talk seriously with your walk in shower contractor about your goals for completion. Most contractors can install a new walk in shower or adapt your current tub/shower combination with a cut-out in less than one week. Be sure you are aware of when your bathroom will be out of commission and use another bathroom in the house during that time so that you are not trying to navigate your daily hygiene tasks in a construction zone.

Other Bathroom Safety Features

While a walk in shower is certainly the first step to a safer bathroom, you should also consider adding features that will meet your specific needs or challenges. Here are a few ideas of other accessories you can add to a bathroom that will make it safer in regards to falls:

  • Slip-free flooring or mats
  • Grab bars in the shower as well as near the toilet
  • Adjustable showerhead
  • Slip-resistant shower chair
  • Rugs or mats that are firmly secured to the floor
  • Fewer accessories, knickknacks, or cabinetry that could get in the way of a safe and wide pathway around the bathroom
  • Medical alert system technology, including pendants that are water safe

Your next big home improvement project that will keep you living independently and safely as long as possible? A walk in shower. Now, you are ready to begin looking for a licensed and bonded contractor in your area.