A senior falls every second in the U.S., resulting in more than three million injuries and over 32,000 deaths every year. Since 80% of these accidents occur in the bathroom, it’s important to give it extra attention when fall-proofing a senior’s house. Although a complete bathroom overhaul might be the way to go, in some cases it’s still not enough. Seniors still face dangers like fainting in a hot shower or falling due to reduced mobility, which is why you should also consider the need for a bathroom wheelchair.
Bathroom wheelchairs are very similar to bedside commodes, but they come with wheels and handles on the back for easy patient transportation. Meanwhile, independent seniors who don’t have enough arm strength to maneuver the chair can use the handles as a walking frame.
Recommended Bathroom Wheelchairs
Giantex 3-in-1 Medical Transport Wheelchair
The 3-in-1 Medical Transport Wheelchair by Giantex is a versatile wheelchair that can be used as a shower chair, bedside commode, or as a transportation wheelchair. It’s made of waterproof material so it doesn’t rust and comes with a big, easy-to-slide toilet bucket. The chair is also comfortable due to the seat’s soft customized PVC material, and you can rotate the footrests to save space. The wheelchair doesn’t fold up in its entirety, though. So, it might not be the best option for when you need to transport the chair in the car. It can support up to 300lbs while static, but only 220lbs while moving. Prices start at $149.99 with free shipping included.
Invacare Mariner Rehab Shower Wheelchair
Although it comes at a higher price point – $755.50 – the Rehab Shower Wheelchair by Invacare Mariner can be used as a shower chair, bedside commode, or manual wheelchair. It’s made of stainless steel hardware and offers a padded four-position seat, footrest, and swing-away front riggings for extra comfort. Additionally, the wheelchair folds up into a compact unit for easy storage and transport. The Invacare Mariner Rehab Shower Wheelchair can hold up to 300lbs, and you can get it with two different seat sizes – either 16’’ or 18’’. All purchases made within the U.S. enjoy free shipping and are covered by a 3-year warranty.
Rolling Shower Chair
The Rolling Shower Chair by Fields Outdoor Supplies is intended to be used either as a shower or commode chair. It’s made of medical-grade PVC, comes with four locking casters, and a seatbelt for higher security. For easy access, you can slide the arms and footrests in. The seat has a width of 22’’ and a depth of 25.25’’, and you can roll the chair over standard-sized toilets. Although the chair isn’t foldable, the top portion can be removed to fit inside a car. You can get the Rolling Shower Chair for as low as $334.95, and Fields Outdoor Supplies has a 30-day return policy, as well as free shipping within the U.S.
How To Choose the Best Wheeled Shower Chair
Choosing the best wheeled shower chair isn’t easy. Due to its steep cost, you’ll want to get it right on the first try. We recommend considering the following:
Shower Wheelchair Size and Weight
Finding the perfect size for your wheelchair is simple. It needs to be small enough to fit in the shower but with a big enough seat to comfortably accommodate the user. If storage and transportation are an issue, we recommend looking for a wheeled shower chair that can be folded. Additionally, the chair should also be light enough to maneuver but sturdy enough to support the senior’s weight. Bathroom wheelchairs usually support up to 300lbs, but there are also bariatric chairs available that accommodate heavier users.
Wheeled Shower Chair Height
For utmost security and comfort, the chair should be tall enough so that your loved one's feet are flat on the footrest (or shower floor) with their knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your best choice is to get a wheelchair that allows you to adjust either the footrest or the legs' height. This way, you can be sure that it will have the perfect height for the user's needs.
Comfort and Security
Since you'll be using the chair in the shower, it's vital that it's made of waterproof material so it doesn't rust right away. But you also need to think about comfort. Make sure to look for chairs that come with soft padding in the seat, armrests, and handles.
Finally, depending on how likely your loved one is to fall from the chair, you should consider features like a seatbelt and locking caster wheels for increased security.
Wall-Mounted vs Freestanding Shower Seats
Another popular option when fall proofing the bathroom is to place a wall-mounted seat in the shower. As the name suggests, wall-mounted seats are fixed and built into the shower wall. They can provide some support, but they're limited in their function, as they don't help the senior move around the bathroom and can't incorporate a toilet bucket. On top of that, they're also harder to clean, which is essential to prevent bacteria and fungus.
On the other hand, freestanding shower seats are more versatile. They can be used in other rooms, transported to another house, and used as a bedside commode chair. Better yet, it's easier for the caregiver to help the senior into the shower, as they won't have to worry about operating in such a small space.
What To Do After a Fall in the Shower
Even when using a bathroom wheelchair in a fully fall-proofed home, a fall can still happen. If it does, the first thing your loved one needs to remember is to lie still and breathe deeply to catch their breath. The senior should never try to move before checking for injuries, as movement can make things even worse.
Looking for injuries and broken bones comes next. Some of the signs that your loved one might have a broken bone include swelling, bruising, a deformed limb, and pain while trying to move. In case of bleeding, it's essential to put pressure on the wound with your hand or using a towel. Of course, you need to ask for help either from someone in the house or by dialing 911 if a phone is nearby. But if the senior is unconscious, call for an ambulance immediately.
What if the senior passes out when they’re on their own? Or if they aren't strong enough to ask for help? This is where medical alert systems with fall detection come in. These systems are able to accurately sense a fall and automatically send a distress signal to a monitoring team. Help will be sent right away, even if the senior isn't able to respond to the care agent.