Title:
Ergonomic grab bar assembly for bathtubs
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A grab bar assembly for use with a bathtub includes a substantially planar base having a top, bottom and lateral edges. The grab bar assembly also includes a coupling assembly extending downward from the base for attachment to an upstanding wall of the bathtub and an armrest connected to and extending laterally from the base. The armrest is positioned above and running along the bathtub wall. Finally, the grab bar assembly includes a handgrip extending upwardly from the base. The handgrip includes at least one support arm and a substantially triangular shaped handle having a forward surface, rearward surface and a bottom surface. The handle extends from the at least one support arm along the bottom surface.



Inventors:
Moser, Scott A. (La Jolla, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/094203
Publication Date:
10/06/2005
Filing Date:
03/31/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K3/00; A47K3/022; A47K3/024; (IPC1-7): A47K3/024; A47K3/022
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WELSH FLAXMAN & GITLER LLC (McLean, VA, US)
Claims:
1. A grab bar assembly for use with a bathtub, comprising: a substantially planar base having a top, bottom and lateral edges; a coupling assembly extending downward from the base for attachment to an upstanding wall of the bathtub; an armrest connected to and extending laterally from the base, the armrest being positioned above and running along the bathtub wall; and a handgrip extending upwardly from the base.

2. The grab bar assembly according to claim 1, wherein the grab bar assembly is made entirely from polymers.

3. The grab bar assembly according to claim 1, wherein the base includes a forward edge and a rearward edge, and both the forward edge and the rearward edge include coupling members for selective attachment of the armrest.

4. The grab bar assembly according to claim 3, wherein the forward and rearward edges include recesses shaped to receive complementary projections extending from the armrest.

5. The grab bar assembly according to claim 4, wherein each recess includes a connection pin downwardly extending substantially perpendicular to the direction in which the corresponding complementary projection is inserted within each recess.

6. The grab bar assembly according to claim 5, wherein each connection pin is angled in a direction toward the recess opening to facilitate insertion of each corresponding complementary projection.

7. The grab bar assembly according to claim 3, wherein the armrest includes a first end having a series of projections shaped and dimensioned for attachment to the coupling members.

8. The grab bar assembly according to claim 7, wherein the armrest includes a rounded second end.

9. The grab bar assembly according to claim 8, wherein the armrest includes an upper concave surface shaped and dimensioned for supporting an arm of an individual.

10. The grab bar assembly according to claim 1, wherein the handgrip includes a first support arm, a second support arm, and a substantially triangular shaped handle extending from the first and second support arms.

11. The grab bar assembly according to claim 1, wherein the coupling assembly includes: a first downwardly extending panel; and a second downwardly extending panel including a slide member shaped and positioned within a recess formed in the base for movement therein.

12. The grab bar assembly according to claim 11, wherein the first downwardly extending panel, the handgrip and the base are integrally formed.

13. The grab bar assembly according to claim 11, wherein the first downwardly extending panel is coupled to the second downwardly extending panel via a plastic screw mechanism including: an enlarged, contoured gripping member in the form of a handwheel; and a threaded screw pin extending through an aperture in the downwardly extending panel to engage the second downwardly extending panel.

14. The grab bar assembly according to claim 13, wherein the distance between thread coils on the threaded screw pin is greater than or equal to 18 threads per inch.

15. A grab bat assembly for use with a bathtub, comprising: a substantially planar base having a top, bottom and lateral edges; a coupling assembly extending downwardly from the base for attachment to an upstanding wall of the bathtub; a handgrip extending upwardly from the base, wherein the handgrip includes: at least one support arm; and a substantially triangular shaped handle having a forward surface, rearward surface and a bottom surface, and wherein the handle extends from the at least one support arm along the bottom surface.

16. The grab bar assembly according to claim 15, further comprising an armrest connected to and extending laterally from the base.

17. The grab bar assembly according to claim 15, wherein the forward surface and rearward surface are each connected to the bottom surface at angles measuring approximately 50 degrees.

18. The grab bar assembly according to claim 15, wherein the grab bar assembly is made entirely from injection molded plastics.

19. The grab bar assembly according to claim 18, wherein the at least one support arm, the forward surface and the rearward surface are hollow.

20. The grab bar assembly according to claim 15, wherein the handle includes bubbled and textured gripping surfaces.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is based upon U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/558,126, entitled “GRAB BAR ASSEMBLY FOR BATHTUBS”, filed Apr. 1, 2004.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention relates to a grab bar assembly for use in supporting individuals. More particularly, the invention relates to an ergonomic grab bar assembly adapted for selective attachment to various support structures (for example, the upstanding wall of a bathtub), wherein the grab bar includes an armrest extending from the handgrip.

