When my mom was hospitalized early last year, the very first thing my sister and I did after we brought her home was to install grab bars. We not only put them in her shower, but we also installed some by her toilet and by the bathroom sink.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among persons aged ≥65 years, and the age-adjusted rate of deaths from falls is increasing.Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
Grab bars are usually used in bathrooms – near the shower or bathtub. People use them to keep their balance while they are standing or to help them get into or out of the tub/shower.
They may also install them near the toilet to help them stand or sit on the commode.
Other places to consider installing them might be near the door frame by the steps leading into the house from the garage or in the laundry room.
I have also seen some of my patients install handrails down a long hallway.
It’s just a smart and fairly inexpensive way to make a house safer for older adults.
Of course, where you install these bars depends on the needs of the senior person who will use them. In general, grab bars should be put in wherever you’re trying to stop someone from slipping and falling.
Types Of Grab Bars
There are so many different types and styles of grab bars:
- Non-traditional grab bars
- Suction (temporary) grab bars
Look through the various types wither online or at your local home store and choose the one that meets your senior’s needs and design esthetics.
Residential Grab Bars
The shower is the first place most people think of when installing grab bars. You should position the grab bars so that it’s comfortable for the user. This means it could be vertical, horizontal or at an angle.
I recommend three grab bars in the shower stall.
- One at the entrance to the shower
- One along the side wall of the shower
- One by the faucet handle
The shapes and sizes of each of these can differ as well as the positions that they are placed in.
I also recommend to use grab bars that are ADA (American Disability Act) approved like the ones made by Moen. The make some of the best quality grab bars on the market.
For my mother’s bathroom, we used their Designer Grab Bar model because it matched her bathroom decor.
This particular model is ADA approved, is able to support up to 500 lbs of weight and is made out of durable stainless steel.
Installation was easy on this model – we bought my mom’s grab bars through Amazon and my sister’s husband installed them in an afternoon.
Smaller Grab Bars
For the grab bars by my mother’s commode, we really liked Moen’s 16-inch Designer Grab Bar.
This is the model we ended up installing by the bathroom sink and also on either side of the toilet.
Usually you would want to use a residential (not commercial) grab bar in a home. So why did we go with commercial grade, which usually has a very industrial look?
Well, one of the things that sold us on these grab bars is that they are heavy duty. They’re made of stainless steel and can support up to 500 pounds.
They are there to hold the person up, not just to help them steady themselves.
Bathtub Grab Bars
Robin’s mom always preferred bathing in a tub to standing in a shower. The problem was that her knees were arthritic, so she had a hard time getting out of the tub after bathing.
If you are going to take a tub bath, you really should have a grab bar that attaches to the side of the tub. We recommend that you look for one that:
- can be mounted either horizontally or vertically
- has more than one place for you to grip
- provides a non-slip grip
- is mold and rust resistant
- is adjustable and also will attach to the side of the tub without marring or scratching the tub’s surface
- won’t slip or move when being used
A bathtub grab bar should be capable of supporting the user’s weight, so take that into consideration when purchasing one.
The Vive Heavy Duty Bathtub Rail (pictured here)meets these requirements. In addition, it is adjustable to most bathtubs and supports up to 300 pounds.
Non-traditional Grab Bars
Most of us are very familiar with standard grab bars but you may want to consider one that folds away when not in use. Something like the Moen Flip Up Bathroom Grab Bar. Even though it’s intended for a bathroom, it can certainly be installed in other areas of the home.
What I like about this particular tool is that it extends further from the wall than a standard grab bar AND it folds away when it’s not needed. These are two very useful aspects.
The Flip Up Grab Bar has a hinge on the top that allows it to fold up vertically (up and down) so it isn’t in the way until the person wants to use it. It moves quite easily, so Mom had no trouble flipping it up or down. One model even has a toilet paper holder in case you’re putting it next to the commode!
The Flip Up Grab Bar supports 300 pounds of weight. It’s made of stainless steel so it won’t corrode under the moisture you normally get in bathrooms.
Another type of grab bar that’s not your “standard” type is the Stander Security Pole & Curve Grab Bar. This one is a perfect tool for bedside, chair side, etc.
It is tension-mounted (so, not permanently installed) and adjusts to fit flat ceilings that are anywhere from 7 feet to 10 feet tall. The curved handle rotates 360 degrees so – for example – it could swivel to accommodate movement as someone climbs into or out of the shower.
TIP: it does not have a textured-grip, so wet or soapy fingers can slip off of it. It would be beneficial if you wrapped some sports tape or duct tape around it for extra stability.
This model can be used as a grab bar, but is also great for helping a senior with bedside support or as a standing aide. It can hold up to 300 pounds of weight.
While not a grab bar, per se, Toilet Safety Rails And Toilet Safety Frames can be a great addition to a senior’s bathroom.
The beauty of these frames is that they are totally portable, so you don’t have to anchor it into a wall. It weighs less than 10 pounds and folds up to about the same size (and shape) as a walker. This means that if your parent came to visit you, they could bring this with them and still be safe in your bathroom (and you don’t have to install your own grab bars).
The senior puts their feet on the base (foot rest) that is between the frames legs, which keeps it stable as the person stands or sits. The frame can be adjusted to accommodate different heights – from 28 inches to 36 inches high (from floor to top of frame).
The frame is capable of supporting 300 pounds of weight.
Suction Grab Bars
Suction grab bars like the Changing Lifestyles Safe-Er-Grip Balance Assist Bar are popular because they don’t have to be permanently installed.
This also means that they are portable, plus you don’t have to fill in holes or patch drywall if the senior moves.
Obviously, they attach to surfaces with large suction cups. This means that they can only suction to a flat surface. They likely won’t work on painted tile or on the small tiles you often find in older bathrooms (the suction cups may be too large).
They can NOT be used on drywall (or any other porous surface), so you really can only put them in a bathroom. A suction grab bar could be used on the shower wall for balance. It could also be placed on the side of a bathtub to help someone balance when getting in or out.
PLEASE NOTE: suction grab bars are strictly for helping the user steady themselves. They WILL NOT support your full body weight! So they aren’t going to be much help if your senior loved one grabs for it as they are falling.
Suction cups frequently release on their own. Before each use they should be checked to be sure they are still attached to the surface.
We strongly recommend that you do not trust a suction grab bar to support your full weight.
Creative Integrated Grab Bars
I am loving the new integrated grab bars that incorporate grab bars with shelves, toilet paper holders, soap holder, towel bar, etc. Manufacturers are getting very creative with integrating the pragmatics of grab bars into products that you already need!
Here’s an example of a grab bar integrated with a shelf to give you an idea of how they are doing this.
You can also see an array of these kinds of products here on the Google Images search. You’ll see that you’ll be able to add the great safety of grab bars throughout the house quite easily!
The Curve Grab Bar is another very clever type of safety bar.
It’s a wall mounted safety bar that integrates a vertical bar with a horizontal bar and it also adds a double curved handle making this one of the most versatile grab bars you could possibly use!
The only limitation would be if you don’t have the amount of wall space to accommodate it’s placement.
It’s features include:
- Wall-mounted bathroom grab bar for support off the toilet or around the shower
- Ergonomic ladder grip allows users to pull themselves using comfortable hand-over-hand motion
- Ladder-like design gives four convenient gripping heights
- Pivoting grab bar rotates and locks into place every 45°
- Space saving design allows the grab bar to pivot and lay flat against the wall
- Includes traditional horizontal support grab bar
- Weight capacity of grab bar: 300 lbs
All in all – grab bars are one of the easiest solutions most anyone can make to make their home safer as they age in place.