When a senior's safety and mobility are compromised, bed safety rails may be necessary to ensure their well-being and freedom of movement. After all, many elderly individuals move or roll around the bed while they are sleeping. This can lead to accidental falls or injuries.
Fortunately, bed safety rails help make the home more accessible to seniors, which lowers dependency on a caregiver and helps re-establish confidence in oneself.
To help you understand this sleeping aid better, we’ll discuss everything about beds with rails for the elderly. We’ll present their importance and benefits along with the different types and features, among others.
A bed rail, also called a bed safety rail or a bed assist rail, is an assistive sleeping aid that fits along the side of a bed. It prevents individuals from rolling out of bed, thus reducing the risk of accidental falls and injury.
A bed with side rails also helps those with mobility or balance issues. It provides additional support when individuals need to get in and out of bed or reposition themselves while in the bed.
As older adults usually have reduced balance, this puts them at greater risk of falls while sleeping or standing up from the bed. A bed safety rail is a tool that seniors can useto prevent nighttime falls.
Besides balance issues, here are the other signs seniors need to use a bed rail:
Bed safety rails are an essential part of bedroom safety in aging seniors. They offer several benefits that can effectively change how older adults live their lives.
The most important benefit of installing safety rails for beds is fall prevention. Accidental falls are the leading cause of injury or death among older adults. They can happen to seniors anytime, especially to those with pre-existing balance issues. Fortunately, a safety railing installed on a home bed or a hospital bed can lower the risk of accidental falls.
Besides fall prevention, a bed with rails for seniors also aids in the process of getting in and out of bed. This is a great way to improve the mobility of older adults with strength or balance issues. Additionally, bed assist rails provide sitting and standing support for seniors with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions that cause weakness.
Safety bed rails can offer support to older individuals with limited mobility. Whenever seniors need to sit up, lie down, or turn over, bed rails can help them reposition properly. They also provide guidance when standing up and sitting back down in the bed, so you can safely get out of bed with minimal help.
Seniors often need assistance getting in and out of bed. However, elderly individuals may feel ashamed when asking for help from caregivers or family members. Fortunately, with a bed rail, getting out of bed becomes a comfortable and safe task. You can retain your confidence and independence by having senior bed rails. Indeed, bed railings eliminates the need to rely on someone if you want to get up in the middle of the night.
Lastly, bed rails in home beds offer security and comfort. Since they prevent accidental falls and provide additional support, seniors and their families will feel at ease knowing that bed rails mitigate risks.
Seniors can find a wide range of bed rail options in the market. Each one has unique purposes and benefits that you must consider before investing. To guide you, here are the different types of bed support rails.
This type of bed rail features two legs that extend down to the floor. These legs bear the individual’s weight whenever they need to stand up, making it a safe and stable assistive device. Bed rails with legs are ideal for seniors who can walk but just need a little extra help getting up from their bed.
As its name suggests, a legless bed rail does not come with legs. Instead, it has an L-shaped design. Its short side supports the individual’s weight, while the longer side frames the bed mattress. This type of bed rail is suitable when you use a king or queen-sized mattress.
Bed rails with horizontal crossbars are available in multiple handle heights. This makes them more secure and easier to use when pushing yourself up to standing. They also prevent individuals from falling out of bed and lower the risk of entrapment or suffocation while sleeping.
Also known as “swing down bed rails,” this type of bed rail can fold down to allow easy access to the bed, and is similar to the ones used in hospital beds. A fold-down bed rail is suitable for seniors who want to sit down closer to the bed’s headboard.
However, it needs a lot of available space since it swings outward and down. It also requires the individual to be mobile enough to reach down the railings. Lastly, it increases the risk of catching your fingers between the moving parts.
For those who are just starting with bed rails, this type of railing is the best option because of its adjustable height. It allows for height experimentation and versatility so that you can choose the best elevation for your needs. Adjustable height bed rails are available in both models with or without legs.
This type of bed rails has a rail that allows them to slide back and forth. It gives you the option to extend or shorten the railings accordingly when you’re getting out of bed. This feature ultimately prevents you from rolling or falling out of bed.
As its name implies, dual bed rails are two railings installed on both sides of the bed. Each rail is connected by crossbars under the mattress. This type of railing is ideal if you share the bed with a partner or are inclined to rolling out of bed.
These bed rails serve two purposes. First, they act as a bed rail that helps you with getting in and out of bed. Then they provide support when standing up, thanks to their swing-out mobility arm.
Travel-friendly bed rails feature a collapsible design that allows them to fold flat. Since they are portable and lightweight, they are mostly used at home, overnight visits with family or friends, or as hospital beds.
Also called the “super pole,” this type of railing is positioned between the floor and ceiling cross beams. It doesn’t require any screws. Instead, it uses tension in the mechanism to provide stability.
These bed rails are attached between the floor and the bed frame. Most models do not require screws to install. However, some are screwed into the floor for enhanced stability.
Wall-mounted bed rails are installed in the wall and extend outward. Featuring an adjustable design, they can be easily moved aside to allow space for a bedside table. They are ideal for seniors who have furniture located close to the bed.