2. Description of the Prior Art

There are many instances in which individuals find themselves in need of support structures around the house. For instance, it is well understood that elderly and otherwise weakened individuals may find it particularly difficult to move around a bathtub. The slick environment created by smooth surfaces such as porcelain and water can even be a hazard for those of perfect health.

To combat the problems and challenges posed by the bathroom and similar environments, numerous support structures have been developed. These structures provide gripping surfaces upon which one may apply weight to move safely around the environment and to gain balance.

An early example is seen in U.S. Pat. No. 4,417,361 to Smith which discloses one such support structure in the form of a grab bar. The grab bar provides hand support for a person stepping over a wall, such as the sidewall of a bathtub. The grab bar is U-shaped and is supported transversely of the tub wall with the top of the “U” situated as a high disposed handgrip. The support structure includes elements that may be welded or otherwise secured.

A further example of a grab bar can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 4,887,323 to DiVito et al. A bathtub handrail is provided having a molded plastic body with a handgrip portion and a bottom portion. The bottom portion includes a longitudinal slot through which a press plate is connected to a locking handle forming a clamp arm assembly for attachment to a bathtub. The clamp arm assembly includes numerous components including those made out of steel.

Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 6,332,230 to Chang discloses a tub grab bar structure including a U-shaped grab bar. The grab bar may be rotated to change its angle and direction with respect to a clamping base. The tub grab bar can, therefore, be mounted in a position of the user's choice.

The previous uses of grab bar structures suffer from several disadvantages. First, the grab bars of the prior art include rustable parts. As grab bars are primarily used in close proximity to water, this is highly undesirable due to the rust promoting properties carried by water. Second, grab bar structures have been limited to curved, or U-shaped, bar structures as a gripping surface. Grab bar structures of this form are dangerous as a hand may slide easily down along the curved surface, particularly when wet. Thus, the security these devices are meant to provide is greatly diminished.

While devices providing a grab bar surface are highly desirable, the prior art designs do not provide further support structures in and around the bathtub to assist with the numerous actions conducted in association with a grab bar. More particularly, when using a grab bar a person must brace against the tub itself to get the leverage necessary to rise from the bathtub. This is precarious in that one could slip while bracing on the smooth surface of the bathtub. An armrest or other structure would be highly desirable to provide better leverage.

A need, therefore, exists for a grab bar assembly that is not susceptible to deterioration when used in association with an aquatic environment, that provides a slip resistant gripping surface, and implements additional support features beyond a grab bar for versatile use. The present invention provides such a grab bar assembly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is, therefore, an object of the present invention to provide a grab bar assembly for use with a bathtub. The grab bar assembly includes a substantially planar base having a top, bottom and lateral edges. The grab bar assembly also includes a coupling assembly extending downward from the base for attachment to an upstanding wall of the bathtub and an armrest connected to and extending laterally from the base. The armrest is positioned above and running along the bathtub wall. Finally, the grab bar assembly includes a handgrip extending upwardly from the base.

It is also an object of the present invention to provide a grab bar assembly for use with a bathtub. The grab bar assembly includes a substantially planar base having a top, bottom and lateral edges. The grab bar assembly also includes a coupling assembly extending downwardly from the base for attachment to an upstanding wall of the bathtub and a handgrip extending upwardly from the base. The handgrip includes at least one support arm and a substantially triangular shaped handle having a forward surface, rearward surface and a bottom surface. The handle extends from the at least one support arm along the bottom surface.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description when viewed in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which set forth certain embodiments of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the grab bar assembly in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view from the opposite side shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a front view of the gripping member of the handwheel assembly.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the handwheel assembly.

FIGS. 5a, 5b, 5c and 5d respectively show a side view along the long edge of the pressure pad, a front view of the pressure pad, a perspective view of the back side of the pressure pad and a side view along the short edge of the pressure pad.

FIGS. 6a, 6b, 6c and 6d respectively show a perspective view of the base structure recess, a bottom view of the base structure recess, a side view of the base structure recess and a cross sectional view (along the line B-B of the FIG. 6c) of the base structure recess.

FIGS. 7a, 7b and 7c respectively disclose a top view of the armrest projection, a cross sectional view of the armrest projection (along the line A-A of FIG. 7a) and a perspective view of the armrest projection.

FIGS. 8a, 8b, 8c and 8d respectively disclose a bottom view of the second downwardly extending arm, an end view of the second downwardly extending arm, a side view of the second downwardly extending arm and a perspective view of the second downwardly extending arm.

