Some seniors and older adults have trouble getting in and out of a tub or shower because they struggle to lift their legs over the tub wall. However, there are solutions to this challenging problem.
One solution is completely replacing the tub with a walk-in model. But, that isn’t feasible for a lot of people. This is where tub transfer benches come into the picture.
One half of a transfer bench is on the outside of the tub, and the other is on the inside. So, it straddles the tub wall. Seniors simply sit on the part on the outside and then scoot across to the inside while seated without risking a loss of balance or tripping over the tub edge.
Here is what you need to know about using a tub transfer bench and some of my favorites.
Carex Transfer Bench
Vive Health Transfer Bench
Transfer Bench Buying Guide
Before you use any bath safety equipment, make sure you know all about it first. Misusing or using the wrong equipment for the job can lead to injury. Consult with your doctor or other health care professional about your decision.
Types of Transfer Benches
Here are the basic types of bathtub transfer benches:
1. Basic Adjustable Transfer Bench
The basic shower transfer bench will have an aluminum frame with four legs (two inside and two outside the tub). These legs are adjustable in height so that you can level the bench.
Most basic benches also have a backrest and a handle to hold onto while sliding. They are generally made of plastic components mounted to an aluminum frame since they are exposed to water.
2. Sliding Tub Transfer Benches
Siding bathtub transfer benches have a seat that moves along rails. So you don’t have to scoot yourself manually while transferring into the tub. The seat itself moves with you.
The higher-end models even have backrests and armrests for comfort and safety.
3. Padded Bath Transfer Benches
Some models have padded seats which are, of course, more comfortable than a hard plastic seat. Especially if it takes you a bit of time to bathe.
The tradeoff for this comfort is that padded benches don’t last as long. Usually, the padding is foam covered by a water-resistant fabric or vinyl. Over time, these fabrics break down and start to crack. At that point, they need to be replaced. The cracks can cause injuries to your skin, and mold will begin to grow inside the cushion.
I recommend a padded transfer bench with polyurethane foam over vinyl-covered foam. This type of padding doesn’t crack and holds up much better.
4. Larger Benches for Heavier People.
Bariatric tub transfer benches are reinforced and have more support than standard benches. So, if you weigh more than 250 lbs, pay close attention to the weight capacity. If you are over 300 lbs, opt for a bariatric shower transfer bench.
Don’t risk your safety by using a product that supports less than your weight!
Bench Seating Options
There are many different seating options available for a transfer bench. You will find everything from flat, plastic seats to sliding seats that do most of the work for you. Some models offer seats that rotate to make it easier to get off after bathing.
I generally recommend getting the best seat you can afford. But, at a minimum, try to choose a bench with a contoured seat that has some curves to fit you more naturally. Hard plastic benches are ok for short showers but not for much longer than a few minutes. Padded seats are, of course, more comfortable.
Most benches today have backrests, thankfully. Backrests are important if you think about the person who needs a transfer bench. These people often have problems with balance and weakness, so having a backrest gives them support and keeps them from falling backward off the bench. There are padded backrests available. I also like adjustable backrests where you can set the height to match the person using it.
Armrests can be a good thing for most people because they give you somewhere to rest your arms, and they also provide some security that you aren’t going to fall off the side.
But they can get in the way of your transfers – especially when getting on and off of the bench. If you want armrests, make sure they flip back out of the way so that there is no interference.
The floor of most tubs is an inch or two higher than the bathroom floor. Having a bench with adjustable legs is important because they allow you to level the bench when you set it up. You never want to use a bench that wobbles or rocks when you sit on it.
Other adjustability options include the back height and the armrest height on some options. Most benches are also adjustable to fit right and left-hand uses – you just have to assemble the that way in the beginning.
Size and Weight Capacity
You can buy a transfer bench in many different sizes – some are longer than others. This is a matter of personal preference as long as the bench you choose fits your tub. You need to have enough of the bench on the outside of the tub so that you can get on and off easily. You also want the bench to be long enough on the inside of the tub that it supports you fully when your feet are facing forward.
You should also know the weight of the person using the bench and ensure they are under the stated weight capacity of the bench you choose.
As I explained earlier, backrests and armrests are important safety features for people with poor balance and trunk weakness. A seat belt is another safety option available on some models.
Make sure the feet have some type of non-skid feature to them so that the tub transfer bench doesn’t move while you are using it. A better option is to get one that has suction cups on the side that goes in the tub. You can use these to lock it into position and reduce the chance of it moving. A second option is one that has rubber caps over the leg tips.
If you order a transfer bench online, it is most likely going to be unassembled. But, most tub transfer benches are easy to put together. Most don’t even require tools – you just insert a tube into another one and lock it with metal push pins.
Note that some options are right-handed or left-handed. You want to ensure the part with the backrest and handle is on the inside of the tub. So, you need to know which way your tub is oriented before assembling it.
