Finding a shower chair for an elderly user
As we age, it’s almost guaranteed that our mobility will reduce.
The motions involved in bathing are actually among some of the more complex for our body to accommodate. Reaching, bending and stabilising ourselves may seem like second nature, but the reduction in our maneuverability will start to make these difficult. Many within our senior community will look for an inexpensive shower stool to sit in the bath or shower. These may do the job early on, but typically don’t offer great support, nor are they capable of adjusting around evolving needs.
In this guide, we’ll explain some of the important considerations around finding a shower chair for an elderly person, whether that’s you, your parent, partner or client.
MODEL SB1: The modular chair and track system is designed to clear raised shower tray edges. Once the chair is locked in the shower position the front bridge tracks can be remove to aid carer access.
Determining the level of mobility impairment
Understanding exactly the current degree to which movement is reduced is a good idea before even starting the search for a shower chair. This is because there could be underlying factors that need healthcare providers to address first. An occupational or physical therapist can also provide you more specific criteria around what you need from a bathing support.
The problem with basic stools for the elderly user
A basic shower stool won’t be sufficient for safe transferring in and out of a shower or bathtub, nor will it be helpful if you require support using the toilet. Difficulty with bathing will be due to certain motor functions that can also make other daily tasks hard too. This is why it’s important to seek the help of an OT.
For OTs (Occupational Therapists)
If you are an OT, consider whether your client would benefit from a shower chair that serves only as in-shower support, or a solution that is all-in-one from bathing to commode to transfers.
Living with family or alone with a carer?
The next consideration is around what sort of living situation the mobility impaired elderly user is in. A showerchair that only serves as a waterproof seat and nothing else will be difficult for another elderly person such as a partner to help them with – it could even be dangerous.
Families are commonly the support people for a senior navigating reduced movement, but they’re less trained when it comes to supporting movements. This means there’s a higher chance of injury due to improper support technique as the family member assists the elderly user into and out of the shower.
Alone with a carer
On the other hand, some elderly people will be living alone but with the support of community / aged living carers. While these roles are more equipped to observe safe support lifting practices, they’re still at risk of injury every day.
A shower chair should make both families or carers’ lives easier. We’d suggest looking for a solution that removes some of those more risky movements.
Do you need an option that suits a bathtub?
Simply moving house to something more practical for an elderly person’s reduced mobility isn’t straight forward. More often than not, anyone looking for a shower chair will be doing so with a specific bathroom in mind. It’s why our systems are designed to fit in most bathrooms around the globe.
If you’ve got a bathtub at home, your shower seat is going to have to meet a few key criteria in order to be a safe option:
- Does it have sufficient grip to the floor of the tub?
- Does it have stabilising on the side of the chair to keep it from tipping over or slipping?
- Does the chair still provide enough room for movement and transferring in and out of the tub?
- Does the chair still offer comfort while showering?
- Is it simple to transfer out of the bath from the seat?
Unfortunately many products on the market fail to do all of these. Showerbuddy’s SB2 and SB2T systems do offer these functions and much more – head over to our Transfer Range page for more information on this.
Swivel action shower seat for access
This one is so often missed for elderly users who have a family member or carer helping them. But it’s certainly noticed once the shower chair is installed and bathing support becomes a chore.
Assisting the support person and user
Having the ability to swivel the seat around offers more access for a support person to help bathing. It also offers elderly users a more complete, comfortable showering experience as they don’t have to make as much movement to get full coverage from the shower.
What kind of swivelling action?
A swivelling shower chair ideally can move 360 degrees, although any degree of adjustment is better than nothing. However, it’s important to make sure that the chair is still sturdy when the seat is moved around, otherwise the chair isn’t worth using.
On the move
Can the chair be removed and taken elsewhere?
Our community of senior users are great ones for going on holiday. They’re also likely to move a number of times over the course of their retirement, whether it’s to a new, more accommodating home or to lodge with their adult children.
For those going on holiday, the preference would be to take their familiar shower chair solution with them, rather than relying on supplied options at their destination (if these are even available). This is why anyone travelling frequently may want to consider a pack-down travel shower chair. A travel option is also perfect for seniors visiting their families.
Avoiding permanent damage to new bathrooms
For any shower chair solution that is permanently fixed, removal and repair can be costly. There’s also risk of damage of permanent fixtures during removal, transport and re-installation elsewhere. And then there’s the matter of whether installing permanent fixtures in a new home is even possible. Most families would prefer that assistive bathroom equipment can be removed quickly if needed.
If you’re researching shower chairs that require destructive installation such as drilling holes into a bathroom wall, we’d urge you to investigate options like Showerbuddy that require no permanent modification.
What about folding chairs?
Are foldable shower chairs really a good option for senior citizens?
Foldable shower chairs come in a variety of qualities – and if built right, they can offer some support. But there’s some fundamental issues with even the best fold away shower benches:
1. Fixed in place
They require permanent fixture to the wall (sometimes the brackets and bracing are sizeable given the importance of a strong hold).
2. Poor support
They don’t offer much in the way of additional body support beyond a seat
3. More physical effort
Transfers off these are still very much a manual process.
Learn more about Showerbuddy’s range ideal for elderly users
Are you interested in a shower chair solution that doesn’t just provide seniors with more comfort and support during bathing, but a totally strain-free transfer system and full commode solution? Head over to our products section to browse the range.
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