FIGS. 9a, 9b and 9c disclose the sequential steps in securing the armrest to the base structure.

FIGS. 10a, 10b, 10c and 10d respectively disclose a top view of the armrest, a side view of the armrest, a bottom view of the armrest and a perspective view of the armrest.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The detailed embodiment of the present invention is disclosed herein. It should be understood, however, that the disclosed embodiment is merely exemplary of the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, the details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as the basis for teaching one skilled in the art how to make and/or use the invention.

With reference to the various figures, an ergonomic grab bar assembly 10 in accordance with the present invention is disclosed. The grab bar assembly 10 is adapted for selective attachment to the upstanding wall of a bathtub. In particular, the grab bar assembly 10 includes a coupling mechanism, which is discussed below in greater detail, that permits the selective attachment of the grab bar assembly 10 to a variety of bathtub wall structures in a secure and reliable manner. Although the present grab bar assembly 10 is disclosed for use with bathtubs in accordance with a preferred embodiment, it is contemplated the grab bar assembly 10 may be used in a wide variety of environments without departing from the spirit of the present invention.

The grab bar assembly 10 includes a coupling/clamping assembly 12, an armrest 14 and a handgrip 16, all of which extend from a substantially planar base structure 18. All components are preferably formed from rust-resistant materials such as non-metals. In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, all components are formed from polymers. In yet another preferred embodiment, all components are formed from injection molded plastic.

The base structure 18 includes forward and rearward edges 20, 22. Both the forward and rearward edges 20, 22 include coupling members for selective attachment of the armrest 14 thereto. As such, the armrest 14 may be selectively attached to either lateral side of the base structure 18 for accommodating attachment of the grab bar assembly 10 to the upstanding wall of the bathtub regardless of the orientation of the bathtub. The thickness (t) of the armrest 14 is such that an arm placed on the armrest 14 may rest comfortably while grasping the handgrip 16 at its base. Further, the thickness decreases the angle of an arm whose elbow is on the armrest 14 while grasping higher on the handgrip 16 than would be possible if the elbow were precariously placed on the bathtub wall. Thus, the thickness of the armrest 14 provides increased leverage due to the decreased angle while providing a stable foundation upon which to place pressure when moving from a sitting position to a standing position.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the forward and rearward edges 20, 22 of the base structure 18 include a plurality of recesses 24 shaped and dimensioned for receiving similarly shaped projections 26 extending from a first end 28 of the armrest 14. The projections 26 of the armrest 14 and the recesses 24 of the base structure 18 are shaped and dimensioned for creating a coupling clip structure permitting secure attachment of the armrest 14 to either the forward or rearward edges 20, 22 of the base structure 18, while similarly permitting selective detachment of the armrest 14 without requiring undo force.

More particularly, and with reference to FIGS. 6a-d and 7a-c, the projections 26 of the armrest 14 and the recesses 24 of the base structure 18 are shown. Each recess 24 is formed with an internal connection pin 30 downwardly extending substantially perpendicularly to the direction in which the projection 26 is inserted within the recess 24. The connection pin 30 is wedged, or angled, in a direction toward the recess opening 32 to facilitate insertion of the projection 26 through the recess 24. Ribs 34 are located along the forward and rearward portion of the connection pin 30 for supporting the projection 26 upon attachment of the armrest 14 to the base structure 18.

In consideration of the angled nature of the recess connection pin 30, the forward edge of each projection 26 is similarly angled to match the shape of the connection pins 30. In addition, an aperture 38 formed within the projection 26 is chamfered to facilitate self-locating of the projections 26 upon the pins 30 of the recesses 24.

Referring to FIGS. 9a-c, the armrest 14 is secured to the base structure 18 in the following manner. Once the base structure 18 and handgrip 16 have been secured to the upstanding wall of the bathtub, the armrest 14 is presented to the base structure 18 at an angle. The armrest 14 is inserted into the recesses 24 along either the forward or rearward edges 20, 22 of the base structure 18, depending upon whether it is for right-handed or left-handed use. Exact positioning by the user is not necessary as the interaction between the recesses 24 and the projections 26 as described above substantially positions the armrest 14 in a correct position for coupling. When the armrest 14 is fully inserted, it can be pushed downwardly to lock it into place. A positive click can be felt as the apertures 38 of the projections 26 receive the pins 30 of the recesses 24.

