Shower chairs and transfer benches are both used to help people bathe safely. The shower chair sits completely inside the bathtub with all four feet flat on the bottom of the tub itself. A transfer bench is placed straddling the wall of the bathtub so two feet are inside the tub and the other two feet are placed outside of the tub. This allows the person using the transfer bench to gently slide across the bench, lift their legs over the wall of the tub, and then place their legs inside the tub without standing up. The transfer bench allows them to maneuver themselves into the tub while they are seated. Shower chairs do not, you must stand and lift your leg over the wall in order to reach the seat inside the tub.
What is a backrest on a transfer bench for? The backrest on most transfer benches can be removed so you have the choice to use them or not. There are several reasons why you should use the backrest: A backrest helps you maintain your balance by giving you a firm and secure surface to lean against. If you have poor sitting balance, a backrest will help you use a transfer bench with confidence. I have been told by people that the backrest can get in the way and make transfers more difficult. Even if you find that the backrest makes transfers slower, I would highly recommend anyone who is in danger of falls to use a backrest each time they use their transfer bench. The backrest also helps you save energy. Bathing can be a strenuous activity with a lot of steps involved in the process, having something to lean against can help make the process a little easier.
Place a bright colored towel on the seat of the transfer bench. The visual difference between the two can improve seat balance. This will help people with low vision tell the difference between the bench seat and the floor of the bathtub. It will also help people who lack depth perception or those who are dealing with dementia health issues.
A handheld shower head can help control the flow of water and give the person bathing more independence. Another product that can help with a successful bath time is a No Rinse Body Wash & Shampoo. This will take the pressure off because you won't have to worry if you are rinsing all the soap off perfectly.
The temperature of the room should be warm, when using a transfer bench you can't immerse yourself into the water like you have in the past, if the air of the room is cold it will make you uncomfortable. Bath time should be as relaxing as possible.
Remember, most transfer benches can be adjusted. Legs can be raised and shortened, backrests can be on or off, handles and backrests can switch sides depending on your needs, make sure you check your transfer bench to see the best way to configure your transfer bench for your bathroom. You should also check the weight restrictions for your transfer bench, some heavy duty transfer benches can hold up to 400lbs safely, while others hold 200lbs, make sure your bench works for you.
Stand in front of the bench with the bench touching the back of your legs. As you gently lower yourself into a sitting position onto the bench, be careful not to flop down. You want to remain controlled because flopping down can cause slips and falls. Grab bars on the walls or the handle on the transfer bench itself can help maintain control and balance.
Carefully slide yourself across the bench until you can no longer move without lifting your legs over the tub wall.
Lift one leg at a time, this can be tricky the first few times, go slow and be patient with yourself. When you lift the leg closest to the tub wall, slide a little so you have room to place your leg inside the tub. Carefully lift your other leg until you have both legs inside of the tub.
Slide over until you are comfortably seated completely inside the tub.
If your transfer bench has a sliding seat or safety straps then you will be able to use both to make the process of moving into the tub easier. With or without the sliding seat it is important to take your time and go slowly.
How to Make Sure Your Transfer Bench will Fit in Your Bathroom:
Transfer benches are wonderful tools that make bathing safer and easier for people and their caregivers. However, because they are a personal item used in bathing most companies don't accept returns once the item is opened. You obviously wouldn't want to receive a used transfer bench and in general, most everyone else feels the same way.
Pay attention to the specifications on the transfer bench that you are looking to buy. How long is the bench? How tall? Is it adjustable? This information and all other sizing specifications will be available on the website that is selling the transfer bench. Don't forget to check the height of the tub wall, if it is above 18" check your transfer bench specifications, some benches can't clear an 18" tub wall.
You will want to measure the area in your bathroom that will accommodate the transfer bench. You need enough floor space in front of the bathtub that you will be able to have the transfer bench in place and be able to stand in front of the bench in order to sit down. If you are transferring from a wheelchair, you will need enough space that you will be able to safely maneuver from your wheelchair to the bench with the aid of your caregiver or a transfer board.
The only way to be sure if your transfer bench will fit in your bathroom is to take measurements. Measure the bathroom and compare those measurements against the specs of your transfer bench. Don't be afraid to ask a friend or caregiver for help.