Q. I have osteoarthritis. I am thinking about purchasing a walk-in tub for my master bath, but I have heard conflicting opinions on their use. Can you comment on the considerations I should be making before I purchase this?
A. Osteoarthritis is sometimes called “wear and tear” arthritis. It’s the most common chronic condition of the joints, affecting approximately 27 million Americans. It occurs when the cartilage or cushion between joints breaks down, leading to swelling and pain. It has no specific cause and is familiar to many who are stiff, particularly first thing in the morning or after resting, and to people who experience joint pain without undue strain. As many of us age and have arthritic symptoms, more and more adaptive devices have been created and are available to increase the quality of daily living.
Dennis Lippy, president of HomeFree Home Modification, a construction company in Atlanta specializing in senior and adaptive living, suggests several issues to consider before buying a walk-in tub. “This type of tub is good for hydrotherapy because of its soothing properties,” he says. “You can shower in a walk-in tub with the drain open, using a hand wand, which some people like and others find cumbersome.”
A potential disadvantage is that you have to enter the tub and close the door before turning on the water. That can mean a few chilly minutes while you wait for the tub to fill, and you’ll have to wait for it to drain before you exit. Some tub models, however, have fast-filling faucets and fast-moving drains to minimize wait times.
Lippy says that a walk-in tub is about 40 inches deep. “Be aware that a caregiver can’t lean down into such a deep tub and will be unable to help you wash, if that is something that you need.” He suggests consulting with an occupational therapist before purchasing a walk-in tub to determine its maximum value to your situation. The cost of such an installation is $1,500—$8,000 and may require an upgraded hot-water heater. Finally, “Consider the resale value of having a walk-in tub in the house when you are ready to leave it. Most purchasers will require at least one regular bathtub in the home.”