Bath Lift or Bathing Aid?

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Should you go for a powered bath lift, or one or more simple, low-tech bathing aids? What are the options for independent bathing with reduced mobility?

Choosing a bath lift

A bath lift can make it possible for many people who are unable to get in and out of the bath safely and comfortably to carry on enjoying a soak.

There are various designs available which will do the raising and lowering without stress for the user.

You need to be able to lift your legs over the side of the bath, once you are seated on the bath lift, unless you choose a solution which includes a powered leg lifter.

Bath lifts may be powered by battery (the vast majority), by water power, or activated by the user’s own slight body movements. They can be operated either by the user or a carer.

You need to give consideration to the strength and balance of the user, before choosing a bath lift. For example, the inflatable type requires good balance and a degree of core strength to be used confidently.

If the bather is not able to balance on their own, then a bath lift with a supportive backrest would be a better choice.
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Bathing cushion available from Manage at Home

Some points to consider when choosing a bath lift are:

• How well can the user balance?

• Can they lift their legs over the edge of the bath?

• Do you want a bath lift that is permanently in position? Or removable, for other family members to bathe?

• Is your bath tub suitable? Acrylic baths may not be strong enough for some removable bath lifts, and corner baths are often not compatible with assistive equipment.

• How good is the user’s dexterity? Some controls are easier to use than others.

• The battery will need recharging frequently – how easy is this? Does it involve carrying a heavy component to a suitable charging point?

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Bath lift with powered leg raiser

Alera Bath from Gainsborough Specialist BathingThe bath shown here includes a seat with a leg lifter – the seat is powered and has an integral leg-lift system to assist with bathing transfers in and out of the bath. The leg-lift facility provides full leg support throughout the transfer process and eliminates the need for carers to lift a bather’s legs up and over the side of the bath.

It will fit in the same space as a traditional bath tub.

You can also get a bath with a powered seat that detaches from the tub and fits to a transfer frame, so that it can be used to transport the bather from bedroom to bathroom.

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Low-tech Bathing Aids

Adjustable bath step from Drive DeVilbissThere are various simple, non-powered aids that can help with using the bath.

A bath step can help, by reducing the height of the step-over into the bath. Some designs have an integral handrail to support the user. Otherwise, they are generally used in combination with some sort of support, such as a grab rail or floor-to-ceiling pole. Reasonable balance and a degree of flexibility in the hips and knees are still required.

Bath boards and seats are helpful for those who are not confident about getting down into the water and out again.

A swivel seat that allows you to seat yourself with your legs outside the bath, then rotate and lift your legs into the bath, provides more support than a bath board.

Boards rest across the top of the bath, and you need to make sure that they are securely fixed in place, to avoid the risk of accident. They tend to be made of strong plastic, or plywood, often slatted or pierced for drainage.

Slatted bath board from Manage at HomeOften, bath boards are used together with a wall-mounted grab rail or a bath grip, which fits around the taps.

Bath boards allow you to sit over the water and wash, but don’t help with getting right in the bath for a soak.

You can get a seat that rests on the bottom of the bath, so that you don’t have so far to go down – and it may be easier to get back up again.

For full immersion in the water, you either need a powered bath lift (above), or a walk-in bath.

All these simple aids can assist somebody whose balance or mobility is reduced, but they do still need enough strength and flexibility in hips and knees to lift their legs over the edge of the bath.
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Further reading and resources

This is a link to our bathroom safety section

See also the bathroom products in the Professional section

Want to change your bath for a shower? Accessible showers are here
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