The armrest 14 includes a first end 28 and a second end 40. As discussed above, the first end 28 includes a series of projections 26 shaped and dimensioned for selective attachment to the forward and rearward edges 20, 22 of the base structure 18. The second end 40 is rounded to provide an ergonomic, desirable appearance and to provide a surface, which will not damage the forearm, or other body part, as the individual attempts to utilize the present grab bar assembly 10.

The armrest 14 further includes an upper surface 42 and a lower surface 44. The lower surface 44 is formed with a ribbed support structure while the upper surface 42 is a smooth, concave surface shaped and dimensioned for supporting the arm of an individual utilizing the present grab bar assembly 10. The shape and dimension of the concave surface is designed to accommodate a broad range of arm shapes and sizes. The shape and dimension of the armrest 14 provide support for a larger portion of the forearm when grasped from a sitting position within a bathtub.

With a conventional grab bar the handle is spaced above the bathtub wall upper surface and the user places his or her arm on the upper bathtub wall surface and grasps the handle when exiting the bathtub. In this situation the tub wall only supports the user's elbow due to the angle one must reach up to grasp the handle and the elbow can easily slip off. In contrast, and in accordance with the present invention, the armrest 14 provides a contoured surface above the upper surface of the bathtub wall decreasing the height and angle one must reach to grasp the handgrip 16. As such, not just the elbow is being supported during exit from the bathtub. Further, when the elbow is supported it is resting in a concave surface and not on a flat slippery bathtub wall surface.

Extending from the upper surface 46 of the base structure 18 is an upstanding handgrip 16, which runs parallel to the bathtub wall. In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the handgrip 16 includes a pair of upwardly extending support arms 48a, 48b and a handle 50. The upwardly extending support arms 48a, 48b are integrally formed with the handle 50 and are larger at their bottom connection point to the base structure 18 for added strength. The handle 50 has a substantially triangular configuration with bubbled and textured gripping surfaces 52a-d.

The texturing prevents slipping when grabbed with wet hands. The forward surface 52a of the handle 50 and the rearward surface 52b of the handle 50 are angled at approximately 50 degrees relative the bottom surface 52c of the handle 50. The angle is critical as it was designed to provide stability when stepping over the bathtub wall. The 50-degree angle results in one grabbing the handle 50 with a straight wrist, much like a handshake. A straight wrist grasp with the bubble fitting into the palm of the hand provides superior grab strength and results in added stability as one crosses over into the bathtub.

The upper surface 52d of the handle 50 connects forward surface 52a and rearward surface 52b to form a truncated apex. As such, an individual may grip the handgrip 16 at a variety of locations depending upon his or her specific location relative to the bathtub. The plurality of gripping surfaces 52a-d provided in conjunction with the present handle 50 also allows convenient gripping as the armrest 14 is positioned along either the forward or rearward edges 20, 22 of the base structure 18. As such, and regardless of which edge the armrest 14 is secured, an individual using the present grab bar assembly 10 will have a convenient gripping surface to utilize as he or she enters or leaves bathtub.

The coupling assembly 12 extends downwardly from the base structure 18. The coupling assembly 12 includes first and second downwardly extending panels 54, 56 defining a recess within which the upstanding wall of a bathtub maybe positioned for coupling of the grab bar assembly 10 thereto. The first downwardly extending panel 54 is integrally formed with the base structure 18 and includes a smooth outer wall shaped and dimensioned to provide an aesthetically pleasing surface. The inner wall of the first downwardly extending panel 54 includes a first backing pad 58 to provide a smooth surface for attachment to the upstanding wall of the bathtub. The first backing pad 58 may further be provided with an elastomer adhesive sheet to enhance attachment of the grab bar assembly 10 to the upstanding wall of the bathtub.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment, the first backing pad 58 is formed of a soft, scratch-resistant material, such as foam or rubber, with a coefficient of friction sufficient to aid in prevention of slipping along a bathtub, wall, or like surface. In addition, the first downwardly extending panel 54 is of a relatively large size to allow for possible installation in other environments, for example, over shower door tracks.

With regard to the second downwardly extending panel 56, and with reference to FIGS. 1 and 8a-8d, it is positioned within a recess 60 formed in the lower surface of the base structure 18. The recess 60 extends between the first and second lateral sides of the base structure 18 and the second downwardly extending panel 56 sits therein such that it may be moved toward or away from the first downwardly extending panel 54. With this in mind, the second downwardly extending panel 56 is substantially L-shaped and includes a slide member 62 shaped and dimensioned to fit within the recess 60 for movement therein and a clamping member 64 shaped and dimensioned for opposing the first downwardly extending panel 54 during coupling of the grab bar assembly 10 to the upstanding wall of a bathtub. The recess 60 and slide member 62 include raised surfaces 61 which contact each other when joined to reduce lateral play or other movement.

