Whether you’re a senior or young person, grab bars make your bathroom safer. Your bathroom might be the smallest room in your home, but it can be one of the most dangerous places.
As surprising as it may seem, more than 200,000 people aged 15 and above visit the emergency department every year due to bathroom injuries. Unintended bathroom injuries are more common in children and elderly persons, and the incidence increases with age.
In children less than 15 years, unintentional bathroom injuries are usually due to falls while showering or bathing. Most falls in persons aged > 85 years occur inside the bathroom while getting out of the tub or shower and when standing up, sitting down, or using the toilet.
To minimize the risk of bathroom injuries in seniors, it is necessary to provide safety modifications such as grab bars and, if possible, assistance with bathing. For older children, bathroom safety education and modifications such as installing grab bars inside and outside the shower or bathtub may help decrease bathroom-related injuries.
Types of Bathroom Grab Bars
Grab bars are no longer plain pieces of metal fixed to our bathroom walls. Nowadays, you can find grab bars in various colors and styles. Some are even designed to also serve as soap racks or shelves. You can even purchase them online and easily install them. However, it is best to have a professional mount your grab bars for maximum security.
Straight Grab Bar or Wall Bar
This is the type of grab bar that most people are familiar with and often purchase. It is a straight bar that you can fix to the wall of your bathroom—usually both inside and outside bathtub or shower and next to the toilet.
Straight grab bars come in various lengths and typically range from 12 to 36 inches. Some manufacturers offer straight bars that are over 36 inches long.
You can install a straight grab bar horizontally, vertically, or at an angle, depending on your preferences.
Flip-Up Grab Bar
This type of grab bar has a hinge that allows it t to be flipped up against the wall when not in use and flipped down when needed. Flip-up grab bars come in various designs, but most are similar. They are usually made of stainless steel, painted steel, and chrome.
You can install one or two flip-up style grab bars on either side of your toilet to use it for support when sitting down and getting up from the toilet. You can also install them outside your bathtub or shower stall to help you safely step in and out of your tub or shower stall.
Some manufacturers do produce models that can be mounted to the wall and others that can installed on the floor. Some models are designed to hold toilet tissue too.
Corner, L-Shaped, and Compound Shape Grab Bars
These come in a variety of shapes and can be mounted to one or two walls depending on the attachment points. Other L-shaped bars are designed to be mounted to one wall.
These bars are sold as right- or left-hand bars. Right- and left-hand bars are basically the same but differ on whether the bar is bent to the left or right from the vertical section. You can install this bar in whichever way works best for you.
You can mount this grab bar to the wall close to the bathtub or shower stall. The vertical part of the bar can help you get in and out of the bathtub or shower whereas the horizontal part can help you gain balance when you step into your bathtub or shower stall.
You can also mount this grab bar to the wall close to the toilet. In this case, the horizontal part of the bar can help you pull yourself up and the vertical part can help you stand up. You can also mount it near a bath seat to help you pull yourself up and stand up.
Some L-shaped grab bars are designed to be mounted horizontally in the corner between two walls. You can install these types of grab bars in the corner of your bathtub or shower stall. You can also mount this type of bar to the walls close to the toilet pot to provide support when sitting and getting up from the toilet seat.
Suction Cup Style Grab Bar
Most grab bars designed to be mounted to a wall should be preferably fastened into a wood stud for secure placement. However, in cases where you prefer not to have a grab bar permanently installed to your bathroom walls, you can choose a suction cup style grab bar instead.
These grab bars have suction cups that can attach firmly to a wall once the levers are pushed. Most manufacturers include an instruction manual to help you select the best surfaces on which these bars would work. You install should install suction cup style grab bars on surfaces that are smooth and non-porous. The suction caps must make full contact with a smooth surface without breaking grout.
You can use this type of grab bar to help you with balance. For safety reasons, it is recommended that you do not use it to support your full body weight. You should also always test the holding grip on each surface whenever you wish to use.
One of the downsides of this grab bar is that the suction caps can lose suction with time. Therefore, manufacturers recommend that users occasionally remove and reapply it to reactivate the suction cup vacuum. Additionally, changes in temperature (especially high temperatures, such as in a sauna), can cause the suction cup to lose their grip on the wall.
Some users might not know how often or when to remove and reapply the grab bar. If this is you, you can purchase models that come with a safety indicator warning that can help the user know when it is time to remove and reapply the grab bar.
Floor to Ceiling Mount Grab Bars—Pole Type
You can install this in your bathroom to facilitate standing from a seated position such as in a bathtub or from a toilet seat. These poles are pretty straightforward to install and do not have to be fastened using nails or screws. They are ideal in situations where you do not have a wall to conveniently place a grab bar.
This bar is held in place between the floor and the ceiling using a jackscrew mechanism, and the pole length can be adjustable to fit different height ceilings. Some models come with a horizontal bar, trapeze bar, and other enhancements. Others can bear weights of up to 450 pounds.
The main advantage of this grab bar is that it can be used on any type of ceiling and they do not cause damage to the floor or ceiling. Additionally, the bar can be unfastened and transported in case you’re switching homes. However, the bar needs to be clamped properly and securely.
Clamp-on Bathtub Grab Bar
This type of grab bar is designed only for bathtubs. It clamps onto the wall of the bathtub to provide a helpful handhold to users getting into and out of the bathtub. It is recommended that users do not pull the grab bar sideways as it may lose its grip on the tub wall.
You do not need nails or screws to install this grab bar. Rather, it only requires that you turn a dial until the clamp grips the wall of the tub securely. It is important that you check the recommendations of the manufacturer to ensure that you buy a model suitable for your bathtub.
This grab bar would also require that you check it occasionally and retighten the clamp because the grab bar can lose its grip with time.
One of the advantages of this grab bar is that it can be unclamped and transported, as can be the case when you’re moving to a new home. Its main disadvantage is that it is not designed for persons with mobility issues such as in cases where the user needs a tub transfer bench.
Wall-to-Floor Grab Bar
This grab bar has one end that attaches to the wall and the other to the floor. The horizontal part sticks out from the wall and bends downwards at 90° to attach to the floor.
You can install this grab bar to one or both sides of your toilet to provide support when sitting and getting up from the toilet.
Dual-Function Grab Bar
These are more than just grab bars and can also serve as towel racks, toilet paper holders, shelves, and soap dishes. It is always a plus to have a dual-function grab bar because, in addition to providing support and balance, it can also serve other purposes.
Bathroom safety aids and tools can help increase the safe use of the bathroom, shower, or bathtub by persons at risk for falls. You can prevent dangerous bathroom falls and injuries by installing one or more grab bars in your bathroom. If you are unsure of the best type to install, you can hire a professional who specializes in home modifications to help you choose a grab bar that meets your needs.