7 Ways to Keep the Elderly From Falling Out of Bed

Solutions for Elderly Falling Out of Bed

To solve the problem, it’s important to identify the cause. Learn the most common causes of the elderly falling out of bed while sleeping plus 7 different ways to provide protection from falling out of bed at night.

woma talking to her elderly husband in bed
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Falls can be dangerous for anyone. However, they can be especially dangerous and devastating for older people. Unfortunately, falling is the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries among older adults [1]. These falls can occur in a variety of ways.

One of the ways is by falling out of bed at night while sleeping. Falling from a bed can be caused by various things. This article will be going over some of the causes of falls from bed and how to prevent the elderly from falling out of bed.

What Are The Causes Of Falling Out Of The Bed?

1. Changes In The Sleep Environment

One of the main causes that may contribute to a fall from the bed is any significant changes in the sleep environment. This can include changes to the height of the bed, pillows on the bed, or even the bed itself. It is best to limit the potential changes to the sleep environment because it can contribute to a heightened risk of falling out of bed.

After all, your body won’t be used to the new changes which can cause you to misjudge the size of the bed or other factors that can lead to a fall.

2. Problems Sleeping

Another factor that can contribute to a heightened risk of falling from the bed would be problems sleeping. If you or your loved one is experiencing problems sleeping, it could result in you twisting and turning trying to get comfortable throughout the night. This could lead to you twisting and turning your way off the bed itself.

elderly woman unable to sleep
Insomnia is a common contributor to falls while getting out of bed for many older adults.

3. Sleeping Too Close To The Edge

It is always recommended for people to sleep much closer to the center of the bed if they are sleeping in the bed themselves. After all, it is much more difficult to fall out of bed if you aren’t anywhere near the edge. If a senior is sleeping too close to the edge of the bed, it is much easier for them to roll off.

4. Medications

There are all kinds of medications that can cause disorientation and a lot of other issues that can cause dizziness and other things that will make it much more likely for one to fall out of bed. If you or your loved one is on new medication and it is causing them to lose balance or become dizzy, it could very well be the cause a fall out of bed.

5. Constant Need For Urination

The more the elderly person gets up throughout the night, the more likely they are to experience a fall. Whether they fall out of bed while waking up or while getting out of bed to go to the bathroom, it presents an increased risk. It can be very difficult for an older person with less balance to be able to get out of bed safely without falling.

6. Slippery Sheets

If you alter the sheets on the bed to a higher thread count or even satin, you may find them much more slippery. Slippery sheets can contribute to an increased risk factor of falling out of bed or falling while getting out of bed. After all, there is less friction between the elderly person and his or her sheets. Therefore, it could end up causing them to slip or lose balance while getting out of bed or even while rolling over during sleep.

The same thing goes for silky night gowns and satiny pajamas.

senior woman with walker getting out of bed
Getting in and out of bed can be a dangerous time for seniors with mobility issues.

How To Keep The Elderly From Falling Out Of Bed

1. Bed Rails

Bed rails are perhaps one of the best solutions you will be able to find if you want to keep yourself or your loved one from falling out of bed at night. A lot of falls happen when the person is sleeping. Bed rails are capable of providing a bumper of sorts that can keep a person in bed rather than on the floor.

They work sort of like bumper rails at a bowling alley. What makes them even more beneficial for seniors is the fact that they can be multipurpose additions. Not only do rails keep yourself or your loved one safely in bed throughout the night, but they can make it much easier to get out of bed when needed.

After all, the best bed rails for seniors can be leaned on and used as a handhold which can make it much easier to get up out of bed without losing balance. This is especially good for older adults who have trouble getting out of bed as it is.

Pros:

  • Multi-purpose use case
  • Get to keep the same bed

Cons:

  • Can be expensive

An alternative to bed rails are fall prevention mattresses and mattress covers that have a raised perimeter to reduce rolling falls from bed.

2. DIY Rails

If you or your loved one don’t need full-on rails, you may be able to get away with using a do-it-yourself solution.

You could always create a noticeable barrier around your mattress. You can do this with foam inserts or something soft placed on the edge of the bed underneath the fitted sheet. This will give your body an indication when you or your loved one is at the edge of the bed.

This can help you consciously and subconsciously know that you are about to fall.

Pros:

  • Less expensive
  • Immediate assistance

Cons:

  • Less reliable

3. Fall Mat

A fall mat is a good way to prevent major injuries from occurring when and if you or your loved one falls out of bed. Fall protection mats are designed to absorb your impact and keep one from getting seriously injured. Therefore, it can be used on each side of the bed as a protective measure against falls from the bed.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Won’t prevent falls

4. Get a Hospital Bed

While you may be able to get away with different measures that allow you to keep the same bed and sleeping environment, you may want to change it entirely. Getting a different bed that is designed to be much safer to sleep in for the elderly may be the best option you have.