Using standard shower curtains with a transfer bench often causes a wet mess outside of the tub because it straddles the tub wall. But there are ways to handle this. Check out my guide to using a transfer bench in the shower for more information.
Best Shower Transfer Bench and Tub Transfer Bench Reviews
Here are reviews of some of the tub transfer benches that I recommend. These recommendations are based on my professional experience working for medical equipment manufacturers and a durable medical equipment provider. Many of these products I have personally used and recommended to patients and clients in the past.
My top pick and best tub transfer bench overall is this one from Platinum Health. The Carousel has every comfort and safety feature that I recommend in a sliding tub transfer bench.
Let’s start with the seat. It is padded, has a backrest, and even padded armrests. Plus, it slides on a track, so you won’t even have to scoot yourself over. The seat even swivels, so it is easy to get on and off of. When you are ready to get off, just turn the seat around toward the edge and use the armrests to push yourself up.
It is also padded with polyurethane foam and contoured to fit a person’s natural curves. This type of padding lasts much longer than the vinyl-covered foam that less expensive chairs have.
Speaking of expense, this is one of the more expensive transfer benches, so it is a bit of a budget buster.
But, the Carousel sliding transfer bench is durable and long-lasting because it’s built with a sturdy aluminum frame that can support up to 330lbs.!
Finally, you even get a seat belt just for an extra bit of security – especially since the seat rotates and could possibly affect your balance.
- Padded armrests are comfortable and help you stand
- Backrest prevents falling backwards
- Sliding seat also swivels making it easier to use
- Long lasting padded and contoured seat
- Supports up to 330 lbs
- Higher priced than some others
Moen Glacier Plastic Tub Transfer Bench
This Moen bench offers an entirely different look than the other products on my list. You can tell that Moen created this one with design in mind! It looks terrific and comes in a clean white color.
While the seat does not slide, it is wide enough to fit larger users. It’s ADA compliant with a total weight capacity of 400lbs. This is why it’s one of the best bariatric transfer shower benches. It’s definitely the most stylish option out there, even if it is a plastic tub transfer bench.
Instead of having two legs outside the tub, this one has one leg with a long foot which makes up for the stability of four legs. Above it is a firm grip handle that you can hold onto for extra stability.
The legs adjust from 16.5 to 21 inches, so they should fit most tubs and showers. I love that it includes holders for a cup and a shower head!
This transfer bench is a great choice for the older adult who wants something more than a piece of medical equipment. Moen makes an entire line of accessories in the Glacier line that matches it too!
- Stylish look and design
- Strong enough for bariatric use
- The seat includes a backrest
- Includes holder for a handheld shower head
- It has a handle to hold onto
- No sliding seat; you must scoot
- The seat is not padded
Drive Bariatric Transfer Bench
This bariatric transfer bench is made by a well-known medical supplier, is designed for larger people, and holds up to 500 lbs. It’s non-sliding but has a wide bath seat and a backrest. Both are made from durable plastic, but they aren’t padded.
The frame is solid, and there is no wobbling. The legs have suction cups, which help hold them in place while using the bench.
Drainage holes are included for quick drying and keep you from feeling like you are sitting in a puddle.
Another plus is that the Drive Medical transfer bench is reversible, so you can set it up either way you like. You won’t need tools for installation, and the adjustable seat height changes to fit almost any tub using ½-inch increments.
- Very heavy duty for large seniors
- Affordable Price
- Reversible to face either direction
- Tool-less adjustments and installation
- The seat does not slide
- No padding if you need it
Platinum Health Gateway Premium Sliding Transfer Bench
This transfer bench is very similar to the Carousel model I also reviewed. But, there are some critical differences.
Like the Carousel model, it’s a sliding bench with a padded seat and backrest. There are no armrests for the user, but there is a padded assist handle to help get on and off of it.
Also, like the Carousel, the Gateway padding is made from polyurethane, which is comfortable and doesn’t irritate your skin. The seat of this swivel tub transfer seat turns a full 360 degrees and can be locked every 90 degrees.
It is also one of the few sliding transfer seats with drainage holes.
The seat on the Carousel has better padding and is more comfortable than the Gateway. But, I like that the gateway comes in this more muted tan color rather than the bright blue option. Not every senior wants to draw attention to their medical equipment.
You probably noticed that the Gateway model costs less than the Carousel too! (At publishing time at least)
- Excellent features for a great price
- Reversible with adjustable legs to fit most bathrooms
- The sliding seat does some of the work for you
- Excellent quality and highly rated
- Transfer handle included
- No armrests on the seat
Platinum Health HydroGlyde Premium Sliding Bath Transfer Bench
The HydroGlide has a different look because of the commode opening.
However, this cut-out in the seat is convenient because it makes a thorough cleaning more manageable. It allows easy access to the groin area for good hygiene of those body parts. Best of all, you can stay seated. No standing or squatting that might risk a fall.
The cut-out piece pops out quickly. Plus, it simply snaps into place when you want it back in. A holder bracket is included so that it is always near.
