Falling out of bed is a common occurrence for many elderly people.
In fact, according to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injury and death among older Americans, with 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older falling each year.
While falling out of bed may seem like a minor concern, it can result in serious injuries such as broken bones, hip fractures, a head injury, and other complications that can impact an individual’s health.
Preventing falls and injuries for elderly individuals in bed is essential for keeping them safe. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent an elderly individual from falling out of bed.
In this guide, we’ll explore each of these preventive measures in detail, providing you with the information you need to keep a senior safe while snoozing.
Option 1: Lowering the Bed
Lowering an elderly senior’s bed is another thing you can do to help decrease the chances of an older adult falling out of bed.
A higher bed can make the bed difficult to get in and out of when they get up to use the bathroom, sometimes even requiring the use of bed steps.
To make the bed easier to get in and out of, it’s important to make the bed low enough for the foot of the senior to touch the floor, but not too low that it will cause an imbalance which could cause the senior to lose their footing.
On top of that, low beds will help reduce injuries from a fall — especially if there is carpeting or a fall mat underneath the bed area.
One easy way to transition to a low bed is to get a new bed frame with slats that doesn’t require the use of a box spring, as box springs can add significant lift to a bed.
Option 2: Install Bed Rails
Bed rails are the most tried-and-true solution for preventing elderly individuals from falling out of bed.
They are typically installed along the sides of the bed and create a barrier between the person and the floor. You’ll often see these installed on a hospital bed, but you can install a bed rail on your own bed at home as well!
Bed rails come in a variety of sizes and styles. When selecting a bed rail, consider multiple factors such as the height of the bed and the individual’s level of mobility. Certain beds may be trickier to fit than others, depending on your bed frame setup.
Some bed safety rails are adjustable, which can be helpful to customize based on your bed’s length. Some also have rails on both sides of the bed, or just one.
It’s important to note that a bed rail should be used with caution as they can also pose an elevated risk of entrapment or physical injury if not installed properly.
Another benefit of using a bed rail is that an older adult with reduced mobility can adjust their position in bed easily without assistance (while one should never put full pressure on bed rails, they can be used for slight adjustment).
Option 3: Use a Pool Noodle or Bed Bumper
One DIY-style method for protecting an elderly parent from falling out of bed is to use a pool noodle.
While bed rails might prevent an elderly parent from rolling out of bed, they may also cause confusion and stress. A pool noodle, on the other hand, has a softer edge. It can be placed beside the bed edge or even under a fitted sheet.
Once the pool noodle is placed, a padded mattress pad is placed on top of the pool noodle to keep it secure.
This softer DIY bed bumper keeps the senior from rolling off the bed, without the need to install rails. While bed rails are a great way to keep an elderly loved one safe in bed, for some seniors (especially those with dementia), they can result in feelings of claustrophobia.
Pool noodles are a simple and inexpensive way to provide extra support under the bed, without creating an enclosed feeling.
If you don’t feel like utilizing this DIY option, there are also bed bumpers that serve a similar purpose. These soft, triangular or round pieces of soft foam are placed against the side of the bed, either over or under the fitted sheet. The bumper helps keep seniors from rolling out of bed when they turn or move in their sleep.
Option 4: Add body pillows
Using body pillows can be especially helpful for seniors who are prone to rolling over in their sleep.
Placing the pillow alongside the individual’s body can provide additional stability and prevent them from shifting too far to one side, as they keep the sleeper contained and guide them towards the center of the bed.
However, body pillows alone aren’t really a fool-proof method, and should be used in conjunction with bed rails or another form of bed safety.
Option 5: Set up a commode near the bed
Setting up a bedside commode in the bedroom of elderly people can prevent a bedroom fall, since the individual won’t have to travel all the way to the bathroom to relieve themselves.
Getting up to go to the bathroom can be a high risk activity for an elderly senior — when it’s dark in the middle of the night, and one has just woken from sleep, it can be easier to trip and have a fall when walking down the hall to the bathroom.
Having a commode nearby will prevent this problem by decreasing the distance between the bed and the bathroom, and reducing the urgency of a middle-of-the-night trip to the bathroom.
Providing plenty of bedside lighting or even motion-activated lighting in the bedroom also a smart idea. This way, when a senior gets up to use the commode, they’ll have plenty of visibility.
Option 6: Install a Pressure Alarm
Pressure alarms are special sensors that are placed under the mattress — they alert caregivers or family members when an individual has left the bed. These bed alarms can provide an early warning sign of potential danger.
When paired with an elderly monitoring system, a loved one or caregiver can check a bedroom camera after being notified by a pressure alarm, and make sure the senior is OK.
Pressure alarms come in a variety of styles, including ones that sound an alarm or ones that alert a caregiver’s phone or pager. Some pressure alarms can also be customized with different sensitivity settings to accommodate an individual’s sleep habits and patterns.
Option 7: Keep the Room Well-Lit
Adequate lighting in the bedroom and one’s sleeping environment can help prevent falls by making it easier for the individual to see where they are going.
With worsening eyesight and reduced bladder control, trips to the bathroom during the night can become more frequent. Better visibility can go a long way to reduce a senior’s risk of falling out of bed.
Install night lights or motion-sensor lighting to ensure that the room is well-lit at all times for older adults. These are great preventative measures that can easily be set up for any older person.
Option 8: Use Non-Slip Mats
Non-slip mats or a specialized fall mat can be placed on the floor next to an elderly senior’s bed to provide extra grip and stability.
These textured grip mats can help prevent slips and falls when getting in and out of bed. They can also help prevent injury by cushioning a senior against impact against the floor.
Option 9: Keep Important Items Within Reach
Make sure that all of a senior’s necessary items are within easy reach of the bed. This includes things like water bottles, medications, and phones.
Many seniors like to have these items by their bedside, and may get stressed if they aren’t close at hand.
Having easy access to these items can reduce the need for an older adult to get up and move around, which can in turn reduce the risk of falls.
This can be achieved through the use of well-positioned bedside tables or even over-the-bed tables when the senior is still awake. Some bed rails also come with handy storage pockets, which offers another method for keeping a senior’s personal items within easy reach.
Using thoughtful design when arranging a senior’s bedroom furniture can significantly prevent falls, greatly reducing a senior’s risk of serious injury.
By taking a proactive approach to preventing falls out of bed through the use of rails, night lights, and bed bolsters, and by limiting the potential for injury through the use of sensors and mats, you can go a long way to preventing bedtime disasters.