When seniors and the elderly reach the inevitable need for assistance in the bathroom, you must approach the subject of bathroom safety with understanding and dignity.
Bathroom grab bars are a tremendous help in the bathroom for people with mobility and balance problems. And, they do it in a way that lets most seniors and eldelry folks keep their bathroom privacy and independence.
But, there is a lot to know about such simple devices, like how to use them, where to put them, and which ones are best.
So, here is your guide to the best grab bars for seniors and elderly people who need help steadying themselves and navigating wet and dangerous bathroom surfaces.
Here are my top picks if you are in a hurry or just want to see the best grab bars for seniors and the elderly. Keep reading to learn more about shopping for bathroom grab bars and my full list.
Decision-Making Factors: How to Choose a Bathroom Grab Bar for Elderly People
What are grab bars? They are metal or plastic bars that attach to a wall on each end or at multiple points. From a construction and design perspective, bathroom safety bars are relatively simple pieces of medical equipment.
The purpose is to give anyone needing walking or balance assistance in the bathroom a safe place to hold onto while walking, standing, or sitting on various bathroom surfaces and appliances.
Here are some key factors to consider when shopping for grab bars.
Best Types of Grab Bars
There are only two main types: permanently installed and suction cup models.
The main difference between the two is noticeable: installed ones attach permanently to a wall by being screwed into the studs. Suction cup models connect using suction to stick to the outer bathroom wall surface.
Installed Grab Bars
Installed products are generally more stable and safer because their attachment is more secure and “permanent.” Because they are attached directly to studs, they can bear more weight depending on your installation hardware.
While these installations are removable later, they are considered permanent because they are attached to the home’s structure.
Suction Cup Grab Bars
Suction cup models are helpful in situations where installation or drilling is not possible, like in rental units or with problems with shower surrounds and the supporting walls. These adhere to flat and smooth surfaces using suction created by a lever.
Suction grab bars cannot support the entire weight of a person and only provide support for balance. Only seniors and eldelry people who need minimal help should consider using this type, and there is no other option available.
Other Types of Grab Bars
Other types of grab bars include standing transfer poles, toilet safety rails, bathtub rails, and stools with handles. Of these types, bathtub safety rails are the most like a traditional grab bar.
These devices clamp onto the tub wall and provide a high handle for entering and exiting the tub.
I’ll discuss these opportunities more later in this guide.
Where Are Grab Bars Used
Before choosing a grab bar, consider where you or your loved one will use it.
Does the user need assistance only when standing in the shower, or maybe they have difficulty standing after using the toilet? Often, you will find multiple uses for them.
General Bathroom Uses
You can place bathroom grab bars anywhere someone needs assistance standing or walking. I have recommended that many people install them on the wall beside a vanity for support while grooming or brushing teeth.
They are also helpful along the wall between the toilet and the shower for support while walking on wet floors between them.
In these areas, you need a grab bar that fits onto the wall and has a non-slip finish.
In and Around the Shower
Shower safety grab bars serve a few different purposes: Balance while stepping in and out of the shower, support while standing in the shower, and assistance getting up and down from a shower chair.
You will want to ensure the grab bar you choose is waterproof for these applications. But, don’t worry, most of them are.
Generally, a shorter vertical bar is mounted at the shower entrance to help with stepping over the tub or shower edge. Next, a horizontal one is installed near the faucet handles about 30 to 36 inches from the floor.
Finally, a longer bar is often mounted along the long shower wall to help with walking in the shower and standing from a shower chair.
Around the Toilet
A toilet grab bar assists seniors with sitting on and standing up from the toilet by providing a firm and stable handhold.
The standard setup around the toilet is a mid-length one installed horizontally along the wall across the back of the toilet, with a longer one installed on the wall next to the toilet.
If there isn’t a wall beside the toilet, you probably need flip-up grab bars or other devices like toilet safety rails and raised toilet seats with arms instead.
Grab Bar Length
The length you need depends on which of the applications you need. Grab bars are commonly available in 12, 16, 24, 30, and 36-inch lengths, although some manufacturers will vary their sizes plus or minus a few inches.
Vertical uses are generally shorter, so a 12 or 16-inch bar is usually sufficient. Shower grab bars on the front or back walls are typically in the middle of the range, most commonly 24 or 30 inches.
