Although grab bars can be installed anywhere in the home, they are most often used in bathrooms. Generally, older adults place these safety bars around the toilet areas to help them stand up or sit down and to aid in maintaining their balance while they getting into or out of the tub or shower.
Shower grab bars sometimes have suction cups to keep them in place, while bathtub grab bars are affixed to wall studs with screws or adhesive. Whichever type you choose, it’s important that they are installed correctly to ensure your safety.
*Note: Suction cup grab bars are excellent for helping you to maintain your balance, as long as you re-adjust them every so often. But they are not intended to be used if you have to place your full weight on them. I recommend them for a temporary solution.
Bathroom grab bars are not just for elderly individuals, however. They can be helpful for anyone who has limited mobility or difficulty maintaining balance, including pregnant women and those who are recovering from surgery or an injury.
As people age, bathrooms may become a tricky place for them. The inability to walk on wet and slippery surfaces becomes more dangerous. Any kind of fall may result in bruises and broken bones to serious head injuries. Every year more than three million senior citizens land in emergency rooms to get treated for injuries caused by falls. More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by a fall.ahs-home.com
Bathroom safety is one of the most important issues when aging in place. No one wants to fall because of slippery surfaces whether it’s in the bathtub or the bathroom floor.
For seniors, bathtub grab bars can provide an extra sense of security when bathing. There are a few key things to look for when purchasing bathtub grab bars for a senior loved one.
- The most important consideration is the weight capacity of the grab bar. This will ensure that the bar can safely support your loved one’s weight.
- It is also important to select a grab bar that is long enough to span the width of the bathtub. This will provide your loved one with stability on both sides of the tub.
- Finally, make sure that the bathtub grab bar has a non-slip grip to prevent falls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that many falls happen in the bathroom so this is the place to be as careful as possible.
The best bathtub grab bars will have:
- an attachment clamp that can be adjusted to fit the tub wall
- rubber padding on the clamp so that it won’t slip while supporting the user
- non-slip grip on the handle
- can support the weight of the person who will be using it
- follow ada standards
*NOTE – it is very important that a wall or bathtub grab bar NOT be the suction grab bar because it is easy for that type to slip or come off the tub.
What Are The ADA Standards For Grab Bars?
The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has set forth guidelines for the use of bathtub grab bars in private residences.
The ADA states that bathtub grab bars must be installed so that the gripping area is between 34 and 38 inches above the floor. This puts it at a height that is comfortable for most people to grip.
The bar should also be perpendicular to the wall, and the angle between the wall and the bar should not exceed 30 degrees. Additionally, there should be 1-1/2 inches of clearance between the grab bar and any obstruction, such as a faucet or shower head.
Bathtub grab bars must have a weight capacity of at least 250 pounds.
I would also recommend to place a grab bar on the side of the bathtub wall and on the back wall as well. Read more here about where to place grab bars around the bathtub.
You want to install both a vertical bar and a horizontal bar – whatever would accommodate the user’s needs.
Recommended Bathtub Grab Bar Safety Rails
One safety bar that we recommend is the Medical Adjustable Bathtub Safety Rail Shower Grab Bar Handle from Vaunn Medical. It’s a sturdy, stainless steel grab bar that can be placed on the tub rails.
What we like about it is that the clamp can adjust to fit a tub anywhere from 3″ to 7″ wide, which is a big range. In addition, the rubber pads on the clamps is designed so that it won’t leave marks on the tub after removal.
This safety bar will not fit fiberglass tubs, though (see section below for one that does).
One online reviewer wrote, “I have had one knee replacement and waiting for another. I cannot bend either knee high enough to get into a bathtub safely. I have a garden tub which is a little wider than regular tubs. This fit perfectly. Both sides are padded and fit snugly against the tub walls without any movement at all. Now it is very easy and very safe to get in and out of this tub to take a shower or bath. I am not afraid of falling while getting in or out any more. I would highly recommend this product. To install you just have to loosen a BIG knob with your hand and then tighten it once it is in place.”
Since it doesn’t require tools to install, that means these safety grab bars are portable. This is a nice feature for someone who may travel to visit and adult child or for those who may spend time in one adult child’s home and then move to another child’s home, etc. They could store it at the adult child’s home where it would be out of the way most of the time, but available for use when they are there.
This bathtub grab bar will support a person who weighs up to 300 pounds.
Drive Medical has a Clamp On Safety Rail that fits most bathtubs (except for fiberglass tubs – see the next section for our recommendation).
Just like the one from Vaunn Medical, this grab bar adjusts for tubs ranging from 3″ to 7″ wide, is portable, and will support up to 300 pounds.
What we like best about this one is:
- it has a rubber coating on the handle, making it easier to grip with wet hands.
- it is height adjustable, so it will easily work for bot a shorter or taller person.
Bathtub Safety Rail For Fiberglass Tub
Because fiberglass tubs are somewhat flexible, the clamp-type grab bars may not be a good choice for them because you may have to tighten them so much it could crack the fiberglass.
Instead, a Stander Security Pole is a good option to put in your own home. This pole would install outside the tub, NOT inside.
This pole will support up to 300 pounds.
The curved sections of the bar can rotate to make it easier for the user to reach. These curved lock into place to prevent slipping and gives the user a hand-over-hand way to climb up to standing.
The drawback to these is that they are more “permanent” because you have to clamp it to the bathroom floor and ceiling. Even though it isn’t actually affixed permanently, it would be much more cumbersome to move from one bathroom to another.
However – as a note of extra caution – we would recommend that you DO secure this tension pole to the ceiling to add that extra layer of security.
If you end up having to grab onto this pole while you slip, you want to make sure that the pole will not lose it’s tension and come tumbling down with you.
Many Different Types Of Grab Bars
Nowadays, there are many different sizes and a great variety of grab bars as well as more decorative ones that can look more like a shelf or decoration than those old hospital looking ones that were so common years ago.