Over-the-top walk-in-tub experience

Joan Fieldstone

May 3, 2016

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Bathroom Remodeling

My dad just turned 90 and he still loves his showers every day, but I do worry about him slipping, even with a visiting caretaker in attendance. I've tried to convince him of the many benefits of walk-in-tubs, but he has lots of excuses why he won't consider getting one. Unlike these ingenious tubs with doors that make it easy to get in and out, his reasons don't hold water: too expensive; too much disruption and mess to install; it will destroy the integrity of his bathroom, etc. I laughed at the last reason. He has three bathrooms to choose from for installing one, and he wouldn't be inconvenienced during the renovation. Two of them have standard size tubs that would be easily replaced by most walk-in-tubs.

What it comes down to is his preference for showers, but whenever I visit, I raise the subject anyway. Being a home improvement aficionado, I love suggesting renovations of every sort to anyone who will listen, especially when I'm convinced they're sound ideas.

Why get a walk-in-tub?

At a family gathering recently, the topic of walk-in-tubs surfaced when my brother-in-law mentioned his parents had just gotten one installed. His father, like my dad, suffers from wartime injuries and receives medical benefits from the Veterans Administration. The VA covered a portion of the costs of his walk-in-tub equipped with jets for hydrotherapy to relieve his pain. My dad is probably eligible for the same benefit, but cost can still be a factor. They have to pay for whatever the VA doesn't.

My brother-in-law's dad had no trouble finding a tub from Premier Care that suited his needs and budget. (Money for most retired people on a fixed income is a big concern. His dad said he would have liked one of the tubs that came with colored lights, too, but he had to pass on that option.)

Mobility is another issue for those who benefit from a walk-in-tub. Access to a regular tub can be daunting if you can't get a leg up to enter and exit, so a walk-in-tub with its very low threshold eliminates the pain and tripping hazard of trying to step over the side.

One of the few drawbacks to getting out of a walk-in-tub is that you have to wait for it to fully drain before you can open the door. For this reason, you can get tubs equipped with accelerated draining functions, which my brother-in-law's father did.

His dad raved on and on about how much he loves the tub and how it's helping him manage his pain. Could anything possibly go wrong? He didn't think so, except there was this one incident…

The bubble debacle

While enjoying his jetted bath, his dad realized he'd forgotten his bath gel and it was out of reach from the tub. If he was going to get out to retrieve it, he would have to wait for the water to drain, then wait for the bath to fill again, and what a waste of time -- not to mention water -- that would be.

But he had his shampoo, so he figured, "What the heck, same thing, right?" He just dumped a capful into the tub and in seconds, the tub was filling up with bubbles at what he noticed was an astonishing rate. In minutes the wall of suds threatened to completely engulf him! Thinking he was about to be swallowed by his impromptu bubble bath and starting to panic, he frantically let the water out of the tub to clear the suds. So much for not having to drain the tub and refill it. In fact, he had to refill it more than once to rinse the bubbles out.

Despite the bubble debacle, my brother-in-law's dad is delighted with his walk-in-tub. If only my own dad had not heard that story, I might have been able to convince him this time to get one, too. Unfortunately, he now has just one more lame excuse why he shouldn't. Maybe it's time to push the idea of a walk-in shower.

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