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Best Bed Safety Products: Bed Rails, Wedge Pillows, Bolsters And Bed Alarms

You would think that a bed would be a pretty safe place for a senior to be, but that’s often far from the truth. As an example: my coworker’s elderly mother often got up during the night. But because she was frail, she also often fell. The result was two fractured vertebrae in her back after a particularly bad fall.

There are a number of products that you can use to keep your elderly parent from falling out of bed:

  • Bed rails
  • Wedge pillows
  • Bolsters
  • Bed alarms

Additionally, there are things to keep them safe if they manage to get around a physical barrier. Products such as floor fall mats, Posey beds, and platform beds can also be helpful for an elderly person who falls out of bed.

Bed Rails

The first solution my coworker tried for her mom was getting the Bed Rail Safety Side Guard bed rails that extended partially down the side of the bed. This helped, but the rails stuck out a little bit from the bed frame when they were folded down.

Her mother had to be very careful when she got out of bed because her skin was thin and she could get bruised where her legs bumped the railing. The problem was solved by keeping a folded blanket nearby and putting it over the railing as she helped her mother up.

Bed railings not only keep a senior from falling out of bed, they can be used as a support to help the person stand up or as an aid when sitting up or lying down in the bed.

Wedge Pillows

Wedge pillows are great for supporting a senior’s body, as well as for keeping them from falling out of the bed. They are usually triangle-shaped, although you can find rectangular wedges that are used for supporting and elevating the knees.

Wedge pillows can also help with acid reflux or to ease respiratory issues by propping the person up. They are wonderful for relieving back pain and hip pressure, too.

As an example, when my son had open-heart surgery, he wasn’t allowed to lay flat until his sternum healed. We initially tried stacking pillows to elevate his back, but they kept slipping out from under him as he slept, so I got him a wedge pillow. He was much more comfortable after that.

The Drive Medical Universal Mattress Cover is a very interesting product.  It’s a nylon mattress cover with wedges built in – essentially surrounding the person in the bed.  It’s very affordable and fits mattresses that are 34 inches in width and 42 inches in width. 

Bed Bolsters

Bed bolsters are great for use in beds with or without rails. They are tall enough to be a barrier that the sleeper can’t roll over, which reduces the chances the person will fall out of bed. Additionally, bolsters can be used to help keep a side-sleeper from rolling over too far. They also work well as a pad between the person and a hard bed rail.

We like the Posey Soft Rail Double Bolster system. It has flat pad that you place under the sleeper and foam wedges that fit on either side of them. The wedges don’t move around because they are held in place via a hook and loop that attach to the mattress, ensuring they stay in place. It also comes with a removable, washable cover.

Bolsters can also be used as a positioning device to make the senior more comfortable if they have back or neck problems.

Bed Alarms

Because some seniors with cognitive deficiencies will often try to get out of bed regardless of the barriers you put up, a bed alarm can be helpful. They are inexpensive and come in various types. Some sound an alarm after the senior has gotten off the bed and some will alert you if the person simply moves to the edge of the bed.

Most can be run with an electrical cord that’s plugged into an outlet. Some, however, have the option of running on battery power which is great in the event of a power outage.

After her mother fractured her vertebrae, my coworker got a bed alarm made by Smart Caregiver. One feature she loved was that it was wireless and cord free.

To use it, she put the sensor pad under her mom’s hips (under the fitted sheet) and it sounded an alarm if her mom tried to get out of the bed. It was battery powered, but she got the system’s optional AC power adapter to save on batteries.

The nice thing about this alarm was that she could carry the monitor around the house as she cleaned or cooked, etc. That also meant that the alarm didn’t go off in her mother’s room and upset her with the noise.

If you get one for your parent, make sure the pad is sealed so it won’t short out the sensor (or shock the person) if they have an issue with incontinence.