Secure attachment to the upstanding wall of a bathtub is facilitated by pivotally mounting a pressure pad 66 along the inner surface of the second downwardly extending panel 56. In particular, the pressure pad 66 is mounted along the inner surface 68 of the clamping member 64 such that it substantially opposes the backing pad 58 of the first downwardly extending panel 54. Pivotal movement of the pressure pad 66 permits the grab bar assembly 10 to readily adapt the angle between the first and second downwardly extending panels 54, 56 to accommodate a wide variety of different bathtub shapes.

The pressure pad 66 is injection molded and designed for convenient pivotal attachment along the inner surface of the clamping member 64 of the second downwardly extending panel 56.

The pressure pad 66 includes a contoured contact surface 68 formed such that it becomes flat under the force applied during attachment of the present grab bar assembly 10 to the upstanding wall of a bathtub. The contoured contact surface 68 preferably includes a second backing pad 67 formed of a soft, scratch-resistant material, such as foam or rubber, with a coefficient of friction sufficient to aid in prevention of slipping along a bathtub or like surface. The pressure pad 66 further includes an integrally molded pivot pin 70 along the rear surface thereof and opposite to the contact surface 68. The pivot pin 70 is shaped and dimensioned for snap fitting within a similarly shaped pivot recess 72 formed along the inner surface of the second downwardly extending panel 56. A series of key recesses 74 along the pivot pin 70 ensure proper positioning of the pressure pad 66 along the clamping member 64 of the downwardly extending panel 56.

The first and second downwardly extending panels 54, 56 are coupled via a screw mechanism. In particular, a handwheel assembly 76 is provided which includes a gripping member 78 and threaded screw pin 80. The threaded screw pin 80 extends through an aperture 82 in the first downwardly extending panel 54 and the threaded screw pin 80 engages the second downwardly extending panel 56, in particular, the slide member 62 of the downwardly extending panel 56. The slide member 62 is formed with mating threads 84. In this way, rotation of the handwheel assembly 76 causes the thread screw pin 80 and the mating threads 84 within the slide member 62 to interact in a manner causing the second downwardly extending panel 56 to move toward and away from the first downwardly extending panel 54 under the control of the handwheel assembly 76.

To assist weakened individuals such as the elderly in using the present invention, the threads on threaded screw pin 80 and mating threads 84 are preferably wound with a longitudinal distance between thread coils sufficient to decrease resistance to rotation of the handwheel assembly 76. A preferred distance between thread coils is greater than or equal to 18 threads per inch. In one embodiment, the threads along threaded screw pin 80 are made from brass when mating threads are made of plastic, or vice versa, as brass has been found to be self-lubricating when used in plastic. In a preferred embodiment, the screw mechanism is formed entirely of rust-resistant material (e.g., non-metals, polymers, injection-molded plastics).

The handwheel assembly 76 includes a gripping member 78 which is very large to encourage use by those requiring the additional leverage offered by a larger gripping member 78. In addition, the gripping member 78 is contoured to provide a better fit for a user's hand, thereby allowing users to apply a greater clamping load.

The base structure 18, handgrip 16, support arms 48a, 48b and first downwardly extending panel 54 are all integrally formed. As can be seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, the bottom surface 52c of the handle 50 includes a series of ribs 51 formed therein by a lifter during the molding process. When composed entirely of injection-molded plastic, the ribs 51 strengthen the handle 50, as solid plastic tends to shear or otherwise break in comparison. The ribs 51 not only add strength to the handle section 52c, but also function as a fluid path blocker. During the molding process a nozzle is placed under support arm 48a and fluid (i.e., a liquid or gas) is blown into the mold. The fluid travels up support arm 48a, through 52a, through 52d, through 52b and back out support arm 48b. The material exits a small hole 21 in the side support arm 48b into a reservoir. The hole 21 is filled with the last material exiting and forms a plug when cooled.

While the fluid travels through the mold, it creates a hollow as it forces material from the center of the handgrip out into a reservoir. The material in the reservoir can later be recycled. As discussed above, the ribs 51 function to block the fluid from entering section 52c, thus forcing it to travel up and around the other handle sections 52a, 52d and 52b. This molding process further functions to reduce the amount of plastic necessary to form handle 50. This reduces the cost of production materials as well as the necessary time for cooling of the plastic in the mold.

While the preferred embodiments have been shown and described, it will be understood that there is no intent to limit the invention by such disclosure, but rather, is intended to cover all modifications and alternate constructions falling within the spirit and scope of the invention.