Longer ones are needed for the side wall of the shower and beside the toilet because they need to support a person while moving.
I recommend you measure the area you need to install the bar and then choose the most appropriate size. Also, take into account stud locations as well.
Portability means a reduction in stability. You might need a portable grab bar solution if you or your loved one travels or stays in multiple homes. While mobile grab bar options are available, you should be careful with them and only choose stable solutions.
Suction cups are an obvious way to go for portability, but they aren’t usually the safest choice, as I discussed above. If you need a portable option for getting in and out of the tub, bathtub-mounted safety rails that clamp onto the tub are a better idea.
If toileting is the problem, there are portable toilet rails and safety frames that disassemble and reassemble quickly and easily.
Grab bars come in various materials, from stainless steel to plastic to chrome. Some options are now available in more decorative options like brass, brushed nickel, and painted surfaces.
For general and wet applications, stainless steel is the go-to choice. They are strong, durable, and aren’t subject to damage or stains from water. Many even come with textured grips to keep wet hands from slipping off and leading to a fall.
If the bar is outside of the shower, then many more decorative materials are appropriate because they look more stylish and contemporary. But, most don’t tolerate direct and frequent exposure to water.
Grab bars often are responsible for supporting a lot of weight.
And, really, it is the installation method and hardware that determines the weight a grab bar will hold. Because the best materials are steel or metal, it is unlikely the bars themselves will break.
Most grab bar failures are from the hardware coming out of the walls or breaking – not from the bar itself snapping in two.
However, you should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for weight capacities and installation instructions. Most will support 350 pounds, with some models supporting 500 pounds or more.
What to Avoid
When shopping for grab bars for your bathroom, avoid the following:
- Products without an established track record of quality and safety
- Suction cup models unless they are the only choice
- Designs with sharp corners or projections that could cause head injuries in the event of a fall
- Do not use towel bars or other decorative accessories unless labeled as grab or assist bars
Reviews of the Best Grab Bars for Seniors and the Elderly
Here is my recommended grab bar list. My reviews are based on my personal experience and professional expertise and how well these products meet the needs of seniors and the elderly.
Vive Metal Textured Grab Bar
If you just need a basic option without any extras, then I highly recommend this Vive grab bar. These offer everything you need in a safe grab bar with some simple features – at a great price.
This rust and corrosion-resistant grab bar supports up to 500 pounds when installed on fiberglass, acrylic, drywall, and plaster walls according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Installation hardware comes with it too. Ceramic tile installations will require additional hardware.
I also love that they are simple in nature and have five different color choices – all of which are safe to use in the shower. This way, you are sure to maintain the aesthetics of your bathroom.
Finally, Vive offers some nice finishing touches like concealed mounting hardware and smooth edges and corners for a finished look. You can even get textured handles on some colors as well.
- 500-pound weight capacity
- Five color choices
- Installation hardware is included
- Textured handle options are available
- Finished final look
- Only available in 12, 16, and 24 inches in length
Moen Designer Bathroom Grab Bar
Not every bathroom grab bar needs to look like a piece of medical equipment. And Moen accomplishes that with its line of designer grab bars. They are sleek, rounded, and come in many popular bathroom finishes that people use today.
While there are other designer bathroom bars, I specifically like the Moen product because they have rounded corners and a more ergonomic appearance.
This design is essential because elderly people still fall. With this design, there are no sharp edges to add injury on their way down.
I also like that they have grip areas on the underside to reduce the chance of wet hands slipping on them. This “Curl Grip” option is necessary when used in the shower.
Plus, they come in a wide range of sizes, from 12 inches to 42 inches long. They are also available in brushed nickel, chrome, and rubbed bronze finishes.
- Non-medical, designer look
- Multiple sizes and finishes
- Ergonomic grip
- It supports 500 lbs when installed according to directions
- More expensive than more standard options
Tesuchan Grab Bar
I also like these grab bars from Tesuchan available at Amazon because they have soft silicone grips. These grips reduce the chance of soapy hands slipping off, which is very important. Think of them as adding bicycle grips onto a set of durable grab bars.
You get all the hardware you need to install these, and they support up to 500 pounds (when installed according to their directions). The included screws are longer than many others, which is part of the reason you get excellent support from these.
