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Bathtubs and Safety

Learn the options for bathtubs that are barrier-free and easier to use.

It's probably been years since you've been on an obstacle course where you jumped and climbed over barriers just for fun. Some days our homes feel a lot like that course. Take the bathtub. With each use, this bathroom fixture gives us a fitness test that's suited for a star athlete. Taking that test just isn't as much fun as it used to be.

Think for a minute about all you go through to take a bath. First, you have to step over a high tub wall while you try as hard as you can to keep your balance. Then, you have to lower yourself into the tub using your arms. Some days, you might feel like you've discovered a new kind of push-up! You do all this on a wet and slippery surface. And you're not even wearing shoes to give you traction.

If you're a parent bathing a small child, the bathtub fitness test is just as hard. It's not easy to bend over or kneel down while you try to catch a slippery toddler who wants to swim like a fish.

Failing either of these fitness tests is no small deal. It could result in a broken bone or two or a badly strained back. But what choice do you have? Should you start taking showers? Resort to sponge baths? No need for that. Instead, you could buy a new tub. Or you could take some steps to fix the tub you have.

Buying a New Tub

Is climbing over the tub wall a problem for you? Look for a tub that makes this task easier. Some tubs have a ledge - or transfer bench - built right into the side. To get into the bathtub safely, you sit on this ledge and swing your legs into the tub. Then you can use grab bars and rails to lower yourself into the water. The ledge also gives that young parent a place to sit while bathing a youngster. The best thing about these tubs? They look like they belong in a model home, not a nursing home.

Can't use a transfer bench? Consider buying an accessible bathtub. These bathtubs let you walk into the tub through a door in the tub wall. When the door closes, it seals the opening so you can fill the tub with water. You can't put water into these tubs unless the door is tightly sealed. This means you have to sit in the tub while the water runs.

Make sure your new bathtub comes with a non-slip surface. You might want to go one step further and get a tub with a soft surface. The makers of these tubs line them with foam and cover them with a special material called polyurethane. The foam lining makes these tubs feel soft to the touch. This foam is easy on your muscles when you soak in the tub. And it will cushion you if you happen to fall. The flexible surface keeps you from slipping and is easy to clean.

Look for a tub that has the water controls on the outside tub wall. That way, you'll be able to turn on the water while you stand in the bathroom or sit back in the tub. No need to bend over to reach controls at the far end of the tub.

Using Your Old Tub More Safely

Not ready to buy a new tub? There are many ways to make your old tub safer. First, install some grab bars and hand rails. No tub is safe without them. Does your tub have a non-slip surface? If not, put a non-slip mat on the floor of the tub. And make sure there's a place to put your towel and shampoo so you can reach them without getting up.

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