How to Help the Elderly Get In and Out of the Bathtub

Occupational Therapist
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Safe transfers in the bathroom should be a daily priority for the safety of our elderly loved ones. Here are the most effective ways on how to help the elderly get in and out of the bathtub.

Elderly Get In and Out of the Bathtub
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Hearing about an elderly person falling in the bathroom is unnerving, especially if showering or bathing had a major role in the story.

Bathtub safety should be a daily priority as we age, especially as our stamina, balance, endurance, and overall health change our once agile mobility.

In this article, we will discuss how elderly individuals and their caregivers can assist with entering and exiting the bathtub safely. Plus, we will provide helpful equipment options you can use to make bathtub use and transfers safer for older adults.

Entering Your Tub More Safely 

Before entering the tub, think about your goal: Are you bathing lying down or bathing from a seated position on a bath bench?

This will impact the way you prepare for your transfer and the way your family member or caregiver assists you. 

Let’s get started:

  • Remove all throw rugs and loose towels: As aesthetically pleasing as some throw rugs are, they do not belong in a bathroom because they are a significant tripping hazard. Do not substitute bath mats with towels because there’s no traction, and this will also cause trips and falls. 
  • Ensure you have good lighting in the bathroom to see what you are doing at all times.
  • Go ahead and start the water to fill the tub. However, dry your hands before transferring into the tub, and make sure you have a non-slip surface to work with inside the tub.
  • Make sure all of your towels and soaps are within reach.
  • Undress and prepare for your bath transfer.
  • Keep your knees bent and place both hands on the tub’s ledge. Start one leg at a time, leading with the good foot first. If you have a grab bar in the tub, reach for the grab bar to steady yourself once you have one foot in. 
  • Once you have both feet in the tub, carefully lower yourself into a lying down position using the grab bar and the tub ledge. Keep your spine straight and avoid plopping to the floor. 
  • Do not lie down in the tub for a bath if your doctor orders against it, if you’ve had a recent surgery, or if you can’t get in or out without two-person or mechanical assistance.
elderly get in and out of the bathtub exiting
Hold onto the tub grab bar and tub ledge for support when getting out of the bathtub.

Exiting Your Tub More Safely

Now that you’ve completed your bathing tasks, it’s time to get out. Here’s what we’re going to do:

  • Drain the tub entirely before exiting the tub.
  • Grab that towel nearby and dry your hands, feet, and limbs. Use another towel to dry the tub ledge and lightly dry as much of the tub floor as possible. Grab the tub grab bar and the tub ledge for support while pushing up to a semi-squatting position onto your feet. Recruit most of your strength from your legs.
  • Don’t come to a full standing position until you are out of the tub. Lift one leg out at a time while still supporting yourself on the grab bar and tub ledge. Never grab door knobs or towel racks for extra support. Once you are out, continue with your additional hygiene tasks.

Caregivers: A Few Body Mechanic Tips

Suppose you are an elderly individual who feels more comfortable having a loved one or a personal aide assist you with bathing tasks in the tub.

In that case, these folks need to consider a few body mechanic tips to protect their muscles and joints from injury:

  • Anytime you help with a transfer (for any occasion), bend the knees and keep the back straight. You should use muscles in your legs, not your back, to provide support.
  • If the elderly individual is forgetful or has limited cognitive capacity, don’t forget to give them reminders to grab the grab bars, bend the legs, dry off, etc.
  • Be available in the home if the elderly individual has an emergency in the bathroom. Check on them every few minutes during their bath, but remember to give them their privacy as much as possible.
  • If you find yourself providing support to the point where you need a second person, it may be time to consider some modifications to the bath routine.
elderly get in and out of the bathtub helpful equipment
Here are some bathroom modifications to consider for a more independent bathing experience.

Helpful Equipment Options

If you or your loved ones are considering making modifications to your bathroom to enhance safety during transfers, here are a few popular options depending on your goals and level of independence:

Bathtub Handrail

Ergonomic grab bars can be placed directly on the tub ledge to make transfers in and out of the tub easier.

Grab Bars 

Grab bars can be professionally installed inside and outside of the tub.

Non-Slip Mats 

Non-slip bathroom rugs can be placed outside the tub and combined with non-slip bath mats on the inside of the tub to prevent slippage, loss of balance, and potential falls.

Soap Dispensers

Soap dispensers can be suction cupped or screwed into the bathtub wall at your desired height for easy access and to prevent dropping bottles into the tub.

Bath Benches 

Bathtub transfer benches are draped over the tub ledge as an alternative to lying in the tub. This is especially helpful for folks with limited leg mobility but with decent torso strength.

Removable Showerheads

In combination with the bath bench, you can replace permanent shower head fixtures with removable handheld showerheads to give users more control over water flow.

Hoyer Lifts 

Elderly folks with great use of their upper body but limited function of their lower body and who wish to bathe lying down can still get transferred into the tub via the Hoyer lift.

However, these lifts are relatively large, and you need quite a bit of bathroom space and a dedicated personal aide to pull this off. 

RELATED: How to Keep Elderly Warm While Bathing

Summary And Final Recommendations

Getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up your bathtub time, especially bathing in a lying-down position. In cases of poor health and mobility, there are alternatives to maintaining a safe and independent bathroom experience.

Just remember the importance of practicing safe transfers and protecting your body from unnecessary harm, whether you’re an elderly individual or a helpful caregiver. 

Photo of author

Meredith Chandler, OTR/L

Meredith has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 years and as a content writer for 6 years. She primarily works with the geriatric population, focusing on their rehabilitative needs and instructing caregivers and family members for home care. Her specialties include ADL training, neurological re-education, functional mobility training, adaptive equipment education, and wheelchair assessment and mobility training. She is a painter, a musician, and a mother of 4 who loves spending time with her family,

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