One remedy to help make it easier to transition on and off the toilet is to add toilet rails.
What Are Toilet Rails?
Toilet rails are rails that are installed on or around the toilet to provide added support when sitting down on or standing up from the toilet or when transferring from a wheelchair to and from the toilet. They are available in an a multitude of different types and styles.
One of the key differences in toilet rail models lies in where they are designed to be attached, which can include: the wall beside the toilet, wall behind the toilet, the floor, or on the toilet itself. Some toilet rails are attached to a frame that rests around the toilet and don’t require any installation at all.
Toilet Rail Types
We have provided a quick overview of the different types of toilet rails below to aid you in identifying which type will best work for your home and needs.
- Toilet Rails Attached to Toilet
One example of toilet rails consists of two handles that rest fully on top of the toilet bowl. This type is usually easy to install and typically entails simply removing the two screws that hold the toilet seat in place, positioning the toilet rail bracket over the holes located at the back end of the toilet bowl, and reinserting the screws.
Models that have one horizontal bar attaching the two handles together at the back of the bowl and two separate pieces that extend down from the front of the handles to rest on the top front edge of the toilet bowl may become dislodged from the bowl if someone pushes both up and outwards as they are standing up. Some models are equipped with a second horizontal bar that rests underneath the front of the toilet seat and functions to hold the front of the handles together, thereby preventing them from becoming dislodged from the toilet bowl if someone does push a bit outwards as they are coming up to standing, making them a much safer option.
- Toilet Rails Attach to Toilet – Legs Extend to Floor
This type of toilet rail provides an added degree of safety because it has two legs that extend down to the floor, providing increased stability. Like the previous option, this type of toilet rail also attaches to the bolts at the back of the toilet.
Models will differ in where the toilet rail legs touch the floor. The legs on some models extend down and meet the floor about midway along the length of the toilet bowl, meanwhile on others they will extend down and rest on the floor slightly in front of the toilet bowl. If you use a walker or wheelchair and your bathroom is small, we recommend to try to avoid the models with legs that extend past the front of the bowl, because the toilet rail legs could interfere with your ability to move and turn around inside the bathroom using your walker or wheelchair.
- Install a Toilet Riser With Handles
Yet another option for adding handles around the toilet is to install a toilet seat riser that comes equipped with handles. The riser part enhances the seat height, making it easier to stand up from the toilet and the handles provide added leverage for use to push up to standing. Toilet seat risers are available in different heights, which typically range somewhere between 2 to 4 inches in height.
Toilet seat risers come in a variety of different kinds. Some models are designed to be installed underneath your existing toilet seat, while others are designed to be used as the toilet seat itself. There are different shapes to suit different toilet bowl sizes (round or elongated). Some models are designed to be attached to the bolts at the back of the toilet seat, while others are designed to be held in place via a clamping mechanism that attaches it to the toilet bowl. Ones that are fixed to the toilet bolts will typically be safer than ones that clamp to the toilet bowl because the ones that clamp to the bowl can loosen with time and need to be periodically retightened to ensure a tight hold.
- Free Standing Toilet Rails
Toilet rail frames can be purchased to rest around the toilet, which do not require any installation at all (aka stand alone toilet rails). Some toilet rail frames can be easily folded up, making it possible to hide it away when guests are coming or to take along when traveling. Of note, these types of toilet rails often extend beyond the front edge of the toilet. If your bathroom is small it can interfere with your ability to maneuver or turn around inside of a small bathroom using a walker or wheelchair. Since this type is not formally attached to anything, there is a greater chance it may tip or wiggle a bit as you are rising, than some of the other toilet rail models that are fixed to the toilet, wall, or floor.
- Place A Commode Over the Toilet
Another alternative is to add an elevated toilet seat or commode (aka portable toilet or toilet frame) over the top of your toilet. This option not only provides handles to use for assist with standing up, but also allows you to increase the height of the toilet seat, making it easier to stand up. Most commodes have an adjustable height seat that can achieve, on average, a seat height range somewhere between 18″-23″ high.
Most toilet frame models will include a hard-plastic liner (bucket without a bottom), which helps to ensure all contents go directly into the toilet and won’t splash out the sides, since the seat will rest higher above your existing toilet bowl. Some are equipped with drop away arm rests allowing a wheelchair user to slide from the wheelchair’s seat directly to the commode seat. Some models have a padded seat, which can be helpful for persons with pressure-sensitive skin. Foldable models exist too, making it possible to take the toilet frame along when you are traveling or to easily hide it away when guests are visiting.
- Flip Up & Flip Down Grab Bars
Flip-up style grab bars (aka flip down grab bar and pivoting grab bars) have a hinge, allowing them to be flipped up out of the way when not in use and flipped down when they are needed. When there isn’t a side wall close enough to the toilet to mount a typical grab bar, this type of toilet rail provides a great alternative. One or two flip-up style grab bars are often installed on either side of the toilet to be used for support when sitting down and standing up from the toilet. It is also helpful for wheelchair users who rely on a lateral sliding transfer to move from their wheelchair to the toilet. The grab bar can be moved up out of the way for the transfer and pulled down to use for stability when leaning to perform toilet hygiene or managing clothes.
Some models are designed to be attached directly to the wall and others have a base that attaches to the floor instead. A few of the wall-mounted models are equipped with a support leg that extends down to the floor to provide additional stability and some models include a toilet paper holder too.