They are made of quality stainless steel and will last for years – even in wet showers. They have a brushed chrome finish with a bit of a “medical appearance,” so I wish they had other finish options. But, many people aren’t going to care about their appearance anyway.
Finally, these are among the most affordable options on my list. They come in two packs of 12, 16, 24, or 32-inch lengths.
- Silicone grips on handles
- Install hardware is included
- All common sizes
- Affordable two packs
- Supports up to 500 lbs
- Only one color option
Moen Home Care Flip-Up Bathroom ADA Grab Bar
Flip-up grab bars are generally used near the toilet where there isn’t a side wall near the toilet to mount a wall mount grab bar. Because they flip back, people who share the toilet with multiple people often choose this option.
There are several options out there, but I like this one from Moen the best. It provides a 30-inch bathroom ADA grab bar that complies with ADA specifications but flips back out of the way when not needed. It supports up to 300 pounds.
It comes in two finishes: white (glacier) and brushed metal (peened). I like the looks of the white one myself because it has a clean appearance and will blend into most bathrooms easily.
The mounting hardware and plate come with it. Depending on your needs and toilet location, you might need just one, or you can install one on each side of the toilet. Note that you should install toilet grab bars within 12 inches of the edge of the toilet.
Users will also appreciate the built-in toilet paper holder. That way, it’s always within reach, which is essential for seniors with balance problems.
- Useful for toilets with no side walls
- Attractive finishes
- Built-in toilet paper holder
- Install hardware included
- It supports up to 300 pounds
- A bit pricier than some but has more options
Seachrome Angled Bathroom Grab Bar
An angled grab bar is helpful for getting up from the toilet or the bathtub. Because they have multiple levels, you can use the lower level to pull up and the higher one to support yourself while standing.
For people who need a bathroom grab bar for this situation, I recommend this one from Seachrome. I like it because it has a one-piece construction with a smooth, designer look. The flanges are covered, so you won’t have to see any ugly mounting hardware.
It is made of recyclable and durable stainless steel and is available in two finishes: polished or satin. The glossy polished option is a good choice for people who have chrome bathroom fixtures and like the shine of chrome. Satin has a more dulled appearance.
It has been tested to support up to 250 pounds. I’d like it to be a bit higher, but that weight limit will help most older adults.
Note that you do have to be specific about whether you need a right or left-hand configuration when ordering. The two sides are not interchangeable.
- One-piece stainless steel construction
- Two finish choices with covered flanges
- Durable with welded end caps
- Offers two levels of assistance
- It only supports 250 pounds
Moen Grab Bar With Integrated Corner Shelf
There are many shower grab bar options, and many even have a decorative element to them, like this Moen shelf grab bar. People sensitive about needing medical equipment won’t mind having this great-looking support bar in the shower.
Besides the nice looks of this model, I also like it because it supports up to 500 pounds if installed into studs. It is also a functional shelf and can be the best place to put shampoo and body wash bottles to keep them within easy reach.
This bar is 9 inches in length and installs in the corner. I recommend placing it in the front corner of the shower so that it is close by when needed.
I don’t recommend this option, though, for people who need significant support in the shower. You should combine it with other grab bars for a complete bath safety solution. Fortunately, Moen makes an entire line to match these.
- Stylish grab bar
- Multiple uses and shower storage
- Solid and durable when installed correctly
- Not for use with more elderly people who need significant support in the shower
Delta Faucet Toilet Paper Holder With Assist Bar
If you like the idea of a combination product with multiple uses, this toilet paper holder and support bar from Delta is worth considering.
I like this toilet paper holder grab bar because it offers a secure place to hold onto while getting up and down from the toilet, but it looks like a simple, classic toilet paper holder.
It is also easy to install, supports up to 300 pounds, and comes with all the hardware needed for a typical installation.
There are few cautions here to be aware of, however. You or your loved one should never use the toilet paper roll holder itself for support. Only the top bar is adequate for support.
Also, because it is only about 9 inches long, it isn’t long enough to hold onto while walking. It is really only long enough to help someone maintain their balance while standing.
However, Delta has an entire line of more decorative grab bars that will match this for a better solution.
- Decorative option for toilet support
- Multiple function toilet paper holder
- Strong and durable
- Too short for full support when walking or moving
Best Portable Grab Bar for Seniors
Grab bars are generally installed permanently or semi-permanent, so they aren’t very portable. A few options are available for people who need a mobile option, including bathtub bars and suction cup mounts.
