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Posted by Mike Phipps on May 11, 2021
Hello! I am Kate Makin, Ability Superstore’s resident Occupational Therapist (OT). This is the first of my ‘Ask Kate’ posts; a new regular feature where I answer your mobility aids queries.
Our customer service team get many different questions during the course of a typical day including queries about our range of daily living aids, delivery, VAT exemption and the complete product range in general.
This article features the wonderful range of grab rails or grab bars.
If you have a question or require help from our customer service team, just pop an email to us at email@example.com
As an OT, I am frequently asked about the bathroom grab rail range and are suction grab rails safe? It really depends on where and how the grab rail will be used in the bathroom or around the home. As with many independent living aids, there are a few things to think about first before you proceed to shop for a support rail.
People often talk about ‘grab handles’, ‘grab bars’, ‘grip handles’, ‘support rails’ and a ‘support bar’. Really, they are the same health aid as a grab rail and they provide support and grip.
Grab rails are made from stainless steel, chrome, or plastic and come in a range of price options. These aids are designed to give you extra support, balance and stability when moving around, for example, in the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen or garden.
Grab rails or grab bars come in a variety of different sizes and styles. Different colour rails are also available.
Grab rail equipment can be angled, but most commonly, they are straight.
Steel grab rails, stainless steel rails, high quality grab rails, rails which provide grip in the bath, an aid alongside the toilet – the list of grab rail health aids is almost endless, with a wide variety of prices, too.
Essentially, a grab rail has two ends that are attached to a wall and a raised handle part to grip and hold onto, helping you balance and remain steady around the home.
Most traditional steel grab rails and plastic fluted grab rails need to be installed by screwing the grab rail to a wall. It is recommended that this is carried out by a competent DIY-er or tradesperson.
Bathroom grab rails are one of the most common types of support rail used indoors. If your grab rail is being used in the bathroom, then you are likely to require that it is attached in a position where you already have wall tiles. Bath grab rails are frequently used too, as are rails alongside a toilet or in a shower.
Grab rails tend to be solid, sturdy, durable and secure. They are daily living aids that you can grip and hold on to when moving around, whether that’s alongside the bath, in the kitchen, hallway or garden. They can be positioned at whatever height and in whatever position you would find them the most useful. They are a simple aid that provide extra stability, giving you balance and support as you move around.
Typically, grab rails are most often used in the bathroom and placed alongside a bath or toilet, however they can be fitted anywhere in the home, or outside, frequently positioned alongside external steps.
A steel grab rail is frequently installed alongside an exit door to provide support when entering and exiting the home. Plastic grab rails can also be used outside, but they do tend to get brittle in the cold weather.
Many plastic grab rails are straight and fluted in style, which means that they have a surface which is ridged. This ridged surface provides further stability when being held.
Steel grab rails are strong and secure and commonly installed outside.
A suction grab rail is the same as a more traditional steel grab or plastic grab rail, as it provides support in the home. The key difference is that it does not need to be screwed into place and isn’t fixed. It has suction cups at either end that attach to any flat, smooth surface to provide support. This creates a powerful vacuum to keep the grab rail in place.
A suction grab rail requires a totally flat, non porous surface to attach to. They cannot be placed across wall tiles because the grout line does not allow for a strong suction to be gained. A suction rail is ideal for using on the flat edge of a bath, too.
Most suction grab rail products have pressure switches at each end to help create a vacuum and secure the grab rail in place.
To release the grab rail, all you have to do is flip the switches up at each end to release the vacuum.
Suction rails are portable which makes them ideal for use when travelling or on holiday. You can place it alongside the bath or toilet in the bathroom when staying away. Their price is usually affordable, too.
As with all grab bars, a suction grab rail can help wherever it is needed to give extra support and stability. Most commonly though, I see suction grab rails used in a bathroom to help someone when they are stepping in and out of a bath, or shower.
When choosing a suction grab rail from the range, do remember that they are designed to provide support and cannot hold a person’s complete weight.
I always recommend that people check and test the suction grab bar before each use to ensure that the vacuum remains strong to provide support.
Back to answering the original question! When it comes to the grab rail range, as an OT, my preference would always be to have grab rails that are permanently fixed to the wall, or surface. For me, this gives that extra peace of mind that the grab rail is secure, provided they have been fitted correctly and safely.
Suction grab rails do not tend to mark the wall or surface they are used on.
I have worked with many individuals who have beautifully tiled bathrooms, and I completely understand that they do not wish for their tiles to be drilled into!
However, suction grab rails won’t attach to surfaces or tiles which are uneven or have raised textures.
They help and are easier and quicker to fit than more fixed traditional type grab rails and have the benefit of being able to be moved and re-positioned easily.
A suction rail from the range can also be used as a short term safety solution when required to provide an independent daily living aid.
Likewise they are handy if a person has a condition that fluctuates, or changes, such as Multiple Sclerosis, or Chronic Fatigue, a suction grab rail can be fitted and removed as and when they are required.
There are many positives and benefits for suction grab rails. When it comes to safety, as with most mobility aids, I would say that provided they can be fitted securely and are used correctly, then yes, they are safe.
I hope that you have found this feature a handy guide. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like some help.
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