Grab bars may be installed in various locations, depending on the bathroom space and the person’s needs. If the person is able to step into the tub or shower from a standing position, we recommend a grab bar at the tub entrance so the person has safe support to hold onto while climbing over the tub wall. A vertical bar is frequently preferred over a horizontal bar because it is easier for arthritic hands to grip.
On the long tub wall, a grab bar on an angle is generally recommended for help when getting up from the tub floor or from a bath chair; make sure it slopes up in the direction of the shower head from the person’s seated position.
Grab bars offer essential support while getting in and out of the bathtub or shower, reducing the risk of a fall. And they’re available in a variety of sizes and finishes so you have more choice than ever before. Below are general recommendations and tips that we hope you’ll find helpful, but be sure to check with a health care provider if the person you care for has special needs.
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Location and Size
For person’s who can do a standing transfer, we generally recommend a grab bar at the tub or shower entrance so the person has safe support to hold onto when climbing over the tub wall or shower curb. A vertical bar (18″ – 36″), is frequently preferred over a horizontal bar because it is easier for arthritic hands to grip. Specialists recommend installing the bar at no more than 9″ from the edge of the outside tub wall and with the bottom of the grab bar approximately 32″ to 36″ above the floor. One highly rated product can be found here.
For a person who can still stand safely, a grab bar on an angle is recommended. An angled bar offers a handhold when the person is rising from the bathtub floor, or when moving from a seated position in a bath chair to a semi-standing position to wash private areas. Specialists recommend installing the bar like this one at a 45-degree angle, approximately eight inches or so above the tub.
An angled bar on a long tub or shower wall is generally recommended. An angled bar (24″- 36″), installed at a 45-degree angle, approximately 9 inches above the tub rim. It offers a handhold when the person is getting into the tub using a chair or bench, moving from a seated position in a bath or shower chair to a semi-standing position to wash private areas
or getting up from the bathtub floor.
Horizontal bars on the long wall, 24″ – 36″ wide, may also be used (but are recommended less frequently by physical therapists):
The lower grab bar is installed 9″ – 11″ above the tub rim as hand support for pulling up from the bathtub floor, transferring from or into a wheelchair or getting up from a seated to a standing position when using a bath chair.
The higher grab bar is installed 33″ – 36″ above the floor. This location offers a hand grip to support balance while standing in the bathtub or shower and getting up and down when using a bath chair.
A floor to ceiling mounted pole may also be helpful in some situations.
Color & Finish
Grab bars are available in a variety of bright colors or metal finishes, including stainless steel and antique bronze. Choose grab bars with a matte, slip-resistant finish since wet hands can slip on polished finishes.
Some grab bars even have padded grips on the underside to keep hands from slipping. As many care receivers have problems with depth perception, make sure the color of the grab bars stands out against the wall.
Grab bars can be installed by screwing them directly into the wall studs. But, more often then not, the studs are not located where you want to place a grab bar.
They can also be installed by using a special anchor that that meets the minimum building code standard of 250 lbs and allows the bar to be installed directly into sheetrock or tile. Be sure to check with the manufacturer for specific installation instructions.
Some grab bars have mounting plates that allow more screws or anchors to be used for a potentially safer installation. Do keep in mind that grab bars installed with only plastic anchors and screws directly into tile and wallboard will not hold up during a fall!
Replace towel bars with grab bars
Many individuals mistake towel bars for grab bars and hold onto them for support. Towel bars are not manufactured or installed to support a person’s weight and can easily pull out of the wall. Consider replacing the towel bars with grab bars just in case the person grabs onto them for support.
Stepping Into Tub
If the person is able to step into the tub or shower from a standing position, a sideways approach is the easiest, putting the least amount of stress on joints and muscles. The person should face the wall, not the tub. With both hands on the vertical bar, the person should lift one leg over the tub and places the right hand onto the angled grab bar. The person should then lift the other leg over the tub.
You’ll want to stay close by the person in case he/she needs your help. Often, you’ll need to give verbal and physical reminders on where the person should place his/her hands and legs.
Once in the tub, the person may prefer standing for a shower, sitting in a bath chair for a seated shower, or for the hardy, sitting in the tub for a full soak.