My favorites are below.
Medline Bathtub Mount Grab Bar
If you are fortunate enough to travel and need a portable grab bar for showers and bathtubs, I recommend the Medline Bathtub Safety Grab Bar Handle.
The Medline Tub Grab Bar uses a simple clamping mechanism to attach to a tub wall. The clamps are lined with a soft rubbery material that won’t damage your tub wall and won’t mark it up either.
This product allows you to steady yourself by holding onto the bar while stepping in and out of the tub.
It is made of tubular steel with a waterproof and anti-rust coating. The nearly white appearance will match most any bathroom decor.
No tools are needed to install or remove it. But, it is crucial to understand that you must tighten it enough that it doesn’t move or wobble when used.
Also, because it attaches to the tub wall, it will usually be outside the shower curtain, so it won’t provide support while standing and showering.
- Installs and removes without tools
- Clean, waterproof finish
- Strong and durable
- Supports 250 pounds
- For use when getting in and out of the shower or tub only
- Requires a tub wall for installation.
Best Suction Grab Bar for Seniors
Suction shower grab bars are portable because they are easily removed from existing showers and reattached elsewhere. However, they have their limitations.
They are made for steadying a person with poor balance and are not designed to support a person’s total weight or to pull yourself up from a seated position. Because of this, choosing one with safety mechanisms is essential to ensure you get a secure attachment.
Vive Health Suction Shower Grab Bar
I recommend the Vive Suction Cup Grab bars because they have two features that make them safer to use than others: securing latches and colored securing indicators.
Shower grab bars should only be installed on smooth finishes and never on drywall or textured surfaces.
To make this temporary connection as secure as possible, Vive has latches that push against the suction cups creating more force and extra suction for a better “stick” than simply pressing the cup against the wall.
They also have a colored indicator that changes from red to green once you have achieved the proper suction.
While you should always test suction grab bars before using them, this is a great initial indicator that you have them installed correctly. Vive states that their bars can support 300 pounds when installed correctly.
A few other options that I like are the soft rubber grips and the waterproof plastic construction. Plastic makes them lightweight and easy to travel with – they easily fit into any suitcase.
- Small and portable
- The color indicator lets you know it’s installed correctly
- Safety latches improve suction
- Non-slip rubber handles
- Lightweight plastic construction
- Must make sure connected securely before using
- Only 11-½ inches long which may not be long enough
Safe-er-Grip Suction Shower Safety Grab Bar
If you need a longer suction mount grab bar for a larger shower, these suction grab bars from Safe-er-Grip are 16 inches long.
They have the securing latches that I recommend to ensure you get a secure connection every time. But, there is no color-coded indicator like the ones from Vive.
Also, there is no stated weight capacity for this product. The manufacturer states that they will not support a person’s total weight. They also say you should detach and reattach them before every use.
They have a textured grip to reduce the chance of slipping and are available in several different pack-size options.
If you need the extra length, these are a suitable option. But, otherwise, the Vive model above is a better option.
Best Heavy Duty Grab Bars
Franklin Brass Concealed Mount Grab Bars
I recommend these bathroom grab bars from Frankin Brass for people looking for a heavy-duty bathroom support option. They support up to 500 pounds of pull force and exceed ADA recommendations for bathroom supports.
They also come in multiple finishes and different lengths to meet the needs of most any senior or elderly person – even heavier ones! Choose from 12, 16, 18, 24, 36, 42, and even 48 inch lengths.
They even offer the concealed mount option that gives them a finished, professional look once installed!
While grab bars are the most robust and secure way to support yourself in the bathroom, some alternatives exist. Some options can adequately assist seniors and the elderly while taking care of necessary bathroom tasks, while others are riskier.
Here is a quick summary of some of these options with some pros and cons.
Bathtub Grab Bar Handles
Bathtub handles clamp to a tub wall and provide a holding place for getting in and out of the tub. While they are very good at this one use, they don’t offer any support while in the shower because they are often on the outside of the curtain.
People who need help standing while taking a shower should use standard grab bars in the shower or combine a bathtub handle with a shower chair.
My favorite bathtub handlebar is the Medline one I reviewed above. Another option, however, is this one from Vaunn Medical.
