A Guide to Bathroom Grab Bars
Updated for October, 2021
As we age, the bathroom can become a tricky place. The inability to get around as well as we once could, mixed with wet, slippery surfaces can create a dangerous combination. Falls can cause everything from bruises to broken bones to serious head injuries.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that every year three million seniors are taken to the emergency room and treated for injuries from falls. And what’s more, the CDC says more than 95 percent of hip fractures in the United States are caused by a fall.
The possibility of injuring yourself that seriously can be deeply concerning. But, fortunately, grab bars in the bathroom can make it safer for you and help you to maintain your freedom just that much longer.
The fear of falling and getting hurt can keep you from doing a lot of things – including taking a bath. Seniors can become reluctant to bathe or shower as often as they should because they don’t want to run the risk of getting hurt. Poor hygiene can create infections and skin problems. It’s important for overall good health as we get older to bathe twice a week at the very least. Installing grab bars in your shower can give you the confidence and stability you need to bathe every day, reducing the chance of infections.
The shower or bathtub isn’t the only place where falls can occur. Sitting down and getting off the toilet can cause you to take a tumble as well. Sometimes, it’s just because we are getting older and our balance isn’t as good as it once was. Other risk factors can be caused from dehydration or medication that can cause dizziness or light-headedness if you get up too quickly.
Independence and Confidence
Being able to live in your home and maintain your independence as long as possible is important. It’s difficult to feel like you’re losing your quality of life by having to ask family and friends for help with things you didn’t need help with before. But small changes like adding grab bars to your bathroom can prolong your independence, your quality of life and freedom to continue living as you have been.
Grab bars are a relatively inexpensive way to make bathing easier – allowing you to take care of your hygiene yourself and not have to ask for help to do that either.
Grab bars have a simple design but are incredibly versatile and the most effective way to be safe in the bathroom. There are three different types of grab bars – vertical, horizontal and diagonal.
Vertical grab bars are easier to grip, help with limited balance and are easier to use for people with arthritis. Because of the direction though, vertical grab bars provide less wall coverage when you’re walking than other grab bars.
Horizontal grab bars allow you to rotate your body, are sturdy when you pull yourself up to stand and make it easier to get in and out of a wheelchair and into a tub. They are limited to a fixed height, so that can be a downside. They can also make it uncomfortable for arthritis sufferers because of the way you have to contort your wrists.
Diagonal grab bars can accommodate several different heights, provide a more natural motion in the hands and wrist when you grab it and help you smoothly transition from sitting to standing. You do run the risk of your hand slipping when you’re trying to stand up. If you buy a bar with a textured surface, it can make it easier to grip.
In addition to the direction they go, there are several types of grab bars to choose from.
Straight Grab Bars
A straight grab bar is exactly that – straight. It’s the most basic and common type of grab bar you see. It can be installed in all three directions.
Wave-Style Grab Bars
It’s a straight grab bar, with a twist. The design has a wave in it, which makes it a little more decorative.
Grab Bar Toilet Paper Holder, Grab Bar Soap Dish, Grab Bar Towel Rack
All three of these have a two in one purpose. They can be used to hold toilet paper rolls, soap or your towel and are still sturdy enough to help you maintain your balance and stability. They are good to use if you have limited wall space.
Slide Bar Grab Bar with Handheld Showerhead
This may be a good grab bar to consider if you need to sit down to bathe. It will support you standing up and sitting down and hold the showerhead, as well.
Grab Bar Clamps
This particular grab bar will clamp to the side of your tub and help you to get in. It’s only recommended for use when lifting your legs over the tub wall to get in or out, not as a general grab bar to help pull yourself up. It will also require you to retighten the clamping mechanism from time to time because it may get loose.
Flip Up and Flip Down Grab Bars
These bars hinge to the wall and can be moved up or down and out of the way when you aren’t using them. They are typically installed around the toilet area.
Floor to Ceiling Poles
The best thing about these is there is no limitation on height. It can help provide support for you at a low or high level, since it is connected to the floor and the ceiling.
Angled Grab Bars, 90 Degree Grab Bars, Corner Grab Bars for Two Walls
These types of bars are good if there is limited space because they will help support you in two directions.
Corner Grab Bars for Two Walls
These are particularly helpful if you sit in the tub or on a shower chair to bathe. The grab bar is one continuous piece that attaches along two sides of your tub wall.
It’s important to make sure you put your grab bars in the most effective place in your bathroom. To figure that out, you can start by climbing in and out of your tub or shower without the water.
Other Bathroom Safety Features to Consider
Grab bars certainly aren’t the only option. While they will provide a great amount of support and stability, there are other products that are effective as well.
Standing long enough to shower can be just as difficult as getting in and out of the tub. If you have balance problems or difficulty standing for long periods of time, a shower chair may be something you want to consider. Look for chairs that have rubber tips on the legs so they won’t slide, and a seat that won’t be slippery when it’s wet. A shower chair, coupled with a hand-held shower head, will allow you to stay seated and bathe.
Hand-held shower head
A shower chair won’t be very helpful unless you have a hand-held shower head so you can sit down and take your bath. Look for shower heads that come with a six-foot hose. That will be enough hose to reach yourself easily while you sit down.
The wet floor of a bathtub or shower mixed with soap and shampoo can create a slippery mess for any age. Non-slip mats on the floor of the shower or tub can give you the stability you need. Rubber non-slip mats and adhesive strips are also effective in preventing falls.
Non-slip bath mats
Most bathroom floors are either tile or linoleum. When wet, either of those surfaces can become slick and cause you to fall. Make sure you put a non-slip bath mat in front of the shower or tub, toilet and sink to help keep you steady. Bath mats with non-slip backings will stay in place and won’t move around when you do.
Raised toilet seats
A raised toilet seat can help if you have trouble sitting down on the toilet and then getting back up. It raises the height by three or four inches and cuts down the distance for you to get to the seat.
If you fall in the bathroom and hurt yourself, it can cause you to fear going back in or, depending on the injury, force you out of your independence. It’s better to be proactive, to ensure neither of those things happen. A simple choice to installing grab bars in your bathroom will help you maintain your balance and stability and give you the peace of mind you need to be able to shower and use the toilet without being afraid of falling.