Helping someone (like an elderly person) to get out of bed safely seems like it may be a simple task, but truth is, you and the person in bed can both get hurt if you aren’t careful with the procedure.
With the right instructions and the right aids, you can minimize most any problems that may occur.
So, here is how to safely help an elderly person get out of their bed. You begin by log rolling the person to the edge of the bed, using a handrail of some sort helps very much, move the legs off the bed and then by placing your hand under their shoulder help them to sit up. Talk them through the steps and that gives them a chance to help you so you don’t get injured.
Why Is It Important To Follow These Steps?
I can tell you from personal experience as an Occupational Therapist that whenever you are helping an adult person to move in any way – the risk of injury to both of you (but especially to the helper) is very real and much higher than you would think.
In my years as an OT I helped hundreds of my patients on and off beds, chairs, toilets, etc and in some cases I injured my shoulder and my back severely enough that to this day I still suffer from chronic pain due to those injuries. Even with proper training, injuries can occur.
So, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the techniques I am outlining below. You can thank me later!
Before You Begin Helping Someone Out Of Bed
Before helping an elderly individual sit up in bed, it’s important to assess their mobility and strength to determine the best approach for assistance.
Here are some tips on how to assess an individual’s mobility and strength.
Range of Motion
Range of motion refers to the movement that an individual is able to perform in their joints. Range of motion can be limited by conditions such as arthritis or Parkinson’s disease.
To assess range of motion, ask the individual to move their arms and legs in different directions and note any limitations or pain. You can also perform gentle stretches to assess range of motion.
Muscle strength is important for movements such as sitting up in bed, as it helps to support the individual’s body during the process. Muscle strength can be affected by conditions such as stroke or multiple sclerosis.
To assess muscle strength, ask the individual to perform simple movements such as lifting their arms or legs, or pushing against your hand. Note any weakness or lack of coordination during these movements.
Balance and Stability
Balance and stability are important for movements such as sitting up in bed, as they help to prevent falls and injuries.
Balance and stability can be affected by conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or vertigo.
To assess balance and stability, observe the individual as they stand or walk, and note any unsteadiness or difficulty maintaining balance. You can also perform simple balance tests such as standing on one leg.
Cognitive function refers to an individual’s ability to think, reason, and remember. Cognitive function can be affected by conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
To assess cognitive function, engage in conversation with the individual and note any difficulty with communication or memory.
You can also perform simple memory tests such as asking the individual to recall a list of items.
By assessing an individual’s mobility and strength before assisting them in sitting up in bed, you can tailor the process to their specific needs and abilities, ensuring a safe and comfortable experience.
Modifications for Medical Conditions and Disabilities
When helping elderly individuals sit up in bed, it’s important to consider any medical conditions or disabilities they may have. Modifications may be necessary to ensure their safety and comfort.
Here are some tips on how to modify the process of helping elderly individuals sit up in bed for those with specific medical conditions or disabilities:
For individuals with arthritis, it may be helpful to use pillows or cushions to support their joints and reduce pain. Assistive devices such as bed rails or lift sheets can also be used to reduce the strain on their joints.
Individuals who have had a stroke may have weakness or paralysis on one side of their body. When helping them sit up in bed, it’s important to provide support on the affected side and use assistive devices to reduce the strain on their body.
Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty with movement and balance. When helping them sit up in bed, it’s important to provide a stable base of support and use assistive devices such as bed rails or lift sheets to reduce the risk of falls.
Individuals with respiratory conditions such as COPD may have difficulty breathing when lying flat.
It may be helpful to use pillows or cushions to elevate their head and upper body, or to use a specialized bed such as a hospital bed with an adjustable headrest.
Individuals with cognitive impairment may have difficulty understanding instructions or communicating their needs.
It’s important to use clear, simple language and provide visual cues to help them understand the process of sitting up in bed.
Other Medical Conditions And Disabilities
For individuals with other medical conditions or disabilities, modifications may include using assistive devices such as transfer boards or lift chairs, providing extra support and stability during the process of sitting up in bed and using specialized equipment such as bed rails or lift sheets.
By modifying the process of helping elderly individuals sit up in bed based on their specific medical conditions or disabilities, you can ensure their safety and comfort during the process.