When buying a bed rail for senior individuals, you must first determine your needs. Remember that each person faces different challenges with moving around the bed, so what works for you may not work for others. This is the reason why it’s important to assess your situation.
Below are the following features to consider in a bed rail before making a purchasing decision—to help ensure you get the best bed rail at the right price.
First, you need to take into account the type of bed where you will attach the guard rails. You don’t want to purchase elderly bed rails only to find out later that they’re not compatible with your bed.
For instance, railings with legs may require a stable bed. Some models, on the other hand, are only suitable for specific kinds of mattresses. That said, check the product description to ensure that the railings will work with your bed frame.
The point of having a railing for bed is to make things more accessible for seniors.
When buying a bed rail, consider features such as adjustable handles and padded grips. Depending on your needs, you might find them more comfortable and easy to use. Note that you may have to pay more because of their expensive price, but they could be worth the investment.
Besides accessibility, seniors also purchase a bed rail for the support they provide. This is the reason why it’s important to invest in a heavy-duty railing that can accommodate your weight and withstand repetitive usage for years to come.
Another feature you should consider when buying a bed railing is its portability. Do you plan to use it for travel and at home? If so, you should specifically purchase a portable, foldable design that can fulfill your needs. Otherwise, you may find that a fixed railing is better due to its increased stability.
Most seniors often forget this feature, but it’s a significant factor when choosing a bed assist rail. You should ensure that the railing can support your weight to prevent the risk of injury. Always check the weight capacity of the guard rails for beds before purchasing them.
Extra features in a bed rail are optional and would entirely depend on the individuals’ needs. For instance, attached pockets and pouches allow you to store personal items near the bed. You don’t have to bend or reach over a table if you want to get something. This ultimately lowers the risk of falling.
Since bed rails for seniors come in different types, there are also various ways of installing them. With that said, most railings don’t require complicated installation. They are simply propped against the bed frame or held in place by a mattress. Always check the user’s manual and safety guidelines to ensure that the railings are positioned correctly.
While bed rails provide a lot of practical benefits, they also come with risks.
Bed rails should not be used as restraining tools. They are simply assistive aids that help individuals get in and out of bed or reposition in bed.
When installed for the wrong purposes, they can present a health hazard for individuals with physical or mental disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, or delirium.
According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report, there have been 155 deaths related to bed rails from January 2003 to September 2012. 143 are due to rail entrapment, 11 were related to falls, and finally, 1 victim hit his head.
So, if you’re not confident in using a bed railing for elderly individuals, it’s best to consider other alternatives that negate most risks.
Bed rail handles take up less space than other types of bed rails. They have a more narrow and sleeker design that can be secured by a single fixed point. This is the reason why they are safer alternatives to traditional bed rails.
Bed wedges, also known as bumpers or bolsters, are large pieces of foam inserted on the mattress’s edge. They are designed to raise the bed’s contour instead of leaving it flat. Thus, they lower the risk of accidental falls or injuries.
Bed wedges can be secured on the mattress either by using a velcro strap or a sheet cover.
A concave mattress functions similarly to bed wedges. As its name implies, it curves inward, which results in raised edges. These act as a barrier to prevent seniors from rolling or falling out of bed.
The only difference between concave mattresses and wedges is that you can’t remove the raised edges in the mattress.
A bed trapeze, also known as “over the bed pole,” is a triangular handle that hangs over the bed. It is secured by a metal frame that is attached to the headboard.
It works as a handlebar, which seniors can use to reposition themselves on the bed. There is no risk of entrapment or suffocation, unlike a traditional bed rail. However, it is only suitable for older adults who still have upper body strength.
Posey beds are specifically designed for individuals who are at extreme risk of injuring themselves while on the bed.
They feature a zippered canopy with fast-release buckles. Inside the canopy, seniors are not restrained and have freedom of movement. These effectively reduce the risk of rail entrapment and accidental falls.
The only downside is that posey beds are quite expensive in price.
If you’re looking for a short-term aid, consider using crash mats as alternatives to bed rails.
These safety foams are placed on the floor along the side of home or hospital beds. They are made from shock-absorbing material, so they can prevent injury from accidental falls. They are also antimicrobial, flame retardant, and waterproof for further convenience.
Medicare does not cover the price of detachable bed rails secured to a conventional home bed. However, Medicare can pay for the price of a hospital bed with bed rails if you have a prescription from your doctor.
If you already have a prescribed hospital bed without a rail, Medicare can also cover the price of attachable side rails as long as they are used as an accessory to the existing bed. Are you still unsure if Medicare can cover the price for your bed rails? It’s best to check with your local insurance program as Medicaid coverage varies from state to state.
Bed rails for seniors are available in most home medical supplies and equipment stores such as:
A bed rail effectively prevents seniors from rolling or falling out of bed as they sleep. Some types of bed rails can also support individuals with mobility or balance issues. They help older adults get in and out of bed or reposition themselves in the bed.
Overall, bed rails are great assistive sleeping devices that offer safety, support, and stability to seniors. If you're looking for more options to keep your home safe, check out Senior Strong's resources on senior care products today!
William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.