The bench frame is made from aluminum and supports up to 420 lbs.
The legs are adjustable to change the seat height, and a safety belt is included for added safety. There is even a padded assist handle on the side. Since you will probably be using a handheld shower head, a holder for one is included.
So, if you need a commode opening for toileting or perineal care, I recommend the HydroGlyde because it also has many of the features of my top pick.
- Commode opening for perineal cleaning
- Strong and heavy duty
- The sliding seat helps with getting in the tub
- Assist handle helps to get on and off
- The shower head holder included
- The seat does not swivel like some of the other models
Carex Padded Transfer Bench with Commode
This Carex tub transfer bench is a great choice if you need the commode opening but maybe not the other higher-end features.
This bench is comfortable because of the added padding that covers the backrest. Note, though, that this is padding with a vinyl cover, so it will eventually crack and split and need to be replaced.
Because it comes with a commode bucket, you could even use this outside of the bathroom as a padded bedside commode with a wide seat.
But, overall, this is a quality, well-built transfer bench that is affordable and comfortable too!
- Comfortable padded seat and backrest
- Lower priced than some other padded commode benches
- Includes commode bucket
- Vinyl-covered seats will split over time
Medline Padded Transfer Bench
The next recommendation on my list is the Medline Padded Transfer Bench which has a comfortable padded seat and back (although the padding is the vinyl-covered type).
It doesn’t have all the other features I recommend, but I realize not everyone wants all those extra options. This is a highly capable tub transfer bench that will get the job done and will last a long time. It even supports up to 400 pounds!
This one is a great choice for someone who just wants a basic transfer bench that is comfortable to use too.
- Comfortable padded seat and back
- Supports up to 400 pounds
- Simple basic bench that is easy to use
- Uses vinyl-covered padding that could degrade over time
Vive Health Adjustable Transfer Bench
If you just want a more universal tub transfer bench that is also built well and will get the job done for you, I recommend the Vive Health Adjustable Transfer Bench.
It isn’t going to be as comfortable as the others because it lacks padded and a contoured seat. But, if you or your loved one are the types that do not take long showers and aren’t susceptible to skin problems, that probably isn’t a big deal.
This one is well built, easy to assemble, yet it is also one of the more affordable and safe adjustable transfer benches available. It supports up to 300 lbs.
- Inexpensive but functional tub transfer bench
- Clean white appearance
- Includes backrest
- Suction cup feet for anchoring in the tub
- Lower weight capacity than some (300 lbs)
Alternatives to Tub Transfer Benches
If you or your loved one are having trouble getting in and out of the bathtub/shower, a transfer bench can help tremendously. But, there are some other alternatives and options out there to consider.
1. Caregiver Assistance
A family member or hired caregiver could assist the person while they are getting in and out of the bathtub. However, this option will be perceived as a loss of dignity and independence for many seniors and elderly people. But, a well-trained caregiver is invaluable.
2. Grab Bars
An inexpensive alternative might be to install a grab bar instead. A grab bar installed vertically on the wall at the shower edge provides a stable place to hold onto while stepping over the tub edge. You could combine this with a shower chair so that you have a place to sit once you are inside.
Another grab bar type of option would be to use a product like the Medline Bathtub Safety Grab Bar. You clamp this onto the tub edge, providing a raised handle to hold onto when getting in and out of the tub or shower.
Medline Bathtub Safety Grab Bar
I’d only recommend this for someone who needs minimal assistance, though, because it does require a fair amount of standing.
3. A Shower Chair
Shower chairs provide you with a seat once you are in the tub, but they don’t assist much with getting in and out. If you can get over the tub wall without difficulty and can manage a shower chair transfer, you may want to consider a shower chair instead. You can see my guide to the best shower chairs here if you’d like to learn more about this option.
4. A Bath Lift
I’ve had many elderly people tell me that they miss taking a good, immersive bath in a tub full of hot water. If this sounds like you or your loved one, you might want to take a closer look at bath lifts.
Bath lifts are mechanized chairs that sit inside the bathtub. Using a motor with remote control, they lower you into the tub and then raise you back up again when you are ready. Many models have flaps that fold down onto the tub edge when they are in the raised position. These flaps help you get onto the lift, much like transfer benches. You sit on the flap, which is supported by the tub edge, then scoot over onto the lift and rotate your feet into the tub.
I have a detailed guide to the best bath lifts you can read here if you’d like to explore this alternative.
Summary and Final Recommendations
Bathtub and shower transfer benches help seniors, and the elderly get in and out of the tub more safely. This is because you do not have to lift your legs over the tub edge when using a transfer bench.
The best tub transfer benches have sliding, padded seats with backrests and armrests. They should be well built, have an adjustable seat height, and be easy to install. Most importantly, they should be stable once set up and not rock or be unsteady.
Have you ever used a bathtub transfer bench? Do you have any additional tips or advice to share? Leave them in the comments below! Tell me about your experience.
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