Consult with their healthcare provider or occupational therapist for guidance on the best approach for their individual needs.
Tips To Help Keep The Caregiver Safe
When helping an elderly person sit up in bed, it’s important to use proper body mechanics and posture to avoid injuring yourself and to ensure the comfort and safety of the individual.
Here are some tips on how to use proper body mechanics and posture when helping an elderly person sit up in bed:
Use Your Legs, Not Your Back
When lifting an individual or assisting them to sit up in bed, it’s important to use your legs rather than your back.
Bend at the knees and hips, and use the strength of your legs to lift or assist the individual.
Maintain a Straight Back
Maintain a straight back when lifting or assisting an individual to sit up in bed. Avoid hunching or rounding your shoulders, as this can strain your back muscles.
Keep Your Feet Shoulder-Width Apart
When lifting or assisting an individual, keep your feet shoulder-width apart for a stable base of support. This will help to prevent falls and injuries.
Use Assistive Devices When Available
If available, use assistive devices such as bed rails or lift sheets to help lift or transfer the individual. These devices can reduce the strain on your body and make the process easier and safer for both you and the individual.
Avoid Twisting Your Body
Avoid twisting your body when lifting or assisting an individual. Instead, pivot your feet and hips to turn your body, keeping your spine straight and your movements smooth.
Communicate With The Individual
Communicate with the individual throughout the process of helping them sit up in bed. Let them know what you’re doing and ask for their assistance when possible.
This will help them to feel comfortable and confident and will ensure a safer and more pleasant experience for both of you.
By using proper body mechanics and posture when helping an elderly person sit up in bed, you can reduce the risk of injury to yourself and the individual, and ensure a safe and comfortable experience.
Step-by-Step Process To Help An Older Adult Out Of Bed Safely
When I was doing my internship in Occupational Therapy at a rehab hospital, I learned how to safely transfer my patients to and from chairs, shower benches, toilet seats and of course, from the bed.
Of course, there might be some slight changes depending on the problems the patient was having but generally, the process goes like this…
- Get close – first step is to get the person in bed as close to the edge of the bed as is safe. The reason is that the closer to the edge that person is, the less strain you will be putting on yourself.
- Log roll – with the person laying on their back – you want to assist them to roll over onto their side (the side closest to the edge of the bed). You begin by helping them (if needed) to place their feet on the bed with their knees bent. Then you place one hand under the shoulder furthest from the edge of the bed and the other hand under their hip furthest from the edge of the bed.
- Use of handrail – if there is a handrail in place, while you log roll them they can reach over and grab onto the bed handrail.
- No handrail – if there is no handrail, the person in bed will simply place their hand on the edge of the bed.
- Legs off the bed – now that the person in bed is safely on their side, you can help them to move their legs over the edge of the bed a little. Note: you can help them to put their legs down and at the same time lift them up by the shoulder to sit up (if possible).
- Sitting up – you can now place your hand under their shoulder closest to the edge of the bed and help them to sit up.
- Cue them – if they can understand you and follow directions, cue them throughout the process so that they can help you as much as possible.
Here is a video showing the basics of helping someone out of bed.
How To Help An Elderly Person Get Into Bed
Knowing how to get someone safely into bed is just as important as getting someone out of bed without injury – or at the very least with very minimal injury.
- Sit back – once your senior loved one is sitting on the bed, make sure that they are seated as far back on the bed as possible. This is much safer than just sitting at the edge of the bed.
- Bed position – make sure, as much as you can, that they are sitting in the proper spot so that when they do lay down they don’t have to scoot up or scoot down on the bed.
- The arms – ask them (or help them) to place the arm closest to the head of the bed across their waist so that their hand is resting on the opposite hip.
- With handrail – if there is a handrail in place, they can then hold onto the handrail with their other hand.
- No handrail – if there is no handrail in place, ask them to place their other hand onto your waist.
- Begin the descent – now that they are in position, ask them to lay down onto their side (or help them).
- Legs up – slightly bend the knees and gently bring their legs up onto the bed.
- Log roll onto their back – they can then let go of the edge of the bed or handrail and roll onto their back.
