Falling is a very serious concern for seniors of any age. As a person ages, the bones become more brittle, putting the person at risk for many fractures. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 250,000 seniors break a hip every year, and because thousands of seniors die each year from the complications of a broken hip, doing whatever is necessary to prevent falls from occurring is important. One way that seniors commonly fall is out of bed; whether they are disoriented and get up too fast, or they roll over too far off the bed while sleeping, a fall out of bed entails all of the risks of any fall at an advanced age. One way to reduce the risk of falling out of bed is with a properly fitted bed rail.
Bed Rails Offer More than Protection from FallsBed rails are typically thought of as a way to keep toddlers in their beds without falling out, but they serve many other purposes when used for seniors. Bed rails can help elderly persons get into and out of bed on their own; they can help elderly persons comfortably position themselves in bed; and obviously, they can stop them from falling out of bed. The type and number of bed rails needed depend on the type of bed the elderly person sleeps on and whether or not the person sleeps alone. For example, a person who sleeps alone should have a bed rail on each side of the bed, unless the bed butts up to the wall, where there is no risk of falling.
Understanding a Loved One’s NeedsBed rails are not always the right decision for every elderly patient, though. Some patients, such as those with dementia, might get upset at the sight of the rails, forgetting why they are there. The agitated person might try to climb over the rail or even get through one, putting him or her at risk for falls or even strangulation. It is important to have a loved one’s needs assessed before making any decisions regarding bed rails.
Taking the Appropriate PrecautionsBecause of the risk of strangulation and/or climbing can be high for some elderly patients, it is important to have a loved one evaluated for the risk of these issues. If there is a high risk, the following precautions can be taken to help keep the elderly person safe:
- Keep one side of the bed rail low enough so that there are no issues with climbing or any feelings of being trapped. The foot rail is usually the easiest to keep lowered and still keep a loved one safe.
- Make sure that the mattress and bed rail fit well together so that there is no risk of the elderly person getting caught between the mattress and the bed rail, putting him or her at risk for suffocation.