Grab Bars for Bathroom Safety

     According to the Center for Disease Control statistics , “Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Fortunately, falls are a public health problem that is largely preventable.

How big is the problem?

  • One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year1 but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.2
  • Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.
  • In 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
  • In 2010, the direct medical costs of falls, adjusted for inflation, was $30 billion.”

Grab bars increase accessibility and safety for people with a variety of disabilities or mobility difficulties. Although they are most commonly seen in public handicapped toilet stalls, grab bars are also used in private homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes. Grab bars are most commonly installed next to a toilet or in a shower or bath enclosure.

Grab bar locations

  • Grab bars next to a toilet help people using a wheelchair transfer to the toilet seat and back to the wheelchair. They also assist people who have difficulty sitting down, have balance problems while seated or need help rising from a seated position.
  • Used in a shower or bathtub, grab bars help to maintain balance while standing or maneuvering, assist in transferring into and out of the enclosure, and generally help to mitigate slips and falls.
  • Floor to ceiling grab bars, or security poles, can be used in the bedroom to help one get out of bed or get up from a chair, or to help caregivers by assisting in transfers.

Grab bars are often used in conjunction with other medical devices to increase safety. For example, a grab bar added to a shower is frequently used with a shower chair and hand held shower head. Grab bars installed by a doorway are usually added near a railing. In addition, grab bars can be placed on any wall where extra support is needed even if it is not the “usual place” they are used.

Grab bar installation positions

Grab bars can be installed in different positions:

  • Vertical grab bars may help with balance while standing.
  • Horizontal grab bars provide assistance when sitting or rising, or to grab onto in case of a slip or fall.
  • Some grab bars can be installed at an angle, depending on the needs of the user and the positioning. Grab bars installed horizontally offer up the greatest safety and care should be taken when installing them on the angle as this contrary to the ADA Guidelines. Often this angled installation is easier for people pulling themselves up from a seated position.

There are many considerations when deciding which grab bar to use and how best to install it. Properly securing a grab bar is important so that it doesn’t pull out of the wall when pressure is applied to it. Each installation should be properly secured into wall blocking or studs to provide the best support. If no studs are available, specialized mollies can be used to spread out grab forces across a wider area of the wall.

Grab bar styles

While the ADA guidelines provide specifics on the placement of grab bars in public locations, they do not require a specific style. Many public facilities opt for the cheapest grab bars, which usually have an institutional look. However, grab bars are actually available in many styles, finishes and colors. Manufacturers have begun to understand the need to blend in with home decor, offering grab bars that have style and pizazz. For the home, grab bars do not need to be ADA compliant, but those guidelines should be considered. In addition to straight grab bars, there are fold-out bars, those that clamp onto the side of the bathtub, L-shaped, U-shaped and corner grab bars. Grab bars are also made with built in LED lighting and can come in many different colors.