Transfer Pole vs Grab Bars – Which Device Should The Elderly Use?

When installing transfer aids in the bathroom, it is important to consider one’s layout. Naturally larger rooms are able to accommodate different types of devices that take up more floor space, whereas smaller rooms may offer more nearby surfaces where aids can be secured to. 

This guide will discuss the similarities and differences between transfer poles and grab bars. It will provide some info regarding their installation and correct usage to help a senior live independently at home.

What is a grab bar?

Grab bars are handles made of metal and are secured to the studs in the wall or some other anchoring mechanism. These rods can then be pulled to help someone adjust their body position, stand up or to slowly slower themselves into a seated position.


There are suction based grab bars, but for the large part, they are not considered as secure as those drilled into studs or anchors provided by the manufacturer. 

To properly use this device, someone must have a fair to good amount of upper body strength to pull themselves up or rely on for support. Furthermore, good lower body and leg strength must be maintained in order to help keep someone balanced while standing up.

What is a transfer pole?

A transfer pole is a metal rod that extends from the floor to the ceiling. This rod is secured in place by twisting the shaft to increase or lessen the tension and force applied to hold it in place. 


This transfer aid can be pulled on to help someone get up from sitting down, adjust their posture and lower themselves into a seat.

Of course one must have good lower body strength to be able to stand when using this device or to pivot transfer around the pole to another awaiting surface to sit on like a wheelchair, bath bench, bed or chair.

What are the advantages of grab bars?

Grab bars are available in various shapes and sizes. This ensures that a supportive railing is available in all required areas even if the room layout is non-standard.

As an example, standard grab bars range in size from small 12 inches to more lengthy 36 inches. Shapes and designs of the grab bars also vary from standard straight bars to curved grab bars or L shaped models.

What are the advantages of a transfer pole?

Transfer poles can place a sturdy railing that goes from the floor to the ceiling in almost any room. The advantage of this handle bar is that it can be accommodating for individuals of any height as the railing can be grabbed at a lower or higher position as is most comfortable for the senior using it.

Another great advantage is that the pole can be placed in the middle of the room to give an elderly individual access to transfer to other nearby surfaces such as a bed, toilet, bathtub, shower, chair or wheelchair as needed.

What are the disadvantages of grab bars?

Grab bars are simple to use and an inexpensive way of giving the home a senior makeover to boost safety measures. Aside from the need to secure them into studs, there is little that one could complain of once grab bars have been installed correctly. 

One advantage that a transfer pole has over grab bars is that the pole can be installed in the middle of the room, further away from any walls.

What are the disadvantages of a transfer pole?

Unlike a grab bar, transfer poles do need to be secured into the wall. Placing a universal floor to ceiling transfer pole in a room where there is a stucco based ceiling would damage it and cause a mess. As a result it is usually recommended that they be used in rooms where the ceilings are flat and smooth for an optimal secure fit. For scenarios where this cannot be achieved, alternative bedroom and bathroom safety equipment should be explored.

Generally a transfer pole is not usable in rooms whose ceilings are over 9 feet tall. A good range for ceilings for a transfer pole to be functional would be between 7 to 9 feet. As a result of this, one may need to explore other bathroom or bedroom safety equipment for help with getting up and transfers.

Transfer poles usually have a floor base, and while it is small and hardly noticeable on some models, it is necessary for safe installation. Force is applied on this spot and it needs to be placed on a smooth and secure surface in order for a correct fit to be achieved. This means that the flooring where the device is installed must not be damaged or cracked in any way.


The use of a universal floor to ceiling transfer pole and grab bars are very similar. With both devices, the elderly individual using them must possess a good amount of upper body strength to pull themselves into standing. Also, good leg strength must be possessed to stay standing and not lose one’s balance during a transfer attempt.

In the end, deciding between grab bars and a transfer pole requires someone to consider the multiple factors such as their installation, placement location and whether they would be within reach for use as a transfer aid.

Transfer poles are more expensive as a product, but may be easier to install as there may be no need for drilling or complicated tools. With grab bars, they must be secured into a wall stud, so a stud finder may be required and professional installation may be needed to ensure it is secured into an appropriate spot.

Ultimately, the choice between a transfer pole and grab bars is an individual choice where one must consider the abilities of the elderly individual that will be using the device and the home’s layout. This table will highlight the important distinctions between the two devices, but a home safety expert such as an occupational therapist or physical therapist should be consulted to determine which product would best meet an elderly individual’s needs.

Floor To Ceiling Transfer PoleGrab Bars
Advantages– Easy to use.
– Can be used for support in the middle of the room.
– Inexpensive.
– Easy to use.
– Comes in varying shapes and sizes.
Disadvantages– Not to be used on stucco ceilings or very tall ceilings.
– More expensive.
– Need to be drilled into studs.
– Cannot be located in the middle of a room.
Installation– Handle secured by force being applied at the top and bottom of the pole to create tension and a secure fit.
– Can easily be removed with minimal signs that the device was previously installed.
– Drilled into studs or anchoring kit provided by the manufacturer.