Why manual transfers aren’t a good idea for mobility impaired individu – Showerbuddy

Why manual transfers aren’t a good idea for mobility impaired individuals

Why manual transfers aren’t a good idea for mobility impaired individuals

Showerbuddy |

In certain individuals, coming to terms with a reduced level of mobility can be a tough thing to go through. Accepting that particular movements that once were second nature to complete are now much more difficult is not easy.
In fact, it’s very common for a person to continue attempting motion and manoeuvres well beyond the point at which they’ve lost the ability to manage these independently. This can cause some stress for those around them, as well as put them at risk of a fall or injury.


In the case of bathroom use, an element of daily life that is traditionally a very personal affair, this loss of ability is the source of much frustration. Getting into the shower or bathtub may start to become a struggle that necessitates help from someone else. Many of us are not hardwired to seek this help out. But there’s another risk here, too – even with the help of another able-bodied individual, moving someone into and out of a shower is extremely risky to both parties as well.

So what can one do?

In this article, we’re going to explain the reasons why relying solely upon another person isn’t the best way to go about accessing the bath. Luckily, there’s a much better way available (more on that later).

They put the user at risk of slips and falls

Slips and falls in the bathroom are very commonplace, to the point where many health and safety authorities around the world prioritise the bathroom as the setting for their public service announcements. The bathroom by nature of what occurs here is a wet and slippery environment. Steam that settles on the floor and other surfaces along with direct water from a recent shower offers many risks to the household of falling over.
Now, add the difficulty of carrying another person’s weight over the awkward edge of a shower and you’ll quickly realise that the bathroom is maybe the worst place to try such a task. Without very good training, technique and strict measures around drying all surfaces constantly, the manual transfer opens up the possibility of dropping or slipping with a mobility impaired individual. The injuries from such a fall (especially someone who doesn’t have the coordination to break their fall) can be serious.


Some users who have a moderate level of mobility still, may even try to keep accessing the shower alone without the help of anyone else at all. This provides a real risk of accidents and worse, being left alone injured without someone nearby to help.

The carer is at risk of injury

Carers incur many injuries each year from carrying their clients. There’s many awkward body positions that a carer may be subjected to, especially if their client lacks the physical ability to make the movement easier (i.e. position themselves for an easy carrying position), or there is a mental disability that prevents easy cooperation through the transfer.
Shifting weight distribution commonly causes back and neck injuries to carers the world over. Even highly experienced carers can suffer from fatigue which renders them less able to maintain perfect lifting and movement technique.
Injuries to carers may occur in one awkward movement, or can build up over sustained repetitions of carrying their clients. Either eventuating is a problem – the carer is off work for a period of recovery time, and the mobility impaired individual needs a replacement carer. Where the bathroom and other private matters are concerned, this can be a big disruption as a new carer needs to build up trust with the individual.


Carers need to be protected the same as their clients. A manual transfer doesn’t just require strength but coordination and stability on both sides of the shower edge – bathroom floor and shower floor. Either of these surfaces being slippery and the risk of fall is greatly increased.

Family members aren’t able to safely help their loved one

A support network for a mobility impaired individual is made up of multiple people, including:

  • Carer
  • Partner
  • Adult children
  • Parents
  • Friends
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Doctor (GP)

The bathroom routine is very private, and so many individuals prefer to opt for a family member to help them during the most vulnerable moments of bathroom usage. When lifting over the edge of a bath or shower, family members who aren’t professionally trained up to help are at great risk of an injury to them or their loved one. And it’s not particularly fair on family members to put the pressure of transferring into the bath on them. Oftentimes there will be a key family member responsible for a lot of the care – including cooking meals, cleaning the bedroom, taking to doctor appointments and many other things. If that key person is injured through a manual transfer, they’re rendered incapable of doing any of those things. Similarly, if a family member is responsible for bringing in income to the family through work, they risk this by attempting manual transfers of their mobility impaired loved one.

It’s difficult to mount a chair inside the shower from a manual transfer

Once the transfer into the bathtub or shower unit has been completed successfully, the job isn’t over. If there is a standalone shower stool installed, the clearance across the edge is only the first part. After this, the user needs to be placed into the seat, positioned in such a way that they’re able to remain stable and easy to bathe (either solo or with the help of a carer).

The gap between the edge of a shower and that stool can sometimes be an awkward distance with the carer unable to get into the shower with the individual to complete that last part of the movement. The care often then needs to somehow stabilise themselves half in, half out of the shower unit and place their client properly.

It’s easy to imagine the difficulty this part of the routine can present on both people involved. Unless the individual has some level of control over their own weight and body position to assist this process of mounting the chair, expect some challenges.

Slippery surfaces and supporting one’s own weight

Some individuals will try and support some of the transfer themselves, by using upper body strength to manoeuvre.
There’s a big problem here – every surface of the bathroom is likely to have some level of moisture on it. Even a strong upper body grip can be negated by a slipped bath edge, show chair frame or even grab bar. The transfer of body weight in a wet environment creates risk.

Manual transfers take longer

We all have daily routines and things we want to get done each day – regardless of our level of mobility. The bathroom routine will also include toilet use, washing up and things like shaving, doing hair or any other personal preferences. When the day’s planned out or there’s a number of other family members needing their time in the bathroom, this routine for a mobility impaired person can start to take a significant amount of time.
While everyone will no doubt understand that their loved one needs more time, there are aspects of the process that can be made far more efficient by replacing manual transfers with assistive equipment.


The process of preparing, lifting, carrying and placing someone over into a shower chair can take a while. It may even require a few attempts some days. There’s a much better way to do this that’s safer and faster.

A better transfer solution

Consider the downsides of a manual transfer: lack of control, no stability, inability to carry weight safely, positioning of the individual into a shower stool. Why should it be down to people to take care of this.

The good news is it’s not.

Showerbuddy’s range of bathroom mobility solutions build in all aspects of bathroom use into complete systems. We take care of the transfer in and out of the shower, use of the toilet and bathing itself all whilst the user is kept seated. Essentially, the user can be seated before they even enter the bathroom, and remain seated through all of their routine until they’re safely back in the bedroom again. They’re kept stable and comfortable with a brilliantly designed chair that includes many safety features. And the whole thing can be managed by a family member or carer without any need for them to lift their loved one in the bathroom.

Our solutions have even considered things like mounting from bed, with arms that fold away to make this process easy.

Further reading

Enjoyed this article? You may be interested in these resources online:

The information in this article is intended as general information only and is not a replacement for official health guidance by your local medical providers. Please always consult an occupational therapist and/or local healthcare for more specific guidance.