More than meets the eye – somehow that feels like the best way to start this little journey into the world of grab bars. Indeed, few things appear as simple and as humble, and yet manage to provide such a broad array of options which can provide new levels of quality to one’s life.
As always, we’ll start from the very beginning.
What are they?
Grab bars are safety aids designed and engineered – and that’s an important word to remember here – to do quite a few things. For example, they can help or enable a person to maintain balance, lessen fatigue by offering support while standing, or hold some of their weight while they’re maneuvering about. They can also help people avoid injury by being something they grab onto in case of a slip or fall.
Speaking of slips and falls, according to a report (Nonfatal Bathroom Injuries Among Persons Aged ≥15 Years, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2011) by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 230,000 bathroom injuries among people over age 15 are treated in emergency rooms each year. These injuries most frequently occur in or around a bathtub or shower, and the number of injuries increases with age, especially due to accidents where a person slips and falls near a toilet.
The report concludes that “Injuries might be reduced through environmental modifications, such as putting non-slip strips in the tub or shower and adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower to reduce falls, and installing next to the toilet for added support if needed.”
This brings us to our next point. Or, well, question.
Who are grab bars for?
Although grab bars are commonly associated with elderly individuals and persons with disabilities, they can, of course, be useful to anyone. For example, a caregiver may use a grab bar, as well, to assist with transferring a patient from one place to another. A worker may also use them to hold on to as he or she climbs. So, yes, they’re not just an aid for physically weakened individuals. Nevertheless, they do shine as safety equipment – especially for elderly and persons with disabilities, and especially in toilets and bathrooms.
Before we discuss the best installation practices, this is probably the most opportune moment to mention various types of grab bars and talk about their pros and cons.
What type should I buy?
While they can be categorised by their position and shape (for example: horizontal, vertical, angled, L-shaped, U-shaped), one of the more common ways you’ll find grab bars are differentiated is by the way they’re mounted on the wall (or any surface, for that matter) – suction cups or fixed.
Using suction cups to fit them allows an easier and quicker installation, probably eliminating the need to hire a professional. And since suction cup grab bars are portable, they can travel with you, be it on a short family or friends visit, or a lengthy holiday. Maybe your hotel isn’t adequately accessible, but you can bring some of that accessibility with you!
Furthermore, being able to reposition suction cup grab bars is very convenient if you’re unsure about the right place to install fixed grab bars. You can experiment with suction cups for a few days and, once the best place for the fixed grab bar is decided, install it knowing you made the exactly right choice.
All this being said, and although suction cup grab bars now have many advanced features, like safety indicators that inform if the attachment is safe enough, they do have their limitations. They can only be fitted on flat and non-porous surfaces, so a wall with small tiles or plain paint would not be suitable. What’s more, they can’t safely hold as much weight as fixed grab bars, and they can loosen over time, which means refitting them again.
This brings us to our next point.
Where to install fixed grab bars?
As we mentioned before, grab bars in or around showers and tubs can help you bathe safely and around toilets can help you do your thing privately and comfortably. But they can also be installed in any other place to provide support and safety. However, one thing to be mindful about – although grab bars are engineering masterpieces, all their hi-tech ingenuity will be worthless if they’re not installed properly. Stainless steel grab bars will not hold your weight if you install them on a drywall. Always consult professionals when installing them.
In conclusion, we can only repeat that, just like with certain transforming robots, there’s more to grab bars than meets the eye. They are a very affordable and simple aid, and yet, they can raise your quality of life in more ways than one.
Did we mention they can also be very fashionable?