Senior With Dementia Falling Out Of Bed? Here’s What To Do

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

There are many reasons why people with dementia are more likely to fall out of bed. Keep reading to learn why that is and what you can do to help prevent it.

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Seniors living with dementia face a higher risk of falling out of bed. These falls may occur when getting in or out of bed or during sleep. To make things even worse, seniors are more likely to be severely injured by falls as a result of the fragile nature of their bodies. Potential injuries include bruises, fractured and broken bones. In some cases, falling out of bed can lead to fatal injuries.

If you are tasked with looking after a senior with dementia who keeps falling out of bed, or simply want to keep this from happening to your loved one, read on below.

What Causes Dementia Patients to Fall Out of Bed?

Seniors who have dementia don’t have to fall out of bed. However, they are prone to it.

So, why does dementia increase the risk of falling out of bed for seniors? Well, in short, dementia causes reduced mental and physical function among the elderly. Is your elderly loved one with dementia falling out of bed?

Here are some of the potential causes:

Memory Problems And Confusion

Dementia causes memory impairment, anxiety and confusion. All these issues can cause seniors to fall out of bed when they wake up. For instance, seniors may wake up in a confused state, forget that they have mobility issues, or require assistance to get out of bed, and attempt to do so on their own, resulting in a fall.

Incontinence

People with dementia commonly suffer from incontinence issues. This means that they may need to use the bathroom a number of times at night. As such, your elderly loved one may fall out of their bed when trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night in a dark or poorly lit environment.

Medication

Seniors, especially those suffering from dementia, normally have to take a variety of medications. The type of medication your elderly loved one is taking may increase their risk of falling out of bed if it makes them feel drowsy or dizzy. Plus, the time the medications are to be taken may increase their risk of falling out of bed as well. For instance, who are supposed to take their medications in the middle of the night might fall out of bed as they try to reach medications or a glass of water right next to their bed.

Poor Sleeping Patterns

One of the main causes of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. This disease also affects a patient’s sleeping pattern. This means that you may find an elderly Alzheimer patient falling out of bed, simply because they are unable to sleep and keep waking up in the middle of the night in a confused and restless state.

Vision Problems

Seniors normally experience weaker vision as they continue to age. Those who also suffer from dementia suffer from visual spatial issues that affect their visual perception. This ultimately means that seniors are more likely to fall when getting out of bed simply because they are not able to perceive the distance from the bed to the floor, for example.

Failure To Communicate

Dementia makes it harder for seniors to communicate and even share their thoughts and feelings. As such, they may be unable to ask for assistance when they need it. Your elderly loved one may end up trying to get in or out of bed or repositioning themselves in bed – if they are uncomfortable – on their own, risking a fall, when it would be easier to simply ask for assistance.

senior woman smiling in bed while drinking coffee

How Can You Prevent People with Dementia From Falling Out of Bed?

As you can see, seniors with dementia face a higher risk of falling out of bed. Fortunately, you can reduce this risk in a number of ways.

1. Lowering The Bed

Seniors who fall out of bed are at risk of sustaining serious, or even fatal, injuries. The impact from a simple fall can be severe due to their weak muscles and bones. To keep seniors safe, and minimize the risk of serious injuries after a all, it is best to lower their bed. A lower bed reduces the impact from potential falls; thus reducing the risk of injury.

2. Hospital Bed

For seniors who suffer from advanced cases of dementia, and with it, a higher risk of falling out of bed due to the elevated mobility and cognitive effects, a hospital bed might be a better fit. A hospital bed comes with a variety of features, including built-in bed rails, which are meant to keep patients from falling out of bed.

Hospital beds also feature adjustable height as well as an easy to raise and lower head that can be used to support the patient when they need to sit upright, or lay down. These beds can also be moved around easily simply because they stand on wheels.

