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8 Reasons Suction Grab Bars are Potentially Dangerous
Recently, I noticed some suction grab bars in the home of an elderly friend. She had them in the shower and on the wall behind the commode. While they appeared sturdy enough at first glance, they made me nervous. From a safety standpoint, suction grab bars are questionable, particularly for someone like my friend. Though fairly active, she is 89 years old and her balance is not great. I would hate for her to add what she thought was a safety feature to her bathroom only to find it caused her more problems.
I understand people like suction grab bars because they are affordable and easy to put in place and then take down when desired. And those who rent their homes vs own may think it’s the way to go as they are not allowed to affix anything to the walls.
My friend told me she felt these bars were better than nothing. She did not want to go to the effort and expense of installing permanent grab bars with the appropriate support. I’m not so sure they are better than nothing. Yes, they can provide extra support, but they are not 100% reliable. It only takes one incident to create a long term problem.
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Yes, suction grab bars can work…sometimes
Suction grab bars in the shower or tub can definitely work, but how well they work depends on a variety of factors. For example, the surface to which they are attached needs to be conducive for the suction to work well. Also, the weight of the person is a consideration, as is the length of time they remain up. All these things affect the stability of the grab bars.
Most suction grab bars, designed to attach to smooth, no-porous surfaces like tile or glass, are made from plastic with a rubber gasket between two metal plates. To install, the user needs to push down on the bar to create a vacuum seal between the bar and the wall surface. Sounds simple, but the problem is that over time, shower surfaces get wet, soapy or dirty which can cause them to slip or detach.
Another issue is that is someone leans on the bar, the vacuum seal can break causing the grab bar to come loose. If the person using weighs more than 250 lbs, the likelihood of the bar will come loose increases significantly.
Suction grab bars can be safe, but it is important to use them correctly and understand their limitations.
Our five top reasons we do not recommend suction grab bars:
In a nutshell, suction grab bars may not be the most reliable option for providing stability and support in the bathroom or other wet areas.
Limited weight capacity
Designed to support up to 200 pounds, these temporary bars may not be sufficient for heavier individuals or those who put a lot of pressure on the bar.
Not suitable for all surfaces
They work best on smooth, non-porous surfaces such as tiles, glass, and mirrors. They may not adhere well to textured or uneven surfaces.
Potential for failure
They rely on suction cups to stay in place. Unfortunately, these suction cups which can become dislodged if not installed correctly or if the surface is wet or dirty. This can lead to falls and injuries.
They are not a permanent fixture and may need to be readjusted or reinstalled regularly. This can be inconvenient and time-consuming.
Limited placement options
Suction grab bars can only be placed in areas where there is a suitable surface to adhere to. This may limit their placement options and may not provide the most ideal support for the user.
Overall, while suction grab bars can provide temporary support, they may not be the best option for long-term use or for those who require more stability and security. That’s why we recommend you consult with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist to determine the most suitable option for your needs.
Alternatives to suction grab bars
Here are a few options to consider that may provide more reliable support and stability.
Wall-mounted grab bars
These are permanent grab bars that you install securely onto a wall. They can support a greater weight capacity and are available in a variety of lengths and styles. Wall-mounted grab bars are ideal for individuals who require more support and stability in the bathroom or other areas of the home.
Clamp-on grab bars
These are grab bars that clamp onto the edge of a bathtub or shower stall. They are adjustable and you can remove them when not in use. Clamp-on grab bars are a good option for individuals who require temporary support or for those who rent their home and cannot install permanent fixtures.
These are poles that are secured between the floor and ceiling. They can provide support and stability in a variety of situations and are adjustable. You can easily move them to different locations in the home. Floor-to-ceiling poles are ideal for individuals who require support when standing or sitting and can be used in a variety of settings.
These are benches that are placed inside a bathtub or shower stall and can provide a stable surface for individuals to sit on while bathing. Transfer benches have adjustable legs and can be used to transfer individuals in and out of the bathtub or shower stall safely.
Four Most Commonly Googled Questions About Grab Bars
The bottom line
To ensure that these temporary grab bars are safe to use, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Make sure they are installed on a clean, dry surface and periodically check the suction cups. You want to ensure they are securely attached and have not started to loosen or slip.
If you have concerns about the safety of suction grab bars, consider consulting with a healthcare professional or occupational therapist. A trusted professional can provide guidance on the best options for your specific needs. There are better options available for individuals who require support and stability in the bathroom or other areas of the home.
As for my friend? She leaned on her grab bar one day for too long and it came off the wall. As a result, she fell. Fortunately, it was not a bad one, but it did make her realize some changes were needed. She let me replace the suction grab bars at that point with permanent ones with good support.
Thank you! And thank you for the information on AccessibleGo.com!