The Best Beds And Bed Aids For The Elderly
Profiling beds, electric beds, adjustable beds – if you’re searching for a new bed for your parent it can be really confusing to know where to start. Our physiotherapist Nancy has done the hard work for you in this article that looks at the best beds for the elderly. We’ve also included some of her favourite bed mobility aids which could be used to make your parent’s current bed safer and more comfortable.
- Why Might You Need A Different Bed For The Elderly?
- What Is An Adjustable Bed?
- Do You Need A Special Mattress For An Adjustable Bed?
- Fitted Sheet For Adjustable Beds
- Adjustable Bed Alternatives
- Bed Lever
- Finding The Right Bed Rail
- Profiling Beds
Why Might You Need A Different Bed For The Elderly?
There are so many reasons why your parent’s current bed set-up isn’t suitable for them for instance:
They might struggle with poor mobility (so they find it hard to get in and out of bed, or move over easily), be prone to falling out of bed, need more support to sit up in bed and read comfortably, become breathless when lying flat or be required personal care in bed.
With sleep being crucial for our physical and emotional wellbeing, the good news is that there’s a bed solution for everyone.
What Is An Adjustable Bed?
Adjustable beds (also called electric beds) are designed to help with mobility and relieve discomfort whilst also giving that luxury comfort that we want from our bed.
Practical and comfortable, adjustable beds work in sections so you can raise and lower different parts (via a quiet remote control) depending on how you want to use it. For example, if your parent wanted to sit up in bed and watch TV, or drink a cup of tea then they could raise the head to 45 degrees.
As we get older, we lose muscle strength and it can be harder to get in and out of bed – we don’t have the upper or lower limb strength to push ourselves. If your elderly parent has an adjustable bed then they can lower or raise the bed to a height where it is easier for them to safely get up from, which can help to prevent falls.
Adjustable electric beds can also improve sleep quality. Painful conditions such as arthritis may make it difficult for your parent to sleep flat in their usual bed in the same way they always have.
With an adjustable reclining bed, they can find the right incline for them which makes sleep easier (this is also a great tip if someone snores a lot and wakes their partner!). By having an equal distribution of weight, a motorized bed can help to relieve pressure so there’s less pain across the body.
If your parent experiences orthopnea (shortness of breath at night when lying down) then these type of mobility beds work well.
You might find that they currently sleep with their head raised on lots of pillows, but whilst this can stop the breathlessness the pillows can move causing poor alignment (and can lead to other aches and pains). An adjustable electric bed would raise them up to a comfortable incline meaning they can sleep better and more safely.
What’s also great is that you can get dual adjustable beds. Essentially two twin beds in one larger frame, it means that couples can independently adjust their side of the bed to find the right comfort level for them whilst still sleeping together.
Here’s my choice of the best adjustable beds.
This Majestic adjustable bed features two large twin adjustable beds on one strudy base and is ideal for a couple. The neck, back, leg and feet sections can be adjusted to the preferred height per person, while the centre section is static and can be adjusted to be firmer or softer. It comes with a memory foam mattress, and there’s a number of styling options to choose from for the base and head board. It arrives flat pack but installation can be paid for when ordering.
You can also get it as a double adjustable bed – just click here.
This single adjustable bed is from British brand Laybrook. With a base (and headboard you can order separately) made from oak, it looks really premium and you can choose add-ons including a different mattress feel, mechanism type and bed height. Fully installed, it comes with a 5 year warranty.
Do You Need A Special Mattress For An Adjustable Bed?
If your parent just wants to buy an adjustable bed base and use their existing mattress then they may be able to. Here’s a quick guide which could help:
- A traditional sprung mattress won’t bend well and would have to be returned to a flat horizontal position each time to prevent spring damage. Plus if your parent has had it for a long time, it’s a good idea to update it. The best mattress for an adjustable bed to give maximum support and comfort is a memory foam mattress (not just a memory foam topper). So if your parent already has one, then you should be able to use this on an adjustable bed base.
- Mattress thickness is also important. Too thin (around 6 inches thick) and there’s less support as it contains less memory foam. Too thick (around 10 inches thick) and it won’t bend as well. Ideally your existing mattress would be around 8 inches.
