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Walk-in tubs aid those wanting to age-in-place

Walk-in tubs can be an answer for those with mobility issues or who are looking to stay in their own homes longer.

When Sky Howse found there was a walk-in tub with a door that opened outwards, she rediscovered a long-lost pleasure.

“I love baths, but I haven’t been able to have one in years,” said Howse, who has limited mobility. She’s been restricted to showers, typically with a chair.

“I had been thinking about getting a walk-in tub, but all I saw were those where the door opened inward. The space wasn’t wide enough.”

After seeing a model with an outward swinging door at a Calgary health store, Howse had a tub installed in February, and says it's fantastic. "I can sit on the seat and close the door, and then fill the tub,” said Howse, who sometimes uses a wheelchair. "It's awesome."

Melinda Thompson, owner of Walk-In Tubs Alberta, said the pandemic has had an impact on the growth in walk-in tub sales.

“Because of COVID-19, we find people may be choosing to avoid senior homes or not have caregivers come in and help them bathe as much,” she said. "A fear of falling or not being able to get out of the tub are two common anxieties for seniors, so walk-in tubs allow users to walk in and sit safely as the tub fills, with easy-access taps and controls."

Different tub models, sizes and options can address varying needs and wants. Thompson said her company's Canadian-made tubs with more room, like the bariatric model, are one option, as are longer-length tubs and those with features like water jets or aromatherapy systems using essential oils. See walkinbathtubsalberta.ca for more.

"A safety tub is one of the best investments you can make to help you stay comfortably and independently in the home you love,” she said.

Buyers' guides offer things to consider when buying a walk-in tub. What features and options are important to you? Heated water jets? Massage? What available space do you have? Whether buying from a medical supply retailer or direct from supplier, an average cost of a safety tub, installed, can be around $5,500.

Beyond issues of safety and accessibility, walk-in tubs can aid when there's a non-invasive, therapeutic need for heated water. Known to relieve muscle tension and pain and help with arthritis and joint or nerve problems, hydrotherapy can help in other ways too.

“We use the beneficial properties of water to safely aid in recovery from surgery or injury,” said Andrew Chau, aquatic therapist with Leading Edge Physio in Edmonton. “Assistive buoyancy, for example, allows a person to raise their limbs without actively straining their muscle or joint.”

"Hydrostatic pressure can act like a cast around a swollen joint. And water compression helps the heart circulate blood from the limb back to the heart. It reduces swelling and stiffness to improve range of motion,” said Chau. "Hydrotherapy can also aid with swelling after an ACL sprain (which affects the ligament that connects the shin bone to the thigh bone) or joint replacement surgery."

Along with offering the therapeutic benefits of massage, heated water can aid in the release of feel-good endorphins. "Heated water jets are also a great tool for managing aches or pains after exercise or a hard day at work,” said Chau, adding that people with an injury or post-surgery should see a trained professional to help in recovery.

The Alberta and federal governments offer a tax credit, and in some cases a grant or loan, for seniors or people with a disability who want to buy a walk-in tub. The Home Accessibility Tax Credit offers up to $10,000 for such expenses. See www.canada.ca for more information.