Grab Bar Safety Tips


Bathroom safety is paramount for elderly parents, as most accidents and falls happen in the home. Here are five tips for grab bar placement to improve the safety of your elderly parent's home.

1. Grab Bar Height

There is no standard height requirement for residential installation of grab bars, and everyone's needs are different. But as a rule of thumb, in ADA-compliant bathrooms, grab bars are installed 33-inches to 36-inches off the finished floor.

  1. Grab Bar Length

Grab bars should cover as much of the shower wall as possible. If you have a large shower, have a bar for each wall to ensure safety.

  1. Attach to Studs

Your grab bars will be rock-solid if you anchor them to studs. Find the studs near your proposed grab bar location using a stud sensor.

  1. Test Strength

You're not done until you yank-test. Give the bars a good solid yank to test their holding power. With a helper standing by in case the bar comes loose, pull with all your strength. Now's the time to make sure the bar will hold up when it's really needed.

  1. Proper Bar Placement

Even a solidly anchored grab bar is useless if it's in the wrong place. What location is best depends on the situation. If you're installing the bars for a person with a disability or injury, have this person help you decide which location will be most helpful. A physical therapist or an occupational therapist also can help with this decision. Here are some locations where grab bars are most helpful:

  • Outside of the Shower or Tub
    Having a small grab bar placed vertically outside of the shower or tub entry is great for assistance stepping to and from a wet surface.
  • Tub Deck
    Soaking tubs are all the rage in bathroom design. However, trouble can come quickly if someone is unable to exit the tub. Install a grab bar on the wall behind the tub and/or a small grab bar on the tub deck. Be sure the grab bar is in a place where a foot cannot trip on it while entering or exiting a tub.
  • Towel Bars with Strength
    Let's face it, when you are about to fall, you'll grab on to anything close by, including a towel bar. Additionally, providing grab bars does not automatically lead to behavior change. Often a senior has developed the habit of grabbing the towel bar and may continue to do so even after the installation of a grab bar. Why not make towel bars safer by replacing them with grab bars?
  • Toilet Paper Holder
    For those who have a hard time getting up from a seated position, there are some grab bars that also function as a toilet paper holder. This combination offers the convenience of a built in toilet paper holder while still maintaining its strength of supporting 250 pounds of force.

Sladick is certified by the National Association of Homebuilders and an expert in Universal Design. She is a member of the advisory council for the National Kitchen and Bath Association and has also sat on the American Society of Interior Designer's National Council on Aging in Place and Universal Design.

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I would like advice on how to use the grab bars after installed. I am planning on installing a horizontal grab bar on the wall along the long side of the tub as well as a short vertical one on the wall at the short end of the tub to assist getting in and out.
What I'd like to know is how to grip the horizontal bar from a sitting position in the tub to help in getting to a standing position.
Can a Nursing Home let out a room without a grab rail in the shower or a shower seat? My Nan has Dementia and has just come out of hospital after a few falls and has been placed in such a home.
ps. This nursing home is in England.