As we age, and sometimes as we accumulate health issues, our stamina and capacity for standing for certain periods diminish, contributing to our risk of falling.
This reduction in stamina is especially noticeable for seniors when participating in showering or bathing tasks because both are naturally exhausting.
Thankfully, we live in a day and age where shower chairs are plentiful in size, color, and adaptability so that seniors can now SIT while showering.
This article openly discusses how to properly use a shower chair, tips for using shower chairs safely, and advice about who should NOT use shower chairs.
We will also discuss what accessories make even the best shower chairs better for enhancing the safe showering experience.
How To Use A Shower Chair
Properly using a shower chair depends on the make and model you decide to get. The bare-minimum shower chair comes in the form of a stool with four legs that typically suction-cup to the bottom of the shower floor.
However, some shower chairs come with additional bells and whistles, including:
- Height-adjustable legs
- Height-adjustable back
- Pored, drainable seat
- Removable, height-adjustable armrests
Shower chairs also come in several models to accommodate various weight capacities, including the bariatric population. Even better, many shower chairs are fairly cheap, which is helpful in a world where most health insurance won’t provide coverage.
Shower chairs are relatively easy to use. Simply place the shower chair into the shower, securing the suction cups to the floor. Ensure all height-adjustable features are set to meet the senior’s unique transfer needs.
In other words, make sure the height is tall enough so they won’t feel stranded but low enough so they won’t feel like they’re sitting on top of Mount Everest.
Tips For Using A Shower Chair Safely
Although using a shower chair is relatively intuitive, there are many ways to use a shower chair incorrectly and unsafely.
So, in the name of safety and increased independence, let’s provide a few tips for seniors in utilizing shower chairs at home in a safe manner:
Make Sure Your Shower Chair Fits Correctly
Think twice about placing a shower chair in a shower-tub combination. Sometimes, if forced, a shower chair will fit in a tub. However, it’s usually best to just go with a tub transfer bench that drapes over the edge of the tub.
A shower chair that doesn’t fit properly and is rubbing into the tub’s edges is more prone to tipping over while in use. Shower chairs are designed for walk-in showers.
Adjust Your Height for Every Unique Scenario.
If your stamina is low, consider increasing the height to make transfers a little easier. If you’ve just had a hip or knee replacement and you’ve been medically approved for showering, keep the height elevated to risk popping out the new joint.
Consider Getting a Shower Chair with a Back
This is especially important if you have weaker core strength or if you’re prone to dizziness. If you struggle with sitting for long periods unsupported, think about purchasing a shower chair with back support to prevent falls.
Treat It Like An Important Piece of Equipment
Don’t let your grandchildren play on your shower chair. Small parts loosen, and wear and tear show sooner, compromising the chair and placing you at risk for injury. If you share the shower with others, especially small children, make sure it’s removed before others enter the shower.
Sit Down Slowly Using the Arms
When attempting to sit down in a shower chair with armrests, guide yourself back by placing one hand on one arm first and then the other to prevent “plopping” into the seat and potentially knocking the chair off the suction cups.
Who Should NOT Use A Shower Chair
In some unique cases, shower chairs are not an appropriate adaptive tool for seniors and can, in fact, increase their risk for falls and injury. This includes anyone with severely limited strength in their torso.
If someone with limited core strength attempts to shower in a shower chair, even in one with back support, they can slide out or fall sideways and onto the shower floor.
Anyone with the following impairments may not be an appropriate candidate for shower chair use:
- Stroke with hemiplegia (especially if it affects the torso)
- Spinal cord injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic brain injury
- Parkinson’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Cerebral palsy
Some seniors with severe cognitive impairments may not be appropriate candidates for shower chairs either unless they receive a lot of assistance from others.
They may not understand a shower chair’s importance or basic functions or may be at risk of using it unsafely or inappropriately. This may be the case for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or severe mental illness.
