Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Grab Bars: The Unsung Heroes

Grab bars. Do the words conjure up and image of cold, stainless steel bars braced on the walls of public bathrooms with a large handicapped sign adorning the door?

Is this what gives them a bad image?  Is this why seniors who just need a little help to remain safely in their bathrooms fail to install them?

Probably.  Who wants something ugly in their bathroom that shouts ‘handicapped’?  Vanity triumphs over safety.  Here’s why and where seniors need grab bars, and how you can make them fit into the bathroom decor.

Why Seniors need Grab Bars

Seniors need grab bars because they have a high likelihood of falling, and falls lead to injury and death.  Here are some scary stats from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • One third of Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
  • Every 17 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 29 minutes, an older adult dies following a fall.
  • Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
  • Falls result in more than 2 million injuries treated in emergency departments, including over 550,000 hospitalizations and more than 18,000 deaths.
Despite the evidence that shows falling is a risk, a senior you’re working with is likely to say “I don’t need grab bars.”  No one thinks the bad stuff happens to them.  It’s nice to live with optimism but, sadly, they’re wrong. 

One day the soap will make an acrobatic leap off the soap dish in the shower, the senior will stoop to retrieve it, she’ll find herself off balance on the slippery, wet surface and is likely to break a perfectly good bone or two as she falls.
Protect the seniors you love and care for.  Insist on grab bars.

Where Seniors Need Grab Bars

Hopefully you’re with me now on the need.  Now you want to know where to put them.  I’m going to focus on the bathroom, the most dangerous room for falls in the house, but they can go far beyond that.

Think through the bathroom routine.  For example, Mrs. Smith takes off her clothes outside the shower and bath.  This requires a few maneuvers that could compromise her balance.  So she needs a grab bar to hold onto right outside the bath and shower.

Next she steps into the bath or shower. This means you want to have a grab bar along the side of the shower or bath to help her balance as she makes her grand entrance.  

Now it’s time to envision what could go wrong in the bath or shower.  If Mrs. Smith slips, where would she reach out to for support?  She probably needs a grab bar along the back of the bath and shower for just such an occasion.

Of course, it’s not all about bathing.  There’s that toilet too.  As Mrs. Smith ages, it becomes more difficult to get up and down.  So put some grab bars on the around the toilet to give her support.  (Or get her a Tush Push seat lift – one of my absolute favorite products.)

It’s not a Grab Bar. It’s a Decorative Accent.

Now there’s still one problem.  You’ve got to sell Mrs. Smith on this grab bar thing.  Here’s an idea—don’t call them ‘grab bars.’  How about suggesting some ‘decorative accent pieces’ that could one day prevent injury or even save her life? 

That’s right – grab bars don’t have to be cold, sterile, one-size fits all stainless-steel rods.  They come in lengths from one foot to six feet, different diameters for small hands and large, shapes that are straight, curved, waved and more to fit style preferences and safety needs.  And finishes include bushed nickel, polished chrome, brass and more; both textured or smooth.

Get Help

These are just a few ideas.  Make sure you consult with an occupational therapist, physical therapist or a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) on the best placement, use and installation of grab bars.  Stephen Klein, president of 1 Call Bath Solutions is an Aging in Place Specialist.  If you live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Delaware, please contact us for a free in-home consultation—we’ll let you know if your loved one is safe and what we recommend.

Bye for now……..George Flowers

Have you installed grab bars? Have they helped you or your loved one?
Let me know if you have questions about grab bars?

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