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Why Seating in Showers and Baths Helps Many People

Why Seating in Showers and Baths Helps Many People

One of the simplest yet most effective disability aids for the bathroom is seating equipment for the shower or the bath itself. Being able to stand up for the whole duration of a shower is something most people take for granted, yet there are numerous disabilities and chronic conditions which may prevent it.

Whether it’s down to a general loss of strength or balance, or a particular condition which leads to a reduction of one or both, standing can become difficult. Those who develop tremors in all or localised parts of the body may also prefer to sit down than stand up as they wash themselves. Many associated conditions are more commonly found in people over the age of 60.

Slipping or falling in the shower or bath can lead to serious injuries, especially in the elderly. Broken hips or other bones may lead to secondary illness, so avoiding the initial fall is paramount.

When using the bath itself, some people have difficulty lowering and raising themselves in and out. A bath seat can help this process by reducing the distance of travel - we’ll come on to this later.

Free standing seating for the shower

Essential Aids supplies a range of high quality freestanding shower chairs, ideal for general use in the bathroom. Many of these are made with materials which mean they are suitable for environments like wet rooms or inside a shower cubicle.

Ensuring the use of non-corrosive metals and plastics is key. Rusting components are not only an eyesore, but may also lead to safety issues, if fixings like screws wear and become loose.

A combination of aluminium for the frame and plastic for the seat itself is now the most commonly found combination. Aluminium doesn’t readily rust, is lightweight and rigid. This makes it ideal for items like shower stools which may need to be regularly moved in and out of the cubicle by those with reduced strength.

It is an important design consideration for the seat to drain well. Standing water could make it easy for someone to slide on, so either a slight tilt to the seat or surface drainage holes reduce this problem.

An Essential Aids shower chair may come with a backrest and armrests as standard. These offer that bit more support than a stool, but do take up more room. They are also slightly more awkward to maneuvre in and out of the cubicle, so make sure you take account of this before choosing one. Carefully measuring the relevant gaps and floor space available is a good idea.

Shower stools are available with either three or four legs. The four legged versions tend to be larger and more stable, so are probably the best option for anyone who has compromised balance.

All models come with rubber or plastic feet on the end of each leg. These are an important safety feature which minimise the chances of the stool slipping on the floor of the shower and protect it from damage.

These feet are known as ‘ferrules’ and can be periodically replaced if they wear out. They are the same as those found on walking sticks and crutches.

The height of the stool in a shower is an important consideration, especially if the user’s flexibility and ability to stand up and sit down unassisted is a factor.

A shower chair or stool will in most cases be height adjustable. In the majority of designs, this is achieved via ‘pin-clips’ in each leg. Each leg extends and has a number of lengths which it can be set to. Some chairs do not have this feature, so be careful to check before buying one, if the height is likely to be a key factor.

For some people, the act of sitting down and standing back up again is very difficult, so they need a particularly high seat in order to minimise the distance of travel. If even the highest setting still leaves the chair or stool too low to use, it might be worth considering a perching stool.

Many perching stools are designed with water tolerant materials and are great for use in the shower. They are much taller than conventional stools, making sitting down and standing up from them an easier process.

They have a sloping seat, which allows the user to ‘perch’ on the edge, with their feet still flat on the floor. Using this method, weight is partially relieved from the body and the user ‘semi-sits’ on the stool.

Again, it’s wise to pay special attention to the available floor space in the shower cubicle. Perching stools tend to have splayed legs in order to maintain stability, which increases the size of their footprint. So, make sure you measure everything and check the stool’s measurements before purchasing one.

Fixed seats which fold down

If your shower cubicle is small, it might not be practical to position a free-standing shower chair on the floor within it. As a space saver, a seat which folds down when in use but folds up out of the way at other times, might be the answer!

Essential Aids does a range of wall-mounted shower seats, all of which have been chosen for their quality and robust properties. All feature either slatted seats or which have some other method of drainage.

While some flip out and are unsupported from the floor, most models have hinged legs which rest on the showe cubicle’s floor. This gives them greater weight tolerance, making them suitable for heavier individuals.

Some Essential Aids shower seats are designed to fold down and fit snugly in the corner of a cubicle. These are ideal in particularly tight shower environments.

A fold-down shower seat is also a good idea if the cubicle is regularly used by more than one person.

You should always use a qualified professional to do the fitting of any wall mounted seat. It’s important the correct fixings are used and that the installer knows what type of wall the seat is being fixed to.

Bath seats

Getting in and out of the bath may be difficult if you have flexibility, mobility, strength or balance issues. While grab rails can assist with the process, actually sitting down and standing back up again is for some people, a daily struggle. Luckily, bath aids are available which help.

Bath seats shorten the distance of travel from a standing position to a seating one, therefore reducing the stress on the body involved in the transition.

Effectively raising the height of the floor of the bath, a bath seat is a simple aid which allows someone to continue using their bath independently, while reducing the physical exertion required to do so.

If you do have issues with your balance, then it’s obviously imperative that the bath seat is stable and fits the bath concerned. Check the specification and footprint measurements and make sure your bath is of suitable size.

Most seats clamp the sides or have large suckers on the feet which create a firm bond with the bath floor.

Bath and shower boards

These boards straddle the width of the bathtub, again providing somewhere to sit while you wash. As with bath seats and shower stools, they take the weight off the person’s feet, reducing the stress on their body.

Bath boards clamp firmly to the bath and are available in a number of sizes, so you should be able to find one which fits your bathtub.

Using shower and bath seating in combination with grab rails

If you find that sitting down as you wash is of benefit, support rails next to the seating might also help. Bath aids like this provide security as you get up and sit down, and generally improve your stability.

You can have these fitted within a shower cubicle, next to the bath, toilet or wash basin. Grab rails are available with low profile designs, so they blend in with your bathroom furniture and don’t look unsightly.

Some types of grab rail are straight and available in different lengths, so you should be able to find one to suit you. Others are curved or angled, giving you different kinds of support.

Perching stool at the sink

As mentioned above, perching stools are another form of seating for the bathroom, allowing the user to ‘sit-stand’. While they are often used within the cubicle, they are also useful for the washbasin. With your feet flat on the floor, you can perch on the edge of the stool, taking the weight off your feet while keeping your hands free.

They are much taller than conventional stools, meaning the user doesn’t endure the strain of sitting down and standing up again, but maintain themselves in an upright, supported position.

General points on bathroom seating

Any shower stool, bath seat, perching stool or other seating equipment for the bathroom needs to be made for use in wet environments where there is likely to be a high air-moisture level.

It’s of paramount importance that these items are made using non-corrosive materials, both for the longevity of the product and the safe usage. Seating is usually best used alongside bath aids like long-handled washing tools and other inventive products, many of which Essential Aids specialises in supplying.

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Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1996 and is a well-respected professional in the field of rehabilitation equipment and living aids. She has worked in private practice and within the NHS, developing a broad experience with adults and children. Click here for Sally's registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. The HCPC regulates health, psychological and social work professionals in the UK.

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