When your parents begin to age, it’s natural to want to do everything you can to keep them safe at home for as long as possible. As the mobility of your loved ones becomes more restricted, you may begin to worry about falls. Rightfully so, as one in four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year, according to the National Council on Aging.
If you’re considering ways to help your parents age at home or getting ready to move them into your home, you are probably looking for ways to make the house safer. The bathroom is a common place to start. Learn more about installing a walk-in tub and how it can make your or your parents’ home safer as they age.
What is a walk-in tub?
A walk-in bathtub is a type of tub that has a low threshold and watertight door. This allows you to step over the low edge and close the door for bathing. After the bath, the user drains the water from the tub and opens the door to step out. The lower threshold makes getting in and out of the tub much easier and safer, much like a curbless shower.
Benefits of a walk-in bathtub
Walk-in bathtubs feature a variety of health and safety benefits for seniors. If you’re thinking about adding in a walk-in bath to your home or your parents’ home, consider these important impacts on health and safety.
Health benefits of a walk-In bath
Hydrotherapy, or the use of water to help with physical rehabilitation, has been used since Ancient Greece. Walk-in tubs provide many health benefits of hydrotherapy for seniors with a spa-like experience right at home. Check out some of the most important health benefits of a walk-in tub:
Benefits for those with diabetes: Soaking in a warm bath is known to increase blood flow and reduce stress, both of which can lead to lower blood sugar levels.
Heart health: The increased blood flow from a warm bath can help lower blood pressure similar to performing light exercise, without the stress on your joints.
Sleep disorders: If you or your parents find it difficult to sleep at night, soaking in a warm walk-in tub can help relax your body enough for a deeper, more restful sleep.
Safety features of a walk-in tub
Safety is one of the main reasons senior citizens choose to install a walk-in bathtub in their bathrooms. As we age, our mobility will often begin to decline, even with following a simple exercise routine. Declining mobility is one reason falls are more common in seniors than other adults. A walk-in tub can help you feel more secure when getting in and out of the tub by including several safety features.
Handrails and grab bars: The National Council on Aging suggests adding handrails and grab bars by the bath and toilet for increased fall prevention. Many models of walk-in tubs are designed for seniors and come with built-in grab bars.
Seating: While a shower chair and handheld showerhead can help you stay safe while in the bath, shower chairs are not as stable as a walk-in tub, which has the seat built into the design. This gives you a secure place to sit while you bath without worrying about it tipping as you enter or exit the bath.
Anti-slip flooring: Anti-slip mats for your shower or bathtub give your feet a firm surface to grip while showering or bathing. Walk-in tubs usually come with a textured, slip-resistant floor.
Low entrance: The biggest safety feature of a walk-in bathtub is the low threshold for entering and exiting. Instead of stepping up an over the side of a bathtub that is a foot or more in height, you only need to step up a couple of inches. This keeps your center of gravity low and balanced.
Disadvantages of a walk-in tub
Apart from these benefits, there are a few downsides to installing a walk-in tub in your home, including:
Cost: The cost of a walk-in bath can be prohibitive to seniors who can’t afford the purchase and installation, especially if you choose a more expensive Jacuzzi whirlpool tub.
Water too hot: After entering your tub and turning on the water so it can fill, you will have to adjust your temperature settings while in the water. This can leave you with water that gets too hot, which can cause skin irritation or burns.
Water too cold: As the water drains, you must sit in the tub so that it doesn’t leak from the door. Draining can take almost as long as filling. You may notice you get chilled while waiting for the water to drain so you can get out and dry off.
What to consider when shopping for a walk-in tub
Overall, a walk-in tub can be worth it for the peace of mind that comes with increased safety. Whether you’re installing the tub in your home for your aging parents or they’re aging at home and need more mobility options, a walk-in bathtub can help seniors avoid falls. Before you purchase a walk-in tub, however, consider these final notes:
Will a walk-in tub increase my home value? Although the cost is high, installing a walk-in tub can actually increase the value of your home.
What features do I need for my tub? Due to the high expense, you’ll need to carefully consider if features like hydrotherapy jets are worth the increased cost.
How quickly does the tub fill and drain? Some walk-in tub models have quick-fill and quick-draining features that make wait times shorter.
Cost of a walk-in tub
Installing a walk-in tub in your home or your parents’ home can quickly add up. Most generic tubs without hydrotherapy jets can range from $2,000–$5,000. Additional health and safety features will also increase the cost. What’s more, these prices don’t include the cost of installation. The chart below outlines some of the common types of walk-in tubs and their cost.
Type of Tub
Walk-in tub with soaking capabilities (basic walk-in tub)
Walk-in tub with shower enclosure
Tubs with hydrotherapy jets or features
Bariatric tubs or handicap accessible tubs
Are walk-in tubs tax deductible?
Generally, walk-in tubs aren’t tax deductible. However, if a walk-in tub is purchased for medical safety reasons, it can be deducted at tax time. If you’re caring for your senior parents in your home and a walk-in tub is deemed a medical necessity for safety, you may be able to deduct the cost from your taxes.
To be declared a medical expense, you or your parents must get a prescription from your doctor stating that it is a medical necessity for your safety. This is the only way to be reimbursed for your walk-in tub purchase.
Is a walk-in bathtub covered by Medicare?
Medicare doesn’t consider walk-in tubs to be durable medical equipment (DME), or medical devices that are ordered by your doctor for extended use. This means that you won’t be able to reduce the cost of your walk-in tub using Medicare coverage.
However, in extreme cases, Medicare may cover a portion of a walk-in tub purchase. These circumstances are usually reserved for people suffering from serious spine injuries. Some Medicare plans will cover a portion of the tub purchase as reimbursement if you can provide extensive details on the medical necessity of the tub. This reimbursement is given after you have paid for the purchase and installation of the bathtub.
Walk-in bath installation
In addition to the cost to purchase the tub, walk-in tubs require a lengthy installation process. Installing a simple walk-in soaking tub typically takes between 6–8 hours, much like a normal bathtub installation. Depending on the type of tub you install, your costs can greatly increase due to electricity needs or plumbing upgrades.
Walk-in tub installation cost
The size, shape, and added features of your tub influence how much it costs to install. The normal hourly rate for technicians to install a bathtub is $45–$65 an hour, with an average installation cost around $700. Tubs with added hydrotherapy elements can cost upwards of $1,500. This covers the cost of setting up the motor safely and connecting the necessary electrical wiring.
Other costs that can add to the total price of installation include:
Upgrading water heater: $1,500–$2,000 for a tankless water heater, $600–$800 for an average 50-gallon water heater
Upgrading pipes to fill faster: $4,000–$6,000
Electrical upgrades: $65–$85 an hour for a certified electrician
How to choose a walk-in bathtub
When choosing which manufacturer to purchase a walk-in tub from, take the time to ask these important questions:
What is the warranty on the walk-in tub? You’ll want to know how much coverage your manufacturer’s warranty offers, such as a warranty from American Standard or other popular brands.
Are installation costs covered? Some walk-in tub companies will cover basic installation costs as a part of the purchase of the tub.
Can you make payments? With the high cost of a walk-in tub, see if the tub company offers a payment plan or low-interest financing.
Protecting your family from common home hazards is simple with just a few common-sense precautions and knowledge about how they can affect you at home. Keep reading to understand the health and safety impacts these hazards can have and what you can do to keep your family safe.