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What Kind of Shower Chair Works Best for Seniors?

Sometimes just standing is hard to do. It can cause back pain and leg aches. If you want to sit down while showering or bathing, you should not put a household chair in the shower or tub. It will ruin the chair, and it might be unstable. The bathroom is the last place you want to introduce a falling hazard.

A stable senior who just wants to sit for comfort can use an armless, backless shower chair. A senior who needs support standing and sitting can use a shower chair that includes arms and a back. The best chair for a senior with difficulty lifting her legs to get into the tub is a shower bench.

All shower chairs are designed with gripping feat and water shedding material. Consider the width and depth of a shower chair so that you know it will fit in your bath or shower. There’s a checklist at the end of this article you can use to shop for the best quality chair for your needs.

Medline shower chair with armrests and backWhat Types of Shower Chairs Can I Buy?

Three of the most popular shower chair styles are:

  • a bench with no back or arms
  • a seat with a back (the back is often removable)
  • a bench that sits half outside the tub to be used as a “transfer bench”

The Best Shower Chair for the Strongest Sitter and for Small Tubs

Woman using a Carex bath seatThe armless and backless shower chair is a good choice for strong sitters who do not need extra support. This design is the most portable. It’s very lightweight, and has only  a seat and legs to assemble. It’s a good for patients who do not need to lean on chair arms or a chair back.

Example Armless and Backless Shower Seat

The OasisSpace Shower Chair comes with no back or arms. It’s a simple seat with anti-skid rubber tips on the feet. It’s easy to assemble (you do not need tools). The seat height is adjustable from 14 to 19 inches tall. It comes with an optional pad you can put on the seat to make it softer. The OasisSpace has drainage holes in the seat for water to slow through. It weighs only 6.4 lb., so it’s easy to either put away or take with you when traveling.

Reasons to Like the Armless, Backless Style Shower Chair

This armless, backless chair design is:

  • lightweight for carrying
  • portable for putting away or taking it on trips
  • often comes with drainage holes so it dries quickly
  • has a small footprint that will work in smaller bathtubs and showers

This design can be a good choice for people who:

  • has good balance
  • wants a smaller chair
  • wants a portable chair
  • wants to list the chair out of the tub after use

Reasons You Might Want a Different Design

The armless, backless shower chair design is:

  • not supportive for people who want to lean on a chair back
  • not supportive for people who want to lean on chair arms
  • smaller than other designs
  • should not be used as a transfer bench

The Best Shower Chair Type for Patients Needing Support

The shower chair with both arms and a back is best for seniors who need support in the shower. Many models in this design come with optional arms and backs, meaning that you can configure the chair. You might get a chair like this and not use the arms or back at first. If the patient gets weaker, you can add the arms and back onto the seat.

Example Shower Chairs with Optional Arms and Back

Essential Medical Supply offers one chair with a back and optional arms, and another chair with no arms and an optional back. The height on each is adjustable from about 16 to 21 in. They are lightweight and give you options to grow into more support as time goes by.

Reasons to Like a Shower Seat with Arms and a Back

These chairs offer varying levels of support. You can start with an armless bench and add arms. Or you can start with arms and then add a back. These shower chair designs are good for patients who:

  • need to lean on the chair arms to sit and to stand
  • want to rest on the chair back rather than sitting without support
  • need a portable seat

Reasons to Avoid a Shower Seat with Arms and a Back

The arms and back shower seat is not ideal for patients who:

  • have a very small shower area
  • need a transfer bench

The Best Shower Chair for Patients Needing Help Into the Tub

A “transfer bench” is a shower chair (or bench) that sits over the tub wall. It acts as a bridge to get over the wall while sitting down. This design is helpful for people in wheelchairs and those who cannot lift their legs to get into the tub. People who use a shower bench include:

  • the elderly
  • the handicapped
  • the disabled
  • the injured
  • people at risk for falling
  • people with limited mobility
  • people at risk of falling getting into the tub

Example Shower Bench

The Medline Tub Transfer  Bench works on any tub with a flat floor. You place one set of legs on the bathroom floor, and the other on the tub floor. The patient sits on the bench. Either she or her caregiver then swings her legs from the bathroom side to the bathtub side. She will also need to scooch over to the shower side for bathing. The assembly is easy and does not require tools. This model has suction cup feet which are more stable than rubber feet, but you do need to ensure they “suck” into place before using the bench. This bench is very lightweight at only 1.5 lb. and the leg height is adjustable to 23.5 in. high.

This bench comes with a reversible backrest but as with most shower transfer benches, it does not have arms. The patient needs to get onto the bench without leaning on chair arms.

Reasons to Get a Shower Bench

Ecodecors Tranquility BenchA shower bench makes it easier for a patient to get into and out of the tub. It requires some leg lifting, but the patient is sitting rather than standing when entering the tub. Because the bench is half in the tub, this type of shower chair will often work in a smaller bathroom. A bench with a backrest helps the patient to rest during washing.

Reasons to Avoid a Shower Bench

Cardinal health shower benchA shower bench sits halfway outside the tub, and this might allow water to splash onto the bathroom floor. Benches do not work when the tub has glass doors. The patient needs to lift her legs into the tub, and the doors get in the way.

Even lightweight shower benches are not easily portable because they are awkward. It helps to find one that folds. A typical bench does not have arms for the patient to use for support.  A bench might be too big to use with a very small shower.

What to Watch Out for When Shopping for a Shower Chair

When looking for a quality shower chair, watch out for these common problems.

  • Get a chair that does not have a rust problem. Check the reviews for “rust” or use our Best Shower Chairs list for good candidates.
  • If you need a portable chair, look for a folding model so it takes less space.
  • Please consider having a grabbar installed rather than using a grabbar that comes with a chair. While a shower chair grabbar is convenient, it has less power holding it on the wall than a professionally installed grabbar.
  • Check the shower chair’s height range. If you use a sit stand assistance device in other parts of the house, you might be able to use it in the shower, too. This can get very awkward, and anything awkward in the bathroom is dangerous. Be sure your patient can sit down on and stand up from the shower chair.
  • Drainage holes help a shower chair dry faster.
  • Compare the shower chair dimensions to your tub or shower dimensions. The chair has to sit comfortably in the tub to work.
  • Be extra careful with uneven tub floors. Mosaic tile and stones will put the chair off balance.
  • The chair’s weight capacity must be greater than the patient’s weight.

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