Daily Living

Squeaky clean – accessible bathing


A seemingly simple task like taking a bath or wearing a condom feels like multitasking to someone who suffers from hemiplegia or has only one hand.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

The image of bathing is just lovely.  Deep warm water, bubbles and scented oils, candles, perhaps a glass of wine….  And soaking there until all your troubles, aches and stresses wash away down the plug hole.
But if you can’t get in or out, well, the picture isn’t so attractive, as Mokhonoana eloquently describes above.  So, what is on offer to help us recreate that perfect bathing vision? This post outlines the range of disability bathing aids available.

Accessible baths

If you have decided to replace your existing bath with a more accessible version, then a walk-in bath may be the option for you.

Basically, these have a door in the side, which opens into the bath.  You step in and close the door, this creates a watertight seal, and then you can fill the bath up, and enjoy your soak.  When it’s time to get out, you let out the water, the seal releases and you step through the door again.

Walk-in baths have a range of different options. These include:

  • Seats, including powered options which help you get to a standing position easily.  Some seats are removable so everyone can use the bath without it being in the way
  • Thermostatically controlled taps, so the water doesn’t get too hot (remember you will be in the bath as it fills)
  • Hydro-therapy spa options
  • Headrests
  • Shower- bath options. These also provide a large glass screen so you can shower instead of bathe when you want to
  • Versions which are contoured inside to provide a larger bathing area in a smaller footprint
  • Small versions with the door opening at the end, so that the bath will fit into a small space

Of course, replacing your bath may not be an option.  If you want to keep your existing bath, then there are a range of different products which will help you get in and out.

Bath Boards

This is basically a seat which fits across the top of your bath, and you sit on it get washed.  This means you don’t have to lower yourself down to the bottom of the bath to get washed.  Bath boards are available in a range of designs and sizes, so it should be easy to find something to fit both you, and your bath.

Some boards are adjustable, so they can fit most standard baths.

When choosing, look at user weight limits, sizes, and a larger seating area will be more comfortable.

Some bath boards have handles attached, which provides additional support when you are getting on and off.

This video explains how to use a bath board safely.

Grab rails

If you are still able to get in and out of the bath, but just need some extra support, then a grab rail may be what you need.

This type of grab rail attaches to the side of the bath, providing a sturdy support to help you enter and exit.

A grab bar can help you get in and out of the bath safely

Be careful where you position it though, otherwise you may find it in the way as you swing your legs over the bath.

Bath pillows and cushions

Designed more for comfort than anything else, bath cushions and pillows attach to the bottom or back of the back, so you have a more comfortable surface when you are bathing.  Some versions do cover the whole base of the bath, making the areas non-slip.

Others are inflatable, providing a very slight lift within the bath.  But the main aim is to prevent pressure, and enhance comfort.  Which sounds a good reason to buy one.

Bath steps

An affordable and accessible aid to help you get in and out of the bath is a bath step.  This is literally just as it sounds – a step which you stand on, to aid you getting in and out of the bath.

There are many different versions available, made from a variety of materials, such as plastic and aluminium, cork-topped, or rubber-topped (making it non-slip).

Some bath steps have a built-in hand rail, which gives extra stability.  Some are height adjustable, or modular, so you can stack several together.  Or you can ‘layer’ them so you have several graduated steps down.

A bath step is a great help if you just find that the edge of your bath is too high.  Or if your legs are stiff when you are stepping down, and you find the step down to the floor just too much.

Bath lifts

A bath lift is a battery-operated device that you sit on, and it lowers you down into the bath.  This means you can soak and bathe as normal, and then when you are ready to get out, the lift raises you to the top of the bath, enabling you to get out safely.

Bath lifts usually have a handset which you use to raise and lower the lift.  They need no installation, and are easily removed if you want to take it elsewhere, or if other members of the family want to use the bath.

Most are portable, and some even come with a transport bag (with wheels), so that you can take the lift with you if you go on holiday.

One particularly portable option is the Mangar Bathing Cushion which is a series of cushions which inflate and deflate via a remote control.  This lowers you gently into the bath, and out again when you are finished.  See my review of this product here.

Bath hoists

Bath hoists are a solution if you simply cannot get into the bath any other way.  They are available in both manual and electric versions, and comprise a seat attached to a winching mechanism, which stands at the side of the bath.

You sit on the seat, and then a carer or family member uses the hand-winch, or electric control panel to move you gently across and into the bath.

Bath safety aids

There is a huge range of safety aids that you can use when you are bathing.  This help to avoid slips, falls, scalding or flooding.  For further information see our post on bathing aids.

You may also be interested in our post on showering.  And on toilets and wash basins.

What helps you most when bathing?  Share your ‘best picks’ with the community by leaving a comment below. 

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