In a comedy movie, bathrooms are prime sources for slapstick humor with the protagonist accidentally slipping on the soap, only to land in the bathtub while the hairdryer is still in their hand. But what might be funny on the screen can be a painful nightmare in real life. The vision of falling in the bathroom haunts seniors who live on their own, because an accident could render them unable to call for help.
Not to mention that the bones of an aging adult are frail and can break more easily. According to the National Institute of Aging, falls are the main cause of senior hospitalization, and most accidents happen in the bathroom. Luckily, there are several countermeasures that could safeguard the elderly resident’s well-being, and grab bars are the most notable ones.
Why a Grab Bar
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation conducted research about grab bars in the bathroom. From this they learnt two important things: first, that even younger adults resort to such beams if they experience balance loss; and second, that 78% of participating seniors used grab bars after it was made available to them, even though previously they hadn’t felt the need for it. It’s safe to assume, therefore, that the mere presence of such items adds to the elderly’s feeling of safety.
It should also be mentioned that grab bars are highly versatile products. There are stainless steel handles that can be screwed into the wall in order to support the senior’s weight, while others can be fitted with locking latches that allow for easy relocation.
Of course, grab bars can be installed in other areas outside the bathtub, too. In cases where an aging resident is finding it difficult to stand up from the toilet, climb the stairs or leave the bed in the morning, a strategically placed handle will make it easier to get about and prevent unwanted falls.
Where to Place the Grab Bars
Did you know that there is a science behind the setup of arm handles? That’s right, those same researchers created a study about the most popular grab bar configurations in the bathroom. The most popular one is placing a long, horizontal bar on the back wall of the tub that aids seniors in standing up or sitting down, while installing a second, vertical bar at the wall where the faucet is helps support the elderly in getting in and out of the bath.
This configuration is the most convenient, but not the most efficient. The study pointed out that setting up two horizontal grab bars below each other offers a better means for seniors to slowly raise their body. Placing one big L-shaped handle on the back wall is also a nice way to save space, since it has multiple uses. Lastly, mounting a medium-sized grab bar tilted at a 45-degree angle was deemed as one of the better, more popular options.
We recommend opting for a relocatable grab bar first to test which configuration suits the senior’s physical condition the best. Either way, the bottom line is that having more than one grab bar is always safer.
Recommended Grab Bars
When it comes to shopping for grab handles, be sure to look for aspects like water-resistance, durability and ease of installation. In order to make the search easier, here are three possible candidates…
Moen Home Bathroom Grab Bar
They can be mounted on the wall at any angle, and the company encourages homeowners to install them in other areas of the property other than only the bathtub, such as next to the toilet. Also, all products are ADA compliant and come with Moen’s limited lifetime warranty.
Suction Shower Handle & Bathroom Balance Bar by Vive
The grab bar can hold a maximum of 300 pounds, which is more than enough for most seniors. The rubbery handle can be just as easily removed by switching the tabs, allowing the owner to take it away for a vacation or to temporarily set it up in another room.
Moen 30-Inch Flip-Up Bathroom Grab Bar
It also requires some work in terms of installation, since the base must be screwed tightly to the wall. Just like the other Moen grab bar, this one is also ADA compliant and comes with the company’s limited lifetime warranty.
When a Fall Occurs
Bear in mind that setting up an expensive grab bar won’t prevent falls entirely. The specter of falling haunts the whole bathroom, not just the tub. Other preventive measures include non-slip mats, shower stools and wall-mounted help buttons for those elderly residents that have subscribed to a medical alert system. We recommend installing a series of lights in the hallway as well, so that seniors won’t trip during the night.
Medical alert systems are also designed to protect against bathroom hazards in more than one way. The help button is waterproof, therefore the pendant or wristwatch can be worn in the shower or bath.
The Best Medical Alert Systems of 2019
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Base stations have large enough range to cover rooms far away, but it’s possible to signal for help with the aforementioned wall buttons too. Still, the most notable feature is the fall detection pendant, which is capable of alerting monitoring agents while the wearer is lying unconscious.
But again, we would like to stress that even the highly sensitive fall pendants can fail. Keeping all your eggs in one basket is a serious mistake that could put your beloved senior’s life at risk. That’s why we recommend setting up as many anti-fall measures as possible.