A Guide to Grab Bars for Seniors: Cost, Benefits, Installation

The bathroom is a very dangerous place for seniors. The older you get and the less mobile you are, the greater the risk becomes. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to reduce this risk and make the bathroom a safer space.

Grab bars are perhaps the easiest way to do this, and they’re also one of the cheapest.

Why are Grab Bars Important?

You use the bathroom multiple times a day. The floors tend to be hard and prone to water spillages from the sink, shower, and bath, and you’re constantly sitting down, standing up, climbing into the bathtub. Overall, you’re being very mobile in a potentially hazardous space. 

That’s why the bathroom is such a dangerous place for seniors and why the CDC estimates that up to 80% of all falls occur in this room.

What are the Benefits of Grab Bars?

The main benefit of grab bars is the most obvious: reduced risk. When you have the support of carefully placed bars, your risk of falling and suffering a serious injury reduces significantly.

The benefits go much further than that, though.

Seniors who suffer from mobility problems are less likely to take a bath or shower. They neglect their personal hygiene because they are worried about falling and injuring themselves and because it can be such a hassle for them to take a bath or shower.

This is something that often frustrates younger caregivers, but once you put yourselves in the shoes of your elderly loved one, you’ll understand. Imagine a scenario where every bath or shower takes two or three times longer. A situation where you have to exert an immense amount of energy just to be clean, so much so that you may be sweaty again by the time you scramble out of the bath.

Would you still wash yourself every day? Probably not, and that’s exactly how millions of seniors feel. With grab bars in place, this is no longer a major issue and seniors can regain some of their independence.

Last but not least, grab bars allow seniors to continue their daily personal hygiene regime without assistance from their caregivers. If they are in the early stages of dementia or have yet to experience serve mobility issues, grab bars may be all they need to bathe themselves and to continue living freely and without assistance.

Not only does that make life considerably easier for them, negating the need for any outside help, but the psychological boost provided by the preservation of independence can be huge.

Types of Grab Bars

Grab bars come in three basic styles: Horizontal, vertical, and diagonal. Each option provides a different level of support:

  • Horizontal: The ideal choice for bathtubs and general walking support. These sturdy bars need to be set at a fixed height, which is the only downside, but they can help with numerous issues.
  • Vertical: A vertical bar is much easier to grip and is very useful for people suffering from arthritis. They can provide support when standing but offer less coverage than other options, so they’re not best suited for walking support. 
  • Diagonal: A somewhat “best of both worlds” approach, diagonal bars provide both coverage and support. With diagonal bars, similar to vertical bars, there is a greater risk of slipping when pulling yourself up.

The direction of the bar isn’t the only differentiating factor. There are also wavy bars, straight bars, and bars designed with specific needs and problems in mind. For example, some are specifically designed for shower support, bath support, and toilet support.

Where to Install Grab Bars

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when installing grab bars. Your mobility, bathroom layout, and height will dictate where the bars should be placed. The best way to learn this is to walk around your bathroom, go about your usual daily activities, and focus on where you place your hands.

This is where the bars should be placed, as this is clearly where you need additional support. Oftentimes, they will go near the toilet, bathtub, and shower, but it’s up to you to decide.

How Much do Grab Bars Cost?

A single grab bar can cost anywhere from a little over $10 to over $150. As with anything else, it all depends on the brand and the quality. As long as you buy from a reputable retailer, there’s no reason you shouldn’t opt for a cheaper option. However, if you’re overweight and believe that the bar will be placed under a lot of strain and stress, you may want to look at some of the more expensive options.

With regards to installation, this is something you can do yourself or with help from friends or family. You don’t need to pay professional installers, as the process is very straightforward and only requires a few basic tools.

If a professional installs them, they may charge a couple hundred dollars, depending on how many bars you’re fitting and where you’re fitting them. If you hire a professional, make sure you work with a company that is reputable and comes recommended. 

Companies that specialize in mobility installations may try to sell you additional bars, rails, and other safety features. In such cases, remember that you are under no obligation to buy and are within your rights to compare their services/products and get quotes from elsewhere.

Alternatives to Grab Bars

When getting in and out of the bathtub becomes a chore that even grab bars can’t help with, you should look into walk-in tubs. 

With a walk-in tub, you don’t need to climb over the side of your tub and you can simply open the door and walk in. They are designed to provide complete submergence, and many of them are fitted with soothing water jets to provide additional benefits.

Walk-in showers are available as well, although, where showers are concerned, your main goal should be to get a stool/bench, add a non-slip mat, and make sure there are bars/rails inside. 

Of course, these options cost a lot of money and it’s much cheaper to buy a few grab bars, so it’s something you may want to think about at a later date when it becomes more of a necessity.