Where should grab bars be placed?
One of the most common questions we encounter during or prior to the installation process is “ Where should the grab bars be placed?” There are a number of factors which should be taken into account when forming decision as to where the safety bars should be placed. These factors should all be considered, even in the case of a somewhat healthy individual looking to add some degree of safety to their home environment.
This gathering of information both subjective and objective is the first important step to take when deciding upon grab bar placement. This is really the professional approach to an installation.
Where to install? The first step is to quickly assess the situation.
AGE, ANTHROPOMETRIC, MEDICAL AND SOCIAL FACTORS RELATED TO GRAB BAR PLACEMENT
Those involved in the process of recommendation and installation of grab bars should be in tune to the Functional Factors – Age or Medically related factors which may govern the placement of handrails. These factors are related to the physical and mental status of the user(s) and the primary use of the grab bars for these individuals – assistive vs preventative or both.
An awareness of these factors will usually help to determine the most advantageous locations for grab rail placement by taking into account limitations of strength, mobility, balance, visual acuity, motor and sensation.
Patients with Parkinson’s for instance may in some instances have notable difficulty with process of entering or exiting the shower.
Those who have experienced a stroke may have limitations and neglect of one side requiring them to have access and assistance available to them on the more functional side.
Joint replacements, lower or upper extremity fractures, rotator cuff repairs, the list goes on, and each situation requires an individualized approach to grab bar placement.
I frequently run into situations where bars have been placed incorrectly by individuals who are not really sensitive to the entire situation. In some cases poorly located `grab bars can actually make it less safe for the individual.
I have listed a few of of the more common user related factors that should be initially determined prior to installation either through self evaluation by the patient or client, or through observation and assessment by an experienced home safety specialist. This can be done in quite an informal way and quickly provide a lot of valuable information to help one decide on grab bar placement.
- Visual acuity
- Visual Acuity
- Motor Skills
- History of falling
- Available assistance
LOCATION, PHYSICAL FACTORS, WALL CONDITIONS
In some cases it is only one in location within the home which is considered for grab bars, but it is quite common for bars to installed in several bathrooms, hallways and at entry points into the home.
I have listed some of the more common locations within the home where grab bars are commonly placed for either fall prevention or for assistance:
- Tub Shower
- Toilet Area
- Entry from garage
- Front Door
- Next to Bed
- Kitchen Area
- Next To Sink
- Walk In Closet
Some of the common physical factors that one should take into consideration are related to to the home environment:
- Slippery Conditions
- Poor Lighting
It is important for one to assess the condition of the wall by visual inspection, and by touch and percussion when necessary to insure that the tiles or drywall is intact. In combination with a stud finder, percussion can also assist in the approximate location of studs or furring strips, and can also help to differentiate between hollow or block walls.
It is a good idea to take notice of what is on the other side of the wall (interior or exterior) on which grab bars are being installed. These quick observations should be second nature to an experienced and conscientious grab bar installer.
- Loose or Damaged Tile
- Mold and Mildew
- Water Damage
- Damaged Drywall
- Pocket Doors
- Exterior Wall
- Interior Wall
- Wood Studs
- Metal Studs
- Backing or Blocking
- Ceramic Tile
- Porcelain Tile
To be continued >>>