- Cue them – always speak with the person in the bed and talk them through the process. It’s much easier if they understand what is happening – it gives them a chance to work with you.
These steps will help to minimize any injury that may occur getting in and out of bed. Here is a video showing you the basics of the process.
Proper Equipment To Help An Elderly Person Get Out Of Bed
These days there are so many different types of equipment that you can use to make the process of getting in and out of bed so much easier and safer. Let’s go over some of my favorites.
Bed Rails – my mom-in-law loves this bed rail that she bought from Amazon.
It’s got a nice padding on the grip bar, can be secured very well onto the bed (not just inserted under the mattress) and can be customized to her because it has 2 height settings. It is built to be able to handle a weight capacity of 300 lbs. I would highly recommend it.
Security Poles – another option is a floor to ceiling security pole with a handle bar like the Stander Security Pole & Curve Grab Bar.
But be aware that all these security poles are tension mounted. That means they are not bolted to the ceiling. If you do decide that this is your best option I would recommend to take the extra precaution and physically bolt it to the ceiling.
Specialty Beds – if you’re lucky enough to be living in England, you may want to take a look at Theraposture’s Rotoflex bed. It’s the ultimate in independent living for anyone with mobility issues.
Grab Bars – depending on how the bed is situated, you may be able to install a wall mounted grab bar like Moen’s Flip-Up model. It can flip up when not in use, it supports up to 300 lbs and is not difficult to install.
Helping seniors in and out of bed can be challenging but if you follow the steps I mentioned above it should be much easier.
I would encourage you to use any of the tools that I linked to here – some may seem expensive but I promise you that they are worth it.
Common Injuries And How To Prevent Them
While helping elderly individuals sit up in bed, there is always a risk of injury, both for the person being helped and the caregiver.
Here are some common injuries that can occur during the process and tips on how to prevent them.
Strain and Sprains
Strains and sprains are common injuries that can occur when helping elderly individuals sit up in bed. These injuries are often caused by improper body mechanics and posture, such as bending over or lifting with the back instead of the legs.
To prevent strain and sprains, use proper body mechanics when assisting an elderly individual, including standing close to the person, using your legs to lift, and avoiding twisting or bending at the waist.
Falls and Fractures
Falls and fractures can occur when an elderly individual is not properly supported during movements. Falls are a particular risk for individuals with balance or mobility issues.
To prevent falls and fractures, consider using mobility aids such as bed rails, grab bars, or transfer poles, which provide support and stability during movements. Ensure the individual has good traction on the floor, and remove any tripping hazards from the bedroom.
Skin Tears and Bruises
Skin tears and bruises can occur when an elderly individual’s skin is fragile or thin. These injuries can be caused by even the slightest amount of pressure or friction during movements.
To prevent skin tears and bruises, be gentle when assisting an elderly individual and use soft, smooth movements.
Ensure the individual is positioned correctly before movements, and use padding or cushions to protect bony areas that are susceptible to injury.
Some elderly individuals may experience respiratory issues when sitting up in bed due to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. These conditions can be exacerbated by the strain of movements.
To prevent respiratory issues, consider modifying the process of helping the individual sit up in bed, such as allowing for more rest breaks, using smaller movements, or using supplemental oxygen if needed.
By taking these precautions and being aware of the common injuries that can occur while helping elderly individuals sit up in bed, you can ensure the process is as safe and comfortable as possible for both the caregiver and the person being helped.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best bed for seniors?
A bed with a firmer mattress is easier when it comes to getting in and out of bed. But it’s very important that the bed be comfortable for the senior sleeping in it. So, I would say that comfort is the most important factor.
How to help someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis get out of bed?
A classic symptom of RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) is morning stiffness. If this is the case, doing some mild stretches in the morning and applying a heated blanket over the body for several minutes may help to make the process of getting out of bed easier and less painful.
What causes elderly to fall out of bed?
There can be several reasons for why the elderly fall out of bed, including certain medications or having vivid or active dreams that cause them to move around in bed. Falls can also result from the challenges that come with recovering from an injury or a surgery, or things like urinary incontinence. It is common for elderly who have dementia or Alzheimer’s to fall out of bed, too.