There are wonderful alternatives to shower chairs for seniors living with restricted mobility if you’d rather use something else. Options include:
- Shower wheelchairs
- 3-in-1 commodes
- Reclinable shower chairs
- Walk-in tubs with extensive supervision
How to Use a Shower Chair Correctly
After successfully installing the shower chair, caregivers and seniors must understand how to use the chair correctly. A shower chair in your bathroom does not guarantee safety if you use it incorrectly or unsafely.
Also, to get the full benefits of a shower chair, you must set it up and use it correctly. Here are some steps to follow.
Adjust Chair Height Accordingly
When purchasing a shower chair, consider one that comes with adjustable legs. Before showering, adjust the seat of the chair to accommodate the user. As a tip, users should be able to plant their feet firmly on the ground while seated.
Center Yourself on the Seat
When the seat is ready for use, have your senior sit squarely at the center of the seat. To assist with this, you can employ a grab bar or shower bench to help them center themselves appropriately onto the chair.
Tips for Improving Shower Safety While Using a Shower Chair
Finally! You have successfully installed a shower chair, tested it thoroughly, and ensured it is a safe intervention. But are there other ways to improve safety while still using the shower chair? Here are some tips and options to consider.
Install a Grab Bar
A grab bar provides much-needed support when lowering and lifting yourself from the shower chair. These are great for individuals with low body strength and back injuries. Grab bars are reasonably easy to install and make a huge difference in safety.
Add a Corner Bench
A shower corner bench will be a great addition to the space if the shower chair is not within reach of other bathroom essentials. Here, a senior can store all required items and easily access them without leaving the chair.
Avoid Sitting on the Edge
Avoid putting all your weight on the edge of the seat when sitting on the shower chair, as this may topple the chair and cause injuries. It is essential to sit squarely in the middle of the seat. It is vital to keep this in mind when you are in the act of sitting down.
Helpful Adaptive Accessories
Shower chairs can enhance a senior’s safety and independence while participating in routine shower tasks at home. Additional adaptive equipment designed for showering tasks can further supplement that experience.
Here are a few examples:
Sitting in the shower changes the water range from a traditional showerhead. Complement the shower experience by bringing the showerhead to you with a handheld shower head to control where and when the water hits your skin.
Consider soap dispensers that attach or suction to the shower wall at the seated level. That way, this prevents you from leaning forward or bending at the hips to retrieve soap bottles or bars that occasionally drop to the floor.
Sensory-based dispensers are convenient for seniors with arthritis or other hand limitations who find pushing on or pulling dispenser levers difficult.
Long-Handled Bath Brushes
Long-handled bath brushes, scrubbers, or Loofahs are excellent for seniors with low back pain, recent hip replacements, or those who are prone to falling forward while bent over.
Think about placing non-slip mats inside AND outside the tub to prevent your feet from sliding out from under you at any point during the bath routine. Sliding can happen with dry and wet skin.
Fall Alert Systems
If you have a history of falls in the bathroom, seriously consider installing a fall alert system next to your shower with a pull cord or easy-to-access button to alert loved ones or caregivers in the event of a fall or medical episode.
Install small shelves outside the shower to place your phone and glasses, so they are ready for immediate use once you’ve dried off. That way, your vision is not impaired for tasks after bathing, and you have easy access to your phone in case of a fall or medical incident.
Although armrests on the shower chair are convenient for balance, these are pretty stationary in their purpose and placement. If your walk-in shower isn’t up to code, have shower grab bars professionally installed inside and outside the shower to ensure easier and safer transfers.
Summary And Final Recommendations
Shower chairs are a fine adaptable option for seniors with walk-in showers who lack the stamina or mobility to complete their bathing tasks entirely standing.
If you’re considering getting a shower chair, talk to a rehabilitative specialist about the model best suits your needs. Talk to your primary physician about any health concerns and if there’s any reason you should not be using a shower chair.
Research additional adaptive equipment that could make your showering experience even safer and more worry-free.