Having toilet safety rails in the bathroom is a must because the bathroom is one of the most dangerous places in the home. While you may not think so, using the toilet can be particularly problematic. This is because seniors who have mobility concerns or who are recovering from a fall or surgery are vulnerable to falling when rising from or sitting down on the commode.
To help make this activity safer and easier for seniors, we recommend an assistive device that they can use for support and leverage. I know my father benefited from a toilet seat frame towards the end of his life. He’d gotten too weak to stand up without help, but was too embarrassed to have someone help him with this private issue.
*NOTE: if at all possible, we do not recommend that a weak or rehabbing person get on or off the toilet via help from a caregiver. What if the senior loses their balance and falls – taking the caregiver with them? What if the caregiver moves incorrectly and pulls a muscle or they slip while helping? There are so many scenarios where both people could be injured!
The safest way for a weak or injured person to use the toilet is with aid from grab bars, a toilet safety frame or toilet safety rails. You want to get a device that:
- Has non-slip grips on the handles
- Is stable and won’t tip over if the user shifts their weight or leans heavily on one side
- Will not collapse under the user’s weight
- Features non-slip legs if it is free standing and not attached to anything
- Is easy to clean and you can use disinfecting solutions on them
- Will not corrode
- Has adjustable height to accommodate the user’s needs
The following recommendations come from products we’ve used to help our elderly parents or from our own reader recommendations.
Toilet Rails (Freestanding)
Like the name implies, freestanding toilet safety rails do not attach to the toilet permanently. Instead, this is a foldable frame (kind like a walker) that you place between the toilet tank and the back of the toilet seat. The legs fit on either side of the commode.
The RMS Safety Frame & Rail (click image to view online) doesn’t require assembly so it can easily be moved out of the way or to another bathroom. It will support up to 300 pounds.
It is height-adjustable and has a foot rest to help prevent slipping when the the user sits or stands.
*CAUTION – because this unit is free standing, it is possible that it could tip over! Additionally, this type of toilet safety frame is best for someone who is able to use both arms simultaneously.
We do not recommend this product for someone who can only use one arm due to injury, stroke, etc. or who has a cognitive concern that might keep them from understanding that they should support themselves using two arms. For those cases, we would recommend an attached toilet safety frame or grab bars attached to the wall around the toilet.
Toilet Safety Frame
Unlike a freestanding toilet rail, a toilet safety frame attaches to the toilet via the screws that hold the toilet seat. You can’t easily move it from one bathroom to another.
The benefit, of course, is that a toilet safety frame can be used by someone who only has the use of one arm (after surgery or a stroke, for example). It will hold firmly and can’t tip over.
We recommend the Drive Medical Toilet Height Adjustable Aluminum Frame, which will support up to 300 pounds. The arm height is adjustable via snap buttons in the legs. It can be raised from 25.5″ to 29.5″ in height. The width is also adjustable from 18″ to 22.75,” depending on the model (click the link to see them online).
FAQ – Toilet Safety Rails
Will a freestanding toilet safety rail tip over?
It’s possible that it could if someone doesn’t use both hands (and both rails) at the same time. If the person who will be using the rail is unable to hold both sides equally (say, because they are recovering from shoulder surgery), we recommend a toilet safety frame instead. These frames are attached to the toilet via screws, making them much more stable.
Can I just install one rail of a toilet safety frame, instead of two?
As long as the rails are separate from each other then, yes, you should be able to install just one side of the toilet safety frame. Keep in mind that it will be safer for the user if you install both “arms” of the frame, however.
Are toilet safety rails “one size fits all”?
They can be, so be sure to look for a model that is both width- and height-adjustable to accommodate to the user’s needs.