For aging and disabled people, common everyday living activities in the home can be challenging. Grab bars provide security and facilitate movement for essential functions in the home. In 2019, over 4 million people over the age of 55 experienced unintentional falls that resulted in emergency room visits1 and over 80% of older adult falls occur in the bathroom. A recommendation found in multiple CDC brochures on home safety, fall prevention and aging in place; is to install grab bars next to and inside the tub or shower as well as next to the toilet to avoid slip and fall accidents.
As people become less confident with their safety in a bathroom, they may become reluctant to frequent the bathroom facilities. This can lead to poor hygiene and in turn possible infections involving the skin or bladder. Installing grab bars will allow a person to navigate slippery or wet surfaces and continue to self-provide hygienic services for themselves. Grab bars not only provide security, but they promote independence and contribute to maintaining dignity and self-esteem.
It is important to work with a company that understands installation of grab bars, and can correctly place them to accommodate the needs of the person using them. This will ensure proper installation for safe and optimal use of the bar. Grab bars should always be installed by a skilled carpenter. Never use a suction cup grab bar- they can be extremely dangerous.
Grab bars should be made of stainless steel with a knurled or peened texture (these textures improve grip). Grab bars should have an outside diameter of no smaller than 1 ¼” and no larger than 2”2. Ideally, they should have flanges that offer multiple attachment points for screws. Grab bars should be installed into a wall stud. As most studs run 16” on center, grab bars should be installed in 16” increments if possible. If no stud is available, fasteners such as a WingIts or Toggler bolts rated at an adequate capacity can be used to mount the grab bar into a sound wallboard.
Grab bars can be mounted:
- Horizontally – simplifies pulling yourself up and down and enables body rotation
- Vertically – facilitates entering a shower or tub and easily held, regardless of height
When selecting the location, height and direction of a bar the user’s functional ability and safety needs must be considered. For instance, if someone has one-sided weakness due to a stroke, or showers on a chair, or is very tall or short in stature, the bars should be mounted to accommodate these factors.
What NOT to use as a grab bar:
- Towel bar
- Rod on a shower door
- Toilet Paper holder
- Suction cup grab bar
These household accessories are not created to support the weight of a person and will rip off the wall or door if used for support.
No Walls to Accommodate a Grab Bar?
If walls are not available to mount a grab bar or, if you need support bars for another area of your home, there are other products that exist such as:
- Security Pole
- Super Bar
- PT Rails
These support devices are easily installed and provide you with the ability to use not only your bathroom facilities but also get in and out of bed or couches and chairs without the assistance of others. Please view video Security Pole Video
Security Pole or Curve Grab Bar
Where Can Grab Bars be Purchased?
Grab bars come in many sizes and colors, and prices will vary based on the quality and type of fixture. In addition to GreenLight Mobility, there are many places to purchase grab bars:
- Home Depot
It is important that grab bars be installed by a skilled person to ensure the strength and safely of the installation.