Stander poles are a floor-to-ceiling grab bar that mounts to both the ceiling and floor and often have handles. Some options physically attach while others work by tension. Think of them as a tension shower rod turned sideways.
Stander poles have their limitations. They should never go in the shower, so they are more helpful for getting in and out of the shower or for use while toileting. Again, for people who need support in the shower, permanently installed grab bars are the best option.
If it sounds like a standing pole meets your needs, I recommend the Stander Security Pole with Curve Grab Bar.
Toilet Safety Rails
Toilet safety rails can be a fantastic alternative to toilet grab bars because they attach directly to the toilet. They are height adjustable, too, so you can set them up in the most advantageous position. Plus, most are simple to detach from the toilet restoring it to normal.
We have a complete guide to the best toilet safety rails and frames if you want to explore this option.
Step Stool With Handle
Another alternative is a bathroom step stool. Note that you should only consider this option with older adults who have good balance but are maybe too weak to lift their legs over the tub edge.
A better alternative to these is the bathtub handles I discussed above because they are more secure.
If you think a step stool is best for your needs, always choose one with a handle. My favorite bathroom stool for seniors is the Adjustastep Deluxe Bathroom Step Stool.
Quick Installation Tips
The safety and security you expect from your grab bar directly result from the installation’s quality. For the most secure and stable installation, here are my recommendations:
- Follow the manufacturer’s suggested installation method.
- Use the manufacturer’s included hardware. If you feel you need other hardware, consult with a professional installer.
- Always install one end of the grab bar directly into wall studs. Use appropriate hardware and anchors as specified by the maker.
- Install horizontal grab bars 30 to 36 inches as measured from the floor.
- Vertical grab bars should begin about 30 to 36 inches from the floor and then be 12 to 16 inches long.
- Seal all holes and hardware with a silicone sealant to prevent water damage behind the wall.
- Measure the area where the bar will be installed and choose the longest length that will fit in the area. Don’t forget to take stud locations into account as well.
How I Chose the Best Grab Bars
I have worked for several medical equipment manufacturers in the past and at a durable medical equipment company recommending grab bars for patients.
I have also installed and demonstrated grab bars for elderly loved ones in my family. Many look alike, so how did I choose?
To create these free, unbiased product reviews, I considered nearly 200 grab bar models. I then narrowed my list down based on my personal and professional experiences with the manufacturer and brand regarding quality, professionalism, and product offering.
From there, I chose the best products that were strong, had a long track record of quality and safety, and offered you the peace of mind you want.
FAQ and Additional Resources
Who installs grab bars for seniors?
If you are concerned about adequately installing your grab bars, many plumbers, bathroom contractors, licensed handypersons, and general contractors will install them.
Many larger metropolitan areas have specialized companies that sell and install bathroom safety equipment like this.
Does Medicare cover grab bars?
Unfortunately, grab bars are not covered by Medicare because they do not meet their strict definition of durable medical equipment.
However, many Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) will pay for them, as will some state Medicaid plans and many private commercial insurers.
Check your plan documents and call the number on the back of your card for verification.
Are there ways to get free grab bars for the elderly?
If you cannot get your insurer to pay and cannot afford any of the options I listed here for you, there may be some ways to get assistance. Patriot Mobility offers some of the following ideas:
- Check with the VA if you are eligible.
- Department of Agriculture and HUD offer home improvement loans and grants that could include bathroom modifications.
- Some long-term care plans cover aging-in-place equipment.
- Rebuilding Together may be able to provide them as part of a bathroom modification.
- If your need is tied to a specific disease like Parkinson’s or MS, check with your local chapters of those organizations for assistance.
- Look for used equipment.
Grab bars are a vital part of a bathroom safety plan for seniors and the elderly. They improve safety in all bathroom areas, including the tub, shower, and toilet, to offer support while standing and assistance with getting up from and down to seated surfaces.
You should always attach them directly to studs for the best security and stability. If this isn’t possible, use appropriate anchors and fasteners or call a professional for installation.
It is unsafe to use inappropriately installed grab bars. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommended installation instructions.
Get the longest bars possible that will fit where you need them. Also, choose a grab bar that will support the weight of the person using it. Non-slip handles are another vital safety consideration.
I hope this guide and unbiased product reviews will help you choose the best bathroom grab bars for your needs and situation. Of course, if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know.