It is often only once an accident occurs that one looks at safety measures within the household. Falls are the most common type of injury sustained by the elderly – most occur within the household and it often has severe implications. In fact most hospitalizations for fractured bones and other types of trauma in the senior years arises from falls. A simple measure like installing handrails in the home – at key spots like the staircase and bathroom – can play a major role in reducing the chances of falls in the elderly.
What Are Handrails?
A handrail is a wall fixture that allows for grip to provide support and stability. It is often a standard feature on a staircase but in the home of a senior, the positioning of handrails should extend beyond just a staircase. The purpose of a handrails is to be able to bear the weight of a person so that it can be used as a support or stability grip when walking, rising, bending over or even just standing.
Locations of Handrails in the Home
Handrails can be installed at any number of areas in the household, some of which may seem like unlikely locations. A handrail may be useful on the wall :
- above the bath tub
- in the shower cubicle and just outside it
- next to the wash basin
- alongside the bed
- within easy reach from a couch when seated
- in the kitchen near the entrance, by the stove and any work surface
- in the garage where it can be reached through an open car door
These are just some of the areas where handrails may be helpful to elderly residents and various other locations may be identified for the specific needs of a person.
Types of Handrails
Most countries have strict specifications about the strength of a handrail and it is always important to ensure that the brand and manufacturer are appropriately certified. Handrail framework may be available with :
- Metal, usually aluminium
Due to strength and durability issues, plastic frames are not usually used. The wood or metal frame may be polished and veneered on the surface, or further covered by rubber and plastic. The outer coverings are solely for grip and not for strength of the railing. Rubber often provides the best grip but may not always have the desired cosmetic effect and durability. The grip should be circular in shape or near-circular in cross-section for an easier and more comfortable grip. Ultimately the type of handrail also depends on personal preference especially in keeping with the home décor and the affordability of a good quality handrail.
Ideally handrails should be installed by professionals – carpenters, builders and construction workers or handymen. Using the appropriate fasteners, like screws or bolts, with the prescribed length and strength into the right type of fixtures, like wall plugs, are crucial. Do-it-yourself (DIY) installations may be available in most home improvement stores and the instructions should be followed carefully and to the letter. It is also important to routinely inspect the handrail and its fasteners to ensure that wear and tear has not compromised the fixture.
Handrails Are Necessary, Not Optional
With bone diseases like osteoporosis being common, a handrail can prevent a lifetime of discomfort and disability. Handrails can at times be lifesaving devices for the elderly. More severe falls can even lead to serious injuries that may progress to death even with prompt medical attention. A senior may be able to move around quite adequately without handrails, however, there is often no planning for its need. Therefore handrails should be considered as a necessity in the home of a senior, who are at a greater risk of falls than younger adults.
Last Updated: June 29th, 2012 by