- Pivoting Toilet Rail
Wall mounted swing out style grab bars (aka Hinged Grab Bar, Swing Away Grab Bar, Pivoting Grab Bar) provide a multitude of handholds at differing heights, allowing this type of toilet rail to be used for a variety of different functions. It has both stationary horizontal and stationary vertical grab bars, as well as a curved pivoting bar, which swings sideways and can be locked at various angles.
Pivoting grab bars are often found installed on the wall opposite the toilet to provide assistance with lowering down onto the toilet and pulling oneself back up again. It can alternatively be installed on the side wall beside the toilet. When not in use, it can be folded flat against the wall.
- Floor to Ceiling Pole
Floor to Ceiling Poles (aka Security Pole, Transfer Pole, Safety Pole, Standing Pole) can be positioned beside the toilet to provide a helpful handhold when sitting down on or standing up from the toilet. This type of toilet safety rail does not require screws, nails or fasteners. It is held in place by tension, which is applied by turning a jackscrew mechanism until the pole extends to a length that is sufficient enough to become firmly fixed it in place between the floor and ceiling. Most models are equipped with pads at either end, which prevent the pole from marring the floor or ceiling.
Safety pole models will vary in their maximum achievable heights and weight limits. Some models can accomodate ceiling heights up to 140″ high and some bariatric models can accomodate weights of up to 450 lbs. Models can be found in either white or black.
- Wall to Floor Grab Bars
As the name implies, this type of grab bar attaches to both the wall and the floor. It is an L-shaped bar that extends outwards from the wall and bends 90 degrees to meet the floor below. It can be found installed on one or both sides of a toilet and is used for support with sitting down on and standing up from the toilet. Notably, many users may have a tendency to push both downwards as well as a bit outwards when they are attempting to stand up. The models with a second small support leg that attaches to the floor provide increased stability to support users who may push outwards some as they are standing up.
Keep in mind that if your bathroom is small and you use a walker or wheelchair, the part that meets the floor may extend outwards further into the room than your toilet bowl, occupying valuable floor space, which could impeded your ability to move and turn around inside the bathroom using your mobility aid.
- Grab Bar Toilet Paper Holder
Grab bar toilet paper holders dual as both a toilet rail and a toilet paper holder, uniting both of these concepts neatly together in one. Multi-purpose grab bars make it possible to smartly and stylishly integrate a toilet rail into an existing space. If you have difficulty with sensation or strength in your hands, make sure to take into consideration how the toilet paper is loaded and unloaded from the holder, when selecting a grab bar toilet paper holder.
- 90 Degree Grab Bar
These types of grab bar are L-shaped and designed to be fixed to one wall. They can be installed on the wall across from a toilet or on the wall beside the toilet, providing both vertical and horizontal handholds to assist a person with sitting down and standing up from the toilet.
- Angled Grab Bars
Angled grab bars (aka Vertical Angle Grab Bars, 135 Degree Angled Grab Bar, Wedge Grab Bars, & Boomerang Grab Bars) have a horizontal bar and a second bar that extends upwards at an angle, providing users with a variety of different handholds. This type of grab bar is often located on the wall beside the toilet, providing a user with a horizontal bar to push up from or the vertical part to pull on to assist with rising from the toilet.
- Mechanical Toilet Seat Lift With Handles
Mechanical toilet seat lifts come equipped with handles, providing a place to hold onto when sitting down and standing up. Some have springs or a pneumatic lifting mechanism that provides some added support as you begin to stand up. Others rely on batteries or electricity and will fully assist you in moving from a seated to a standing position. Models will vary in the maximum seat height they can achieve. Some models can raise the toilet seat up to 26″ tall.
A few toilet seat lift models include wheels, which are helpful if you are someone who has trouble walking to the bathroom. The wheels will make it possible for a caregiver to push you into the bathroom seated on the chair and then position the chair over the top of the toilet. The standing mechanism then helps to make it easier for you to stand up for performing hygiene and for standing to pull pants down or up.
Things to Take Into Consideration When Choosing Toilet Rails
- Shape of Toilet Bowl: If you plan to install toilet rails that are fixed to a toilet seat riser, confirm the shape of the toilet seat riser model you select will fit the shape of your toilet bowl (round or elongated).
- Width of Rails: Confirm that the space present between the toilet rails of the model you select will accomodate the width of your hips.
- Height of Rails: Confirm the toilet rail height is appropriate for your needs. Some toilet rail models come in fixed heights and some have adjustable height handles which can vary in their minimum and maximum achievable heights.
- Weight Capacity: Confirm the toilet rail model selected will accomodate the weight limit you require.
- No Return Policy! Once you purchase it you own it! Due to FDA regulations toilet equipment, such as toilet seats and risers, cannot be returned unless it is still sealed in the original packaging, so it is important to make sure the height, weight capacity, and features are appropriate for your needs prior to purchasing.
The Homeability Advice™
Toilet rail models that are attached to the toilet bolts are usually more stable than the models that clamp to the toilet bowl. If you have a small bathroom and rely on a walker or wheelchair, it is good to try to avoid selecting toilet rails models that extend beyond the toilet bowl because they may interfere with your ability to move and turn around inside the bathroom. If you use a wheelchair and rely on a lateral sliding transfer, the wall-mounted flip-up style rails and the freestanding commode models with swing away arms (aka drop arms) are both good considerations.
The free-standing toilet frames, commodes, floor-to-ceiling safety poles, and models that attach to the toilet itself do not require formal installation, making them good considerations for persons who are renters.
As always, we recommend you seek advice from your qualified health care professional about the appropriateness of a given solution or product for your needs.
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