Hospital beds are designed with seniors who struggle with mobility in mind. Hospital beds have the unique benefit of being height adjustable which means you will be able to lower the bed to make it much easier to get in and out.

Likewise, it can make the fall much less disastrous if it did occur. It can even help contain yourself or your loved one with built-in rails. A bed like a Posey bed is a hospital bed that is enclosed on every side which makes it impossible to fall out of.

5. Get a Platform Bed

A platform bed is another good option that you could consider if you want to limit the damage that could occur from a fall. Most platform beds are 6 inches to 12 inches from the ground and are easier to get into. But they can be hard to get up from id you have trouble standing.

However, its real benefit is being closer to the ground which lessens the impact of a fall.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Plenty of options available

Cons:

  • Expensive

6. Grippy Bed Materials

One of the things you can do to outfit your bed to keep you or your loved one from sliding out of bed would be to invest in much more grippy sheets and other bedding. A senior shouldn’t be using slick and slippery bedding that can increase the risk of falling.

Silk and other slick materials shouldn’t be used as sheets or for comforters. Instead, low thread count poly blend sheets or knapped flannel sheets might be best.

Pros:

  • Easy to add to existing bed
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Won’t prevent falls

7. Add Pillows

Another simple and effective solution to keep a senior from falling out of bed would be to add body pillows to the edges of the bed.

Adding pillows on either side of the person will keep them contained. They will be much less likely from sliding over or rolling over too far. After all, the pillows will remind them of where they are on the bed and it will guide them towards the center of the bed.

This can make it much less likely they end up suffering a fall out of bed while sleeping.

Pros:

  • Easy to add to existing bed

Cons:

  • Won’t directly prevent falls

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is falling out of bed a sign of dementia?

Falling out of bed isn’t directly correlated with dementia. However, those suffering from dementia are likely to experience falling from their bed. One of the reasons sufferers of dementia are more likely to fall out of bed is due to them experiencing more restlessness throughout the night and even their heightened risk factor for becoming incontinent [2].

How can I help an elderly person get out of bed more safely?

If you are looking to help an elderly person get out of bed safely, you should be looking to install handrails alongside the bed. That way, they will be able to grab hold of the handrail and use it to gain leverage. If you are personally helping them out of bed, you should be getting them safely on their side and helping them gain their footing. From there, you can assist them in grabbing the handrails and standing themselves up.

How can I reduce the chance of an injury from a fall from bed?

One of the best ways to minimize the chances of an injury from falling from a bed is using fall mats on the sides of the bed. Fall protection mats can be excellent additions to the sides of a seniors bed because they are thick and cushioned enough to minimize impact after a fall. You will usually find them made up of high-density polyurethane foam for maximum protection.

Does Medicare pay for hospital beds?

Yes, Medicare will cover hospital beds as durable medical equipment as long as it is prescribed by your doctor [3]. There are some documentation requirements that must be met including a face to face appointment with your doctor.

Does Medicare pay for bed rails?

Yes, but only if the beneficiary already has a hospital bed that doesn’t include bed rails. Medicare will NOT approve rails that can be attached to the existing bed [4].

How can I be alerted that the senior has fallen from bed?

Knowing when a senior falls from their bed is crucial. After all, falls can be devastating, and reacting quickly to falls can mean the difference between life and death. After all, every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall [1]. One of the best ways to identify if a senior has fallen from the bed is with the use of bed alarms. A bed alarm will go off when the patient tries to get out of bed. This will help a caretaker be alerted so they can help the seniors get out of bed if they need assistance in doing so. An alarm mat will go off when the patient falls out of bed.

How do I know if a fall from the bed is serious enough for medical attention?

If a senior falls and they have hit their head or have swelling in any area of the body, you should seek immediate medical attention. Head injuries can be very serious especially for older adults. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries [5].

Summary and Final Recommendations

Elderly people are at a greater risk of suffering falls. Falling out of bed at night is common among seniors because of this. By knowing some of the causes and using some of the solutions above, you should be able to help minimize the chances of yourself falling or having your elderly loved one falling from bed.

Do you know of other solutions for elderly people falling out of bed at night? Please share them in the comments below!

References:

  1. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/
  2. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/daily-living/toilet-problems-continence
  3. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospital-beds
  4. https://www.medicare.org/articles/does-medicare-cover-bed-rails/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
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Avatar for Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®
About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS® 416 Articles
Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather
I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

1 Comment

  1. When my mom was able to walk I hung cow bells on her walker so that I could hear if she got out of bed. I had 2 sets of guard rails on her bed and still she was able to get out. So ultimately we got a hospital bed and it made a huge difference. It also made it easier to get her out of bed because the head of the bed could be lifted.

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