Part of aging is reduced mobility; this can make previously simple tasks like getting out of bed very difficult. Reduced independence, however, does not need to be part of aging. Tools like bed side rails can help you get out of bed safely without any assistance. Certain rails can also prevent you from rolling out of bed while you’re asleep.
However, bed rails come with serious safety concerns. It’s important that you understand the features, benefits, and risks of these products before you make a purchase!
While a bed guard rail may not seem to be a dangerous product, there are some serious risks, especially when you use them incorrectly.
First, these rails should never be used as a restraining system for folks with Alzheimer’s or other conditions that may cause wandering. While at one point restaurants were popular devices to prevent wandering, the distress they cause is no longer thought to be worth the benefit of keeping someone in place. You should use other products designed to help prevent wandering.
Using a bedside rail as a restraining system can cause extreme distress both for folks who may wander and those who simply want to get up to use the bathroom or do another simple task. To prevent this distress, be sure that either (1) the rail is small enough to easily maneuver around to get in and out of bed or (2) the person in the bed is able to move the rail out of the way themselves to get out of the bed.
Second, bed gates create a large risk of entrapment. The FDA found that between 1985 and 2009, a shocking 480 people died as a result of entrapment in safety bed rails. Another 138 had a nonfatal injury.
It’s essential to take steps to mitigate this risk. You have to ensure the product you purchase will stay tightly pressed against your bed even when the bed is occupied.
You should also pay attention to the bars between the bed assist rails themselves. These bars can become a strangulation hazard if they are too far apart. Some bars are connected with mesh fabric, which can further help prevent entrapment.
If you have concerns about the safety of using safety bed rails, you can use other devices to the same effect. Foam bumpers can make it more difficult to roll out of bed without the potential for entrapment.
Anchored straps with assist handles can make it easier to sit up in bed. Poles or other fixed devices outside the bed can provide support when taking those first few steps in the morning.
That being said, bed rails can, when used properly, improve the safety and independence of those who use them. They provide a simple solution to the decreased independence that comes with aging. Lots of bed rails for seniors are easy to install and assemble and may be the best option for someone living alone or for someone who cannot afford to have someone come over to install a more complex device.
Types of Safety Bed Rails for Adults
If you decide a bed rail is the best suited for your needs, you should know about the different types of rails available for purchase.
First, be sure to look for safety bed rails for adults! Toddlers’ bed rail guards are not designed to hold the weight of adults. This could lead to the rail buckling when it’s leaned on for support. The main risk, however, is that the increased weight of an adult (vs a child) on the bed will open up space between the rail and the bed, which creates an entrapment hazard.
Once you’ve eliminated bed rails for toddlers, you essentially have three types of bed rails to choose from. The first is a small bedside rail that is designed to help you get into and out of bed safely but will not do anything to prevent you from rolling out of bed.
This sort of rail is perfect for someone who just needs a little help with mobility but isn’t worried about falling out of bed at night. These sorts of rails are also the most subtle and don’t need to be adjusted before you can get in or out of bed.
The second type of rail is a medium-length rail about 30 inches long. These rails are a little different since you have to either crawl into bed around them or move them out of the way then lift them back into place once you’re in bed. Some models have hinges so the rail can swing down out of the way and then be easily pulled back into place.
While this bed rail works really well for folks who are worried about falling out of bed at night, they are a little harder for folks with limited mobility to use. You either have to get into the middle of the bed and scooch backwards or lower the rail and reach down to pull it back up when you’re in bed. It’s also somewhat difficult to get out of bed in the middle of the night to run to the bathroom or grab a drink of water.
This bar definitely has its issues, but for the right person it could be really helpful. If you aren’t as worried about the mobility concerns of this bar, it may be perfect for you.
The third bed safety rail to consider is an adjustable rail. These usually start at around 30 inches and can be extended once you get in bed by another foot or so. These are designed to give a little more protection from falling out of bed.
However, this sort of bar has the same potential issues as the second bar we just discussed. In order to get out of the bed, you have to either scooch around the bar or lower it. The lowering isn’t as much of a problem as raising it back up when you get back in bed.
Of course, if you do choose to lower the bar so that you can get out of bed, you no longer have the opportunity to use the bar as a support rail to help you out of bed safely. These may not be concerns for you if you are able to get out of bed without support, but if you do need that support, it needs to be considered.
Consider each of the types of bed rails presented here and think about what is best for your needs and abilities.
Now that you’re educated on the types of safety bed rails that are available, it’s time to do some shopping!