Debunking 5 Common Myths About Walk-In Bathtubs

You may have heard about how walk-in bathtubs can help the elderly avoid falls (which are, unfortunately, a common occurrence in that age group). However, you may hesitate to buy one because of certain myths you’ve heard about this particular installation.

The common myths that walk-in bathtubs leak, are not safe, and require a complete bathroom remodel are wrong. Walk-in bathtubs can be more expensive, but they are worth the price considering their safety benefits. In addition, the problem of a long drain time has been largely eliminated.

Walk-in bathtubs can be a valuable tool in your efforts to minimize safety risks for the older adults in your home. Keep reading to learn more about why the things I mentioned above are myths regarding walk-in tubs. 

1. Walk-In Bathtubs Leak

Walk-in tubs don’t leak due to their door seal system. When the door is latched, the pressure of the compressed rubber creates an airtight seal. The weight of the water then adds additional pressure to maintain the airtight seal. 

Leakage in walk-in tubs is almost always due to improper installation. For example, a tub that isn’t level has a high likelihood of leaking. Walk-in tubs are more complex than regular ones and should be installed by experienced professionals.

Another possible cause of leaking walk-in tubs is the user not latching the door securely, which can cause a swing-out door to open.

If you want to avoid leaks in your walk-in tubs, ask about the bathtub’s warranty. Most come with a lifetime warranty for the rubber seal — which, incidentally, is longer than that for a dishwasher and a front-loading washer. 

2. Walk-In Bathtubs Are Not Safe

Every year, nearly one-third of seniors over 65 fall, and more than 80% of those falls occur in the restroom. Walk-in tubs are explicitly designed to prevent falls in older adults.

These tubs have ADA-compliant design elements, non-slip flooring, contoured built-in seats, and reduced step heights for entrance, among other features. A scald prevention valve, intended to stop hot water burns, is another common safety element in walk-in tubs.

Additionally, tubs with wide doors make it easier for people in wheelchairs to get to the tub seat on their own without help. 

3. Walk-In Bathtubs Are More Expensive

Okay, this isn’t a “myth,” strictly speaking. The sticker price on a walk-in tub can make budget-conscious folks balk, but it helps to think of the tub as an investment.

According to AARP, falls lead to nearly 2 million emergency room visits, and the average cost of a fall is close to $9,400. Although some of those costs are paid by Medicare, a quarter of the price is typically out-of-pocket.

More importantly, there’s the potential cost to seniors who fall. A serious fall can lead to expensive in-home care costs or a move to an assisted-living facility. So the initial expense might be higher, but an investment that reduces the risk of a costly and potentially deadly fall can actually save you more over the long term.

If you still think walk-in tubs are too expensive, you can always make use of financing alternatives to help cover the cost. Although Medicare doesn’t cover walk-in tubs, several states provide Medicaid assistance that can help with the cost of a walk-in tub. 

Also, you or the older adult in your life may be eligible for one or more of the following.

  • Veterans Benefits. The Veterans-Directed Care program features a flexible spending account that can be used to offset a walk-in tub’s cost. You can also look into the Home Improvement Grant. Either way, you can contact your local VA Medical Center for more information. 
  • USDA Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grants. The Section 504 Home Repair Program provides loans and grants to homeowners who qualify based on age, income, and the location of their home. 
  • Medicaid Assistance. As I mentioned earlier, some states offer financial assistance for installing safety features in a home. The specific help available depends on your state, so check your state’s Medicaid website for more details.
  • Other Funding Resources. You can look into manufacturers’ discounts. Also, some nonprofits (such as Habitat for Humanity) have programs to assist the elderly through free labor, grants, or loans. 

4. Walk-In Bathtubs Require a Bathroom Remodel

You should hire professionals to remove the old tub and install the walk-in, but you usually won’t need a whole remodeling job (unless there’s a good reason to do a remodel other than the walk-in installation). Walk-in bathtubs come in many styles, and you can find one or more models that are the same size as your current bathtub.

When you get an initial installation estimate, make sure you get the exact dimensions for the replacement tub for a better fit in your bathroom.

5. Walk-In Bathtubs Drain Slowly

This myth is based on early models that did take a long time to drain. After manufacturers realized this was a problem, they worked to develop fast-drain technology that speeds up the drainage. In addition, many models have a heated seat or backrest to warm a user when filling and draining the tub.