How to Choose a Bedrail for Adults: Simple Tips from an Occupational Therapist

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Nov 10 2022.

How to Choose a Bedrail for Adults: Simple Tips from an Occupational Therapist

Getting in and out of bed is something most of us take for granted. When the alarm clock goes off, we jump up, throw on our slippers, and start the day. But as we get older, this seemingly simple task may require a bit more work. 

“The aging process causes a variety of physical changes,” said Brittany Ferri, an Occupational Therapist, and an Advisor at Medical Health Solutions, BCN. “Things such as joint pain, loss of muscle tone, and balance problems can make it hard to move from a lying to sitting position.”

Enter the bedrail for adults. The right bed rail can improve nighttime safety, reduce the risk of falls, and help everyone in your home get more restful sleep.

When should family caregivers consider a bed railing?

Consider buying an adult bedrail if your loved one:

  • Needs help turning or repositioning themselves in bed

  • Has poor balance and needs to hold onto something to get out of bed

  • Has a history of falls

  • Uses a wheelchair, cane, or walker and isn’t steady on their feet

A bedrail won’t prevent accidents altogether, but it can reduce the risk of falls, bruises, and broken bones.

Are there situations when an adult bedrail might be dangerous? Why?

Adult bedrails can be beneficial in certain situations, but they aren’t for everyone. For example, a railing may present safety hazards if your loved one has a neurodegenerative condition, like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

“Sometimes, dementia causes confusion or agitation, especially in the evenings (a side-effect known as sundowning),” Ferri said. “If your loved one experiences periods of confusion or restlessness, they might get their arm, leg, or head stuck in the railing.”

Even if a bedrail isn’t right for your situation, several other bedroom safety tips exist for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

What type of information do I need to purchase a bedrail for adults?

There are various factors to consider when choosing a bedrail for adults. However, Ferri recommends focusing on four things in particular.

1) The Type of Bedrail

There are two main types of bed rails for adults –– portable bed rails and hospital bed rails. Portable bed rails can be detached from the bed, but hospital bedrails are part of the frame.

“Both types of bedrails have different features,” Ferri said. “For example, some have crossbars. There are bedrails that go on only one side of the bed and others that go on both sides of the bed. Some bedrails fold down and slide up, while others can be removed during the day or when they aren’t in use.”

2) Bed compatibility

Bedrails for seniors aren’t “one-size-fits-all,” so it’s important to research and gather all the necessary information first. Before you start shopping around, write down the following:

  • The brand and size of your loved one’s mattress (measure both the length and width)

  • The height of your loved one’s bed

  •  Whether your loved one uses a box spring (some bed rails require one)

Pro tip: A bedrail should always be flush with the bedframe, regardless of type. Even a tiny space between your loved one’s bed rail and mattress may increase the risk of an accident or injury.

3) Weight capacity

All adult bedrails have an estimated weight capacity. The bedrail you install should be able to support your loved one whenever they get in or out of bed. 

Concerned about weight being a factor? Don’t be! Many manufacturers produce bariatric bedrails specifically designed for larger patients.

4) Length

Adult bedrails come in various lengths. Some cover the entire mattress, while others leave room for users to swing their legs over the side of the mattress and sit up. 

“Keep in mind why you’re looking for the bedrail in the first place,” Ferri said. “Your loved one’s needs can help you make the right decision. If you’re worried about them rolling off the mattress, a full-length bed rail makes sense. If they’re still relatively mobile but have sore knees in the mornings, a half rail can help them start the day off right.”

Where can I buy a bedrail for adults?

At Carewell, we’re proud to carry the Half Length Bed Side Rail from Drive Medical. This adult bedrail fits most hospital-style beds with a steel frame and features a knob that makes folding it up and down easy.

Drive Medical - Half Length Bed Side Rail

Key Benefits & Features:

  • The unique design prevents limbs from getting trapped between the bars

  • 30 ½ long

  • 18 inches high

  • Made of steel

If you have questions about this bed rail from Drive Medical, please contact our friendly Care specialists at (855) 855-1666 or email support@carewell.com.

Choosing a Bedrail for Adults: Takeaways

In certain situations, adult bedrails make a lot of sense. If you’re concerned about your loved one rolling out of bed or falling at night, a bedrail can help you sleep better and provide peace of mind.

Ferri encourages family caregivers to take their time and focus on the four most important factors:

  1. Weight capacity

  2. Length

  3. Bed compatibility

  4. Bedrail type

She also recommends scheduling an appointment with your loved one’s doctor, especially if it’s been more than a year since their last checkup. A physician can identify any underlying health problems that might make using a bedrail unsafe.

“Adult bedrails can enhance your loved one’s safety and help them maintain their independence, but not everyone can benefit,” Ferri said. “An occupational therapist or similar expert can ensure you make the right choice.”

Common Questions About Adult Bedrails

1) Are bed rails safe for senior citizens?

Yes. When installed correctly, an adult bedrail can improve the safety of aging adults. However, some railings have bars where limbs can get stuck. Therefore, choosing a bedrail that aligns with your loved one’s physical capabilities is essential.

2) Do I need a special bed to install an adult bedrail?

It depends. Some beds, like hospital beds, have rails built into the frame. In comparison, portable bedrails can attach to any sized bedframe (i.e., twin, full, queen, or king). 

3) What types of extra features do adult bedrails have?

Adult bedrails come with various features, including LED night lights for fall prevention, built-in storage pouches, and contoured ergonomic grips. With so many options available, you can make your loved one’s bedrail as high or low-tech as you want.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.