Most of us don’t give much thought to getting into and out of bed but for most of the elderly, leaving and getting in the bed is nothing short of a challenge. With advancing age, our muscles weaken, mobility diminishes, and vision blurs, which makes seniors dependent on their caregivers for even the simple task of getting in and out of the bed. And it’s not just a challenge either. It’s also a considerable safety risk because, sadly, aging adults are at the risk of falling out of their bed and seriously injuring themselves.
Even when they’re in the bed, reaching out for something can cause a fall as well. If they’re disoriented, confused, or if they toss and turn during sleep, they might roll out of bed. When they’re awake, they can fall because they lose their balance and fail to regain it (more on that shortly). Aside from the physical injuries from the fall (broken bones, concussions, etc.), it can also lead to mental anxiety.
Balance loss can happen because of a multitude of reasons, including health or the immediate environment. Weakness due to old age, illnesses, vision problems, or medications (for instance, high blood pressure meds) and their side-effects are some of the health-related fall risks. On the other hand, tripping and slipping hazards like rugs and mats or improper footwear are a few living space risks. How you approach fall prevention, depends on what factors are putting your senior loved one at risk so you can decide on a solution.
If the health concerns are primarily causing the falls or loss of balance, their prescription or dosage needs to be revised. If it’s muscle atrophy, physical therapy can work wonders to help restore muscle strength. Whatever the cause may be, physical space risks need to be minimized anyway. In addition to proper lighting and keeping the space clear of obstacles, installing bed rails can be the ideal solution to fall and rolling over prevention.
In the post that follows, we’ll explore at length guard rails. What they are? Their different types. Who can benefit from bed rails? What needs to be factored into your decision before purchasing one? We’ll also address a few concerns concerning bed rails. You’ll also find a rundown of some of the best options available in the market today.
What are bed rails?
As the name might give away, bed railings are railings that are installed on the side of a bed. They join the headboard and serve as a handhold as well as a barrier. The idea is to help them get up using the rails as handholds and to keep them from rolling out of the bed when they’re asleep. They come in several different sizes and just as many types. They can be installed on either side of the bed but they can also be double-sided.
Different types of bed rails?
You’ll find several different styles and types of bed rails which offer different functionality, but they also differ in features such as dimensions (of the rails and the mattress), weight, aesthetics, and of course, your budget.
Bed rails can be installed on the bed frame, the adjacent wall, or even the floor. Some are more easily installed than others. Some require tools, others don’t. There are legless bed rails, bed rails with legs, with crossbars, and with handles. Some have adjustable length and height or pivoting handles. If you find yourself traveling often, there are portable bed rails available as well. Before you take the plunge, ensure that the product you picked ships with safety straps.
Each type has its own unique advantages and shortcomings and to find one that suits your loved one best, you’ll have to weigh your options.
Who can benefit from bed rails?
Before we get into who can benefit from these rails, we’ll first get out of the way who can’t. If your senior loved one is mobile, they can get into and out of the bed without your aid, and they don’t tend to roll out of their bed, then bed rails aren’t for you. In that case, a floor mat alone should be enough.
On the other hand, for patients with diminishing endurance, flexibility, and strength, safety rails can be the ideal solution to their compromised physical abilities. If they suffer from dizziness, or poor balance and have some degree of hampered mobility, guard rails can offer increased safety, independence, and fall prevention.
For patients who suffer from seizures, guard rails aren’t the ideal fix. The same goes for dementia, but if you are inclined to use them, the rails must be padded, so that the patient doesn’t hurt themselves in the event of a seizure. Or if you can, try rails which use plastic for the material. A caveat though, plastic rails aren’t as durable or sturdy as metallic ones.
These same guard rails can also be used for toddlers who are just making the transition from the cot to the bed. Toddlers often tend to roll out of the bed, and bed rails can prevent that.
Why use bed rails?
These rails can act as a prop to support you as you move in and around the bed which not only keeps you from losing balance but is also less tiring. Over time, as the patient learns to use guard rails, this hand-hold can be gripped just right to leave the bed in the least painful position.
Before they climb out of the bed, they can take a minute to gauge if they’re dizzy while gripping the rails, which minimizes the risk of falling. Another compelling reason would be the greater independence these rails afford to seniors. They won’t have to call their caregiver every time they have to use the bathroom or when they wake up and are up and about. In other words, they can retain their freedom of movement.
