Bed Rails for Seniors
Adult bedrails are intended to provide a safe and supportive sleep experience for older adults who are at risk of falls or who need assistance repositioning themselves in bed. There are several types of bedrails to consider, but you should also consider safety in making a choice.
What Are Bedrails?
Adult bedrails allow older adults and people with limited physical abilities to have a safer and more mobile sleep experience in their own homes, nursing homes, and assisted living or residential care facilities.
You can buy portable bedrails without a health care provider’s recommendation. They are available from stores or online shopping sites. But hospital bedrails are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and require a doctor’s prescription for a hospital bed.
There is no standard definition for bedrails, according to the FDA. There are several designs and names for the devices.
- Side rails
- Bedside rails
- Half rails
- Safety rails
- Bed handles
- Assist bars
- Grab bars
- Hospital bedrails
- Adult portable bedrails
Before buying a bedrail, you should consider the right bedrail type and whether it is appropriate for the person who will be using the bedrail. Consider whether the bedrail addresses your or your loved one’s comfort, medical needs and freedom of movement.
Also make sure they are properly installed, and the person using them knows how to do so safely.
Properly used, bedrails can provide safety, security, mobility and a sense of independence for the person using them.
Bedrails for adults should never be used as a restraint, according to the FDA. Their purpose is to promote mobility for people needing help repositioning themselves in a bed or to help them get in and out of bed. Using a bedrail to restrict someone’s movement can result in serious injury.
Bedrails are typically not appropriate for people with certain physical limitations or altered mental conditions, such as delirium, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Choosing the Best Bedrails for Seniors
Choosing the best bedrails for seniors requires understanding the exact needs and abilities of the person who will be using them. Bedrails can improve the quality of life for people who can use them safely.
Bedrails typically cost between $50 to $150 depending on the type and the features that the rails include.
Types of Bedrails
There are three distinct types of bedrails according to the FDA — hospital bedrails, portable bedrails for adults and portable bedrails for children.
- Hospital Bedrails
- Hospital bedrails include any rails that are an integral part of a hospital bed or an accessory to a hospital bed or other FDA-regulated bed. They are often permanently attached to the bed. The FDA classifies hospital bedrails as medical devices. They are regulated by the federal government, meaning they are regulated by the FDA and require a prescription from your doctor to purchase one.
- Portable Bedrails for Adults
- Portable bedrails for adults include any bedrail that can be attached to and removed from any type of bed. They are not designed by the bed’s manufacturer to be a part of the bed. Portable bedrails for adults are installed either on the bed or alongside it. These rails may be used in homes or adult care facilities to reduce risk of falls, assist the user in repositioning themselves or to help them get in and out of bed. Adult portable bedrails are available to consumers in stores or on websites without a prescription.
- Portable Bedrails for Children
- Portable bedrails for children are meant for those who are 2 to 5 years old and who can get in and out of an adult bed unassisted. They are not intended for adult use.
Depending on the type, bedrails offer a wide variety of features that can better address your particular needs — whether it’s helping to prevent falls, making it easier to get in and out of bed, or personal convenience.
- Adjustable bedside step stool
- Dual rails — installed on both sides with a crossbar underneath the mattress for greater support
- Foldable rails that are more easily packed for travel
- Grips to hold when getting into and out of bed
- Height-adjustable grab bar for repositioning yourself or getting into and out of bed
- Overhead crossbars to help you reposition yourself when in bed
- Safety straps to provide more stabilization for the rails
- Storage pouch or container
You should also consider the length and weight of bedrails when choosing the type that’s right for you.
The length ranges from 18 inches to as long as 4 feet while the weight ranges from as little as 2 pounds to more than 10 pounds.
Bedrails are not a good choice for someone who can’t physically use the rails or doesn’t understand how to use them. It’s possible to become entangled, entrapped or injured in a bedrail if it is misused.
Alternatives to Bedrails
Some people may be at higher risk of entrapment, falls and other injuries from bedrails — particularly portable bedrails — according to the FDA. Alternatives to bedrails should be considered for people with certain health conditions.
- Lack of muscle control
- Cognitive impairment (from medication or a medical condition)
- Alzheimer’s disease
There are alternatives to portable bedrails you can use if you or a loved one has any of these conditions.
- Roll guards
- Foam bumpers
- Lowering the bed (to lessen the impact of a fall)
- Concave mattress (to reduce chances of rolling off the bed)
Using a combination of these alternatives can further reduce the risk of injury and entrapment.
Bedrails and their alternatives should never be used as a substitute for proper monitoring. Keeping a close watch on a patient requiring a hospital bed or bedrails is essential — especially for people at a higher risk of falls or entrapment in bedrails.
Pros and Cons of Bedrails
Bedrails for older adults come with several advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of bedrails when deciding if they are right for you or your loved one.
- Aid in turning or repositioning in the bed
- Provide a grip or handhold for getting into and out of bed
- Provide feeling of security and comfort
- Reduce the risk of falls from the bed
- Provide easy access to personal care items and bed controls
- Can cause entrapment or injury if misused
- Can result in serious injury if user climbs over the rail
- Can cause cuts and bruising if misused
- Some people may feel unnecessarily restricted or isolated by the rails.
- May discourage people able to get out of bed from doing so for routine activities
Does Medicare Cover Bedrails?
Typically, portable bedrails are not covered by Medicare. But Medicare may cover most of the cost of hospital bedrails — if your doctor prescribes a hospital bed as medically necessary.
You have to have a severe medical condition to qualify for a hospital bed — such as severe arthritis, paralysis, stroke, spinal cord injuries, serious cardiovascular conditions or injuries to your lower extremities.
Medicare considers bedrails as part of a hospital bed to be durable medical equipment (DME). You have to meet Medicare’s requirements for DME coverage, and your doctor and the bed supplier must both be enrolled in Medicare.
You may be required to rent or buy the bedrails to have Medicare cover them. You are responsible for your Medicare Part B deductible and 20% of the cost to rent or buy the equipment. Medicare will then pay the other 80%.
9 Cited Research Articles
- Hipp, D. (2021, August 30). How to Pick the Best Bed Rails for Seniors. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/health/healthy-aging/best-bed-rails/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, August 30). Bed Rail Safety. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/consumer-products/bed-rail-safety
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2018, July 9). Safety Concerns about Bed Rails. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/bed-rail-safety/safety-concerns-about-bed-rails
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, December 17). Recommendations for Consumers and Caregivers about Bed Rails. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/bed-rail-safety/recommendations-consumers-and-caregivers-about-bed-rails
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, December 11). A Guide to Bed Safety Bed Rails in Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Home Health Care: The Facts. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/hospital-beds/guide-bed-safety-bed-rails-hospitals-nursing-homes-and-home-health-care-facts
- Shanahan, D.J. (2011, July 4). Bedrails and vulnerable older adults: how should nurses make ‘safe and sound’ decisions surrounding their use? Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21722323/
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Durable medical equipment (DME) coverage. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/durable-medical-equipment-dme-coverage
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Hospital beds. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/hospital-beds
- U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (n.d.). Hospital Beds; National Coverage Determination (NCD). Retrieved from https://www.cms.gov/medicare-coverage-database/view/ncd.aspx?NCDId=227