Being able to live in your home and maintain your independence as long as possible is important. But small changes like adding grab bars around your home can prolong your independence, your quality of life and freedom to continue living as you have been.
There are a number of reasons why you may be feeling unstable on your feet – such as pain or weakness in your legs, breathlessness, back pain, dizziness or fatigue… A grab rail can be fitted anywhere in your home where you need extra support – and give you the confidence to move around safely.
Grab rails are simple, sturdy supporters – from contemporary styles to build your own systems, choose the style that best suits you.
Here are just 5 different ways you might use a grab rail:
- To push or pull up with when standing up
- A steadying support when going to sit down
- An extra grip to hold on to when transferring from one position to another
- For balance when walking around the home, up/down stairs, over the doorstep
- Extra support when carrying items
A grab rail can be fitted anywhere that you need extra support. If you find you are using a wall, radiator or door-frame for support, a grab rail would be safer.
What types of grab rails are there?
The quick answer is either fixed with screws or attached by suction pads…
1 Straight rails
These are wall-fixed rails which run in one direction only. They can be fixed in a horizontal or a vertical position, or at an incline or angle.
Horizontal rails may help when pushing up from sitting and a little extra support when lowering down – getting on to the toilet for example. Most of us find it easier to push down on a rail rather than pull on one, so horizontal rails are more commonly used. 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 bed, chair or bath. 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 rotate your wrist.
A vertical rails may help you when pulling up into a standing position or just to maintain balance. 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.
Setting the grab rail at an angle can ensure a steadying support – e.g. standing up from a bath board to shower, fitting the rail at an angle of 45 degrees up and away from you. This will keep your wrist in a neutral position. It may also not be necessary to lean as far forward to grasp the rail at the lower end. You can then allow your hand to travel up the rail to maintain the support as you go to standing. Diagonal grab bars can accommodate several different heights too.
2 System rails
Need a longer length or have a larger area together, put together to make a customised shape. Fix to the wall around the bathroom with bends and angles to suit you.
3 Suction pad rails
Using air pressure to fit grab handles allows an easier and quicker installation, and unlikely that you will need to hire someone to fit. Nowadays, some include indicators to let you know if the attachment is safe enough. They can only be fitted on flat and non-porous surfaces. You must be careful leaning on them and they tend loosen over time, check each time before use and if unsure, refit again.
Experimenting with suction pad grab rails to make sure when you permanently fix, they will be in the right place. If recovering from minor surgery or fracture, they can add ease recovery and boost confidence. Since they are portable, you can take them with you when you travel too.
Choosing which one and where to fit will also depend upon your grip, arm strength and space available. We would encourage you to talk to family members and your Healthcare professional if you are unsure, before purchase.
Our grab rail range is for permanently fixing to the wall with the option to have a combination of vertical and horizontal rails to help you. They will need a handy man to drill to the wall.
Where to position your rails
Correct positioning of grab rails is important to ensure they provide the support, where necessary, to perform specific tasks. Check out online guides on how to fit. We include a fitting guide with each product.
Remember, you will need to consider
- What you need & where
- the amount of support you require
- your height and weight
- the amount of mobility and strength you have in your hands, arms and shoulders.
Where you shouldn’t fit grab rails
You shouldn’t fix rails to a bathroom floor that has been sealed and made waterproof, as it will destroy the seal and potentially become costly to repair
Around the home
In the bathroom
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. The fear of falling and getting hurt can keep you from doing a lot of things – including taking a bath. Fitting 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 bath 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.
Here are a few suggestions of where you might fit a grab rail in your bathroom:
- When standing from a sitting position in the bath you may find it helpful to hold one horizontal wall-fixed grab rail (placed above the bath) with one hand and use the outer rim of the bath with the other hand to push against. The rail can be used in combination with a bath board – holding onto the rail as you sit down, turn and lift legs into or out of the bath.
- Standing up in the bath, whilst showering or when standing up to get over the bath, you may find a vertical rail helpful.
- A fixed rail beside your shower seat can help prevent sliding off a wet, slippery seat.
- There are many different types of adaptations for safe transfer on and off the toilet – read our guide on choosing a toilet frame or seat raiser, to decide what is right for you and the space you have available.
- If you have the same strength on both sides, it is quite common to fit supports on both sides to enable you to use both arms. Only able to fit one rail, using an angled fitting that you can put the weight of your arm on as you pull up might be helpful.
- A handy tip is to sit on the toilet and work out how best you get up. Do talk to your local healthcare professional if you are in any way considered getting on/off the toilet.
Getting out of Bed
Weak brittle bones can make it difficult to get up. We can easily become disorientated, particularly when getting up in the night. Bed rails can be fitted to keep a loved one from falling out of bed. A grab rail by the side of the bed, can be used to pull up to sitting or standing – and in reverse getting into bed. You might also use to hold on to when you want to change position when lying down.
Getting up from your favourite chair can be difficult too. A grab rail may have limited success because of the strength needed to pull up.
Are you helping someone stand up from a chair? Here’s a quick checklist that might help you and them:
- Placing hands firmly on arm rest, ask your family or friend to manoeuvre to the front of the chair and pull feet back under their chair to be ready to stand.
- Ensure feet can be firmly planted on the floor, not on tip toes and not too close together to give a stable base to stand up. Make sure wearing suitable footwear or non slip socks to avoid sliding.
- Standing in front, block their knees with your knees
- Ask them to lean forwards, bringing their head and shoulder over their knees and keeping head looking forward.
- Ask them to use the arms on their chair and legs to push up to a stand.
Never should you pull a person up by their arms, hold onto their trunk or hips. Stand as close as possible to the person and be kind to your back.
There are many options of how you can adapt existing seating – chair raisers, high seat cushions, back cushions before considering changing to a new riser recliner or Standing chair.
It makes sense to have additional rails next to the front and back door if there are steps leading up to them, as well as on uneven paths or steps within the garden area. They are especially important here if the area becomes slippery in wet weather.
Stairs are a particularly risky area for falls, so it’s important to take care to make them as safe as possible. If you need additional support on the stairs and have only one rail, then consider fitting a second one.
It should run the length of the stairs, and best practice would be to join the ends when the rail needs to run around a corner or up a second flight. This will provide continuous support and look more aesthetically pleasing, too.
The rail should also extend beyond the bottom and top of the stairs to provide a handhold on the level surface. If the wall ends suddenly, or if there’s a door at either end of the stairs, consider installing a short vertical rail so you can move your hand from the stair rail to a short rail on the landing to enable you to get your balance.
A bright coloured grab rail is also a great option for anyone with low vision or dementia.
Any fall and subsequent injury to yourself can hit your confidence in maintaining 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 maintain your personal care and manage yourself, without having to ask for help or being afraid of falling.