Factors to consider
Perhaps the first things you’ll need to take into account are the dimensions of the bed and the mattress. You’ll need a rail that’s taller than your mattress (and the topper if you’re using it) so that the handle is high enough and accessible. Whether your bed is twin, full, or queen, most bed rails you come across should fit.
Speaking of height, instead of fixed rails, opt for height-adjustable ones. This feature is particularly useful because the patient can lower or raise them with ease whenever they want to get in or out of bed without assistance from their caregiver.
In addition to the height, the width of the rails is equally important. If they’re too wide, it will be difficult for the patient to get into and out of bed. Then there’s the question of weight capacity. More often than not, the rails you’ll find have the maximum capacity of 250 lbs. If your loved one weighs more, ensure that the rails you purchase can safely take that much weight.
Last but not least, if the patient often finds themselves visiting relatives or traveling in general, a portable design would be the right fit. They can fold in on themselves and form a compact portable unit.
What are the risks involved?
Unfortunately, bed rails aren’t without their potential risks, which can be as severe as entrapment and strangulation. If the patient feels they’re being restrained with the rails, they’ll feel restless and agitated. If they try and climb over the rail, they might seriously hurt themselves. There’s also the risk of the seniors bruising or cutting themselves on the rail if the rail is metallic but not padded.
- Steel construction
- Fall Prevention & Mobility Independence
- Slip-resistant foam pads
- Adjustable bed rail height and width allows product to fit onto any sized beds
- Safe and Durable
- Horizontal stabilizer bars and floor standing legs
- Tool-free assembly & easy to clean
- Integrated Intellibrite motion sensing LED night light
- Free Anchor Strap
- Padded Handgrip
- Adjustable Handle Height and Stabilizer
- GlowSafe Indicator Strips
- Chrome-plated steel construction
- Modern White Design
- Solid aluminum construction paired with a wooden grain look
- Can be folded downwards with the press of a button
- Easily disassembled and assembled with tools (the tools needed come included in the package)
- Can fit a mattress that is 5-10 inches tall
- Can support up to 300 lbs.
- Doesn’t fit adjustable beds
- The Handrail can extend up to 20 inches in width for fall prevention
- 20 inches tall
- Can fit most bed types and sizes and 8-16-inch tall mattresses
- Comes with a safety strap
- Can support up to 300 lbs.
- A push-button mechanism to prevent falls during sleep
- Durable and solid powder-coated steel construction
- Non-slip sleeves for a secure attachment
- Can be raised to a height anywhere between 17 to 21 inches
- Height adjustable handle featuring a non-slip soft foam grip
- Maximum weight capacity of 350 lbs.
- Storage pouch can be purchased as an addon
- Comes with a lifetime guarantee
- Steel construction
- Legs are height adjustable
- Slip-resistance design
- Small items can be stored in the pouch pocket
- Safety straps to wrap around the mattress for added safety
- Soft grip on the adjustable handle
- Easily assembled without the need for tools
- Adjustable height for different mattresses with thickness and toppers
- Equipped with an LED night light which lights up as soon as it senses motion (a great feature which helps in fall prevention in the dark)
- Padded handles for a comfortable grip and added safety against cuts and scrapes
- Can be raised to a height of up to 37.5 inches
- Anchor strap for added safety
- Portable design and easily installed without tools
- Modern look and easily cleaned
- Can adjust to a height between 26-42
- Can support up to 300 lbs.
- The rail can be folded downward at a 180-degree angle when not in use
- Can fit a mattress with a thickness between 12-18 inches
- Ideal for home and hospital beds of all size, including adjustable beds
- Has three pouch pockets for storage
- Easily assembled without tools
- Secured to the bed frame with the help of a safety strap
- Adjustable height with 1-inch increments
- Can be assembled without tools
- Can fit any bed size
- Comes with an anti-slip coating on the handle
- Maximum weight capacity of 250 lbs.
- Crafted from heavy-duty powder-coated steel for better durability
- Slip-resistance thanks to foam padding on the handle
- Better stability because of horizontal stabilizer bars
- Adjustable height and width
- Can be installed on any bed size on either side
- Easy to install and clean
To wrap this post up, guard rails can be an invaluable addition to your fall prevention plan. Falls are a very real risk and minimizing that risk is any caregiver’s priority. Sure there are some potential hazards that come with installing bed rails on a patient’s bed, but frequently, the benefits outweigh the risks.