Shower Chair vs. Tub Transfer Bench: What’s the Difference?

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Updated:

Shower chairs sit inside the tub or shower while tub transfer benches sit half in and half out of a tub. Why is that, and why does it matter? Find out here.

Shower Chair vs. Transfer Bench Difference
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Is your elderly loved one starting to experience balance or mobility issues? If that’s the case, you may be considering bathroom safety seats to help avoid slips, trips, and other accidents in the bathroom.

But with so many confusing alternatives, which one would give the best value? Which one should you pick between a transfer bench and a shower chair? Which provides the safest shower setup for older adults?

This article will help you differentiate between the two and know when to choose one over the other.

What is a Shower Chair?

A shower chair is a water-resistant stool or chair that is placed in showers and bathtubs to help people with mobility or stability issues.

It gives such people a safe and comfortable place to sit while taking a bath, especially those that tire easily or can’t stand for long. Shower chairs are also known as bath seats.

What is a Transfer Bench?

A transfer bench is an alternative to a shower chair with an extended seat that sticks partially out of the bathtub and partially inside. It helps seniors transfer into and out of the bathtub and shower while sitting. It’s also known as a shower bench.

Two of its legs are placed in the tab, while the other two sit on the bathroom floor. This position allows seniors to slide into the bathtub without the need to climb over the edge of the tab, which can be dangerous for a person with mobility or stability issues.

shower chair vs. transfer bench difference what
If you have a small bathroom, then getting a shower chair might be ideal.

What’s the Difference?

Both tub transfer benches and shower chairs have benefits and drawbacks.

For example, they both provide a secure place to sit while showering. They, however, have a few differences, the primary distinction being the kind of location where each is used.

A shower chair is placed inside the shower or tub, while a bench is placed partially on the bathroom floor and partially inside the tub to help go over the edge of the tub.

It is important to note that transfer benches are longer than shower chairs. They assist people in entering and exiting the bathtub but can still be used as shower seats while taking a bath.

Shower chairs are best suited for small bathrooms because they are small. Here are their pros and cons.

Shower Chairs

Pros:

  • Heavy duty, non-slip aluminum body
  • Compact and will fit in bathrooms with limited space
  • Removable
  • Provides full body support when showering
  • Leaves enough space for caregivers

Cons:

  • Cannot offer much support when stepping into and out of the shower or bathtub

Transfer Benches

Pros:

  • Provide full body support when entering and exiting a bathtub
  • Allow you to stay seated while bathing
  • Some models have adjustable seats to help compact them for use as shower chairs
  • Heavy duty, non-slip aluminum body
  • Advanced support for people with injuries, disabilities, and muscle constraints

Cons:

  • Bulky (but some knock-down models are easily taken apart for storage)
  • Cannot be used in confined spaces; you need enough room to sit down, get up, and slide across to the tub comfortably
  • More expensive than transfer chairs
shower chair vs. transfer bench difference when
A shower chair can be used by seniors who are usually stable.

When Should You Use a Shower Chair?

When your loved one can safely enter and exit the tub without any risk of slipping or falling. Such seniors are typically stable, just that they may feel tired after standing for a long while. In such a case, a shower chair will be sufficient.

Shower chairs are also ideal in confined spaces where a transfer bench just won’t fit. However, if they have trouble getting into and out of the tub, install grab bars to have a firm handhold.

RELATED: Best Shower Chairs for Seniors & the Elderly

When Should You Use a Transfer Bench Instead?

A transfer bench is your best option if you usually need a lot of assistance with mobility, and falling is a serious risk. Transfer benches will also be helpful to people who are recovering from surgery or an injury.

Such persons experience problems with their stability, balance, or muscle strength and therefore require a much more advanced support system.

If there is a tall step between your bathroom floor and shower and you have severe mobility limitations, you can also use shower benches. They aid in transitioning from the restroom to the wet shower to reduce any chance of slips and falls at the threshold.

RELATED: Best Tub Transfer Benches for Seniors & the Elderly

Final Thoughts

Although bathing is a basic human need, many seniors struggle with bathing because of multiple muscle-skeletal issues. Bathroom seats and benches will help to reduce the risk of falls and potentially fatal injuries.

Although there are many similarities, benches offer the extra benefit of simplifying bathtub entry and exit.

Compare the advantages and disadvantages of each to choose which suits your needs the best! Which one would be best for you or a loved one?

Sources:

  1. https://carex.com/blogs/resources/buyers-guide-selecting-the-right-shower-seat
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piM6OUzfK0c
  3. https://homecarehospitalbeds.com/5-things-to-know-shower-transfer-benches/
Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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