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Fitting a grab rail around the home

Poor balance or reduced mobility can make it hard to move safely around your home. Grab rails (also known as grab bars) are a simple adaptation that give you that extra confidence when negotiating steps or stairs. When you want to change position and need a little leverage, such as getting on and off the toilet or in and out of the bath. We’ve written a handy guide on the different types of grab rails to help you choose which is right for you.

Around the home

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Daytime seating

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Standing in front, block their knees with your knees
  4. Ask them to lean forwards, bringing their head and shoulder over their knees and keeping head looking forward.
  5. 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.

4. Going outside/halls/stairs

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.

For more information on making your home safe and Dementia friendly click here

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