3. Bed Rails

Bed rails can help keep your elderly loved one form rolling out of bed. Seniors can also use sturdy bed rails to support themselves when getting in and out of bed. These products are designed to be attached to the edge of the bed. If your elderly loved one does not sleep alone, you can use one bed rail – attached to their side of the bed – however, if they sleep alone, it is better to use these rails on both sides of the bed.

4. Special Mattresses

Perimeter mattresses with raised edges are also a great solution for seniors who keep rolling out of bed. These mattresses are designed with firm raised edges, meant to make it harder for seniors with dementia to roll out of bed.

If you are not ready to invest in one of these mattresses, consider buying a special mattress cover that more or less converts a regular mattress into a perimeter mattress.

5. Using Bolsters

Bolsters are an inexpensive way of keeping seniors with dementia from easily rolling out of bed and falling to the floor. Wedges, pool noodles and rolls are some of the popular types of bolsters used to keep seniors safe in bed.

To ensure that they are effective at keeping your elderly from falling out of bed, it is important that you install them correctly. While some bolsters are simply positioned under the bed sheet, others may need to be secured in place using other means.

6. Fall Mats

Fall mats, just like low beds, are used to reduce the risk of injury incase seniors fall out of bed. These mats absorb the shock of the fall and reducing the severity of its impact, and with it, the potential to cause serious injuries.

Fall mats should be positioned on the floor, next to the bed.

7. Bed Alarms

Bed alarms are designed to alert you whenever your elderly loved one moves around in bed. If your elderly loved one requires assistance when getting in and out of bed, or when shifting their position in bed, a bed alarm ensures that you are notified, as and when necessary.

8. De-cluttering The Bedroom

Seniors who end up falling out of bed may sustain injuries when they fall to the ground or on other objects near the bed. If you have taken all the necessary measures to minimize the risk of injury in case your loved one falls on the floor, don’t forget to move any objects, including bedroom furniture, away from the bed. In fact, to make the room safer you should clear it of any clutter.

9. Implementing Healthy Sleep Patterns

Ensuring that your elderly loved one has a healthy sleeping pattern is important in keeping them from falling out of bed. As such, if your loved one keeps waking up in the middle of the night due to Alzheimer’s, ask their doctor to suggest ways of keeping them asleep at night. Furthermore, if they keep waking up to take medicine, ask their doctor whether the schedule can be changed.

How Do You Know a Fall From Bed is Serious?

For an elderly person, all falls should be considered serious unless otherwise determined by a qualified physician!

If your loved one happens to fall out of bed, avoid helping them up immediately. Take a moment to calm them down, as you assess them visually. Look for any signs of injury, such as bruising, bleeding and swelling, on their bodies.

You can also ask them whether they are experiencing any pain. Look for any facial expressions that indicate physical discomfort as people with dementia may struggle with expressing themselves verbally.

If you discover any signs of injury or pain, call 911.

Even if they seem ok, it is essential that you take them in to see a doctor as soon as possible, as they may have sustained hidden injuries. Since seniors with dementia may not be able to express themselves, it is upon you to share all pertinent information with the doctor.

After conducting a variety of tests, the doctor should be able to discover any hidden injuries and inform you of the severity.

Summary and Final Recommendations:

Seniors suffering with dementia suffer from reduced mental and physical functions. Unfortunately, this means that they face a higher risk of falling out of bed.

While this risk is always present, there are many ways and products you can use to reduce it and keep your loved one safe. To ensure that you choose the right solution when it comes to keeping seniors with dementia from falling out of bed, you must start by identifying the specific cause.

References/Sources:

  1. “What Is Dementia?” – https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia
  2. “Falls And Dementia” – https://www.nhsinform.scot/healthy-living/preventing-falls/falls-and-dementia
  3. “Falls in The Elderly” – https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2159.html
  4. “Dementia and Falling Out of Bed” – https://www.safely-you.com/single-post/2020/05/26/dementia-and-falling-out-of-bed/
  5. “The Risk of Falling Increases With Dementia” – https://www.alzinfo.org/treatment-care/blogs/2014/01/risk-falling-increases-dementia/
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