- An adjustable bed mattress is longer than a normal mattress – as it bends it needs more length or you will come up short.
Fitted Sheet For Adjustable Beds
Do you need special sheets for adjustable beds? Yes is the answer. As the bed base moves, you need sheets that move with it. Either go for fitted sheets with extra deep pockets, oversized flat sheets kept in place with sheet straps or split sheets which are especially made for electric beds.
Adjustable Bed Alternatives
If you don’t want to buy a whole new bed, then a mattress elevator (also called a mattress lifter) is a good compromise. It works with your parent’s existing bed and mattress (single, double, King), slotting in under the mattress and working with a remote control to elevate the mattress up and down.
Your parent can choose their preferred incline for lying or sitting, and it fosters independence as it makes it easier for them to get in and out of bed too.
An elderly client who has severe pain in both shoulders making it difficult to use a bed lever, has one – she had developed a routine for getting into and out of bed which didn’t impact her shoulder, but it was very effortful and not terribly safe. Her electric mattress elevator has made all the difference making it much easier for her to get out of the bed.
A cheaper bed wedge is this from Comfort Nights. Made from lightweight foam and covered with a washable white cover, it provides two angles of support for the head and shoulders.
Your parent can either use it when sitting up for a steeper angle or lying down with a more shallow angle if they want a back support wedge cushion. It can also be used to raise the feet too. These are a simple but effective solution for some who doesn’t like to be flat or finds it difficult due to pain or breathlessness.
Let’s talk about bed height! A slightly higher bed can make the difference between being able to get out of bed independently or not. The ideal bed height is 20 – 23 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress for most individuals.
Don’t just go and buy a new bed – a bed raiser could be a great low cost solution. There are many different styles of bed raisers – what’s important is to make sure it’s compatible with your parent’s bed and securely fits.
I mentioned earlier how we have weaker muscles as we age. This means that pushing ourselves up from a lower height is more difficult and can actually lead to more falls as we become unsteady. So is is important to do regular strength and balance exercise to combat this, even just practicing a few sit to stands a day can make a big difference!
This width adjustable bed raiser from trusted brand NRS has three height options to choose from, making it easier to sit and stand from bed. Suitable for all usual beds with legs, each pack comes with two units which will each span the width of the bed.
Another option is these bed riser blocks which each go onto a corner of the bed (you may need two more if you have a central break in the bed too). Made of steel and with a rubber adhesive, they’re strong and won’t slip. And the bed will be raised 6cm (you can find different heights on Amazon too).
A bed lever is one of those small but mighty mobility aids that is worth its weight in gold. Sturdy and reliable, it helps people to get in and out of bed independently – so can cut down on the amount of time your parent may need a carer for.
It can also help your parent go from lying down to sitting up in bed.
It comes with straps to hold it in place, and can be used on a single or double normal bed (not adjustable).
Finding The Right Bed Rail
Safety bed rails for the elderly can be added to bed frames. Also known as bed bumpers, they can be useful in preventing falls – but it’s important to note that they shouldn’t be used to stop someone from getting out of the bed. They can actually make the situation worse if your parent tries to climb over the top of the rail when trying to get out (this may be seen in someone with a cognitive impairment who is confused).
This adjustable bed rail for elderly is super sturdy and adjusts in length from 50cm to 76cm at the push of a button, so isn’t always on full show.
It can be used with any mattress, easily installed on either side of the bed and has a dual safety strap to keep it firmly in place, wrapped around the mattress. The rail can also double as a bedside support bar for your parent when getting in and out of bed.
If your parent has ever rolled up against the bed rail and got wedged in, then these padded bed rails for adults are a solution. It’s a foam bed guard that is placed on the mattress and kept in place with a fitted sheet (go for a deep fitted sheet to really keep it secure). There’s one in each pack measuring 100cm long, so you may need two if the bed isn’t against a wall. Far less restrictive than a rail and it really works.
What Is A Profiling Bed?
Also known as a hospital bed, it moves in a similar style to an adjustable bed but is used for someone with more high level care needs. For example, if your parent has needs personal care within the bed, or if they have poor mobility and need a hoist transfer and carer to get in and out of bed.
It not only gives your parent a more comfortable and safe experience in bed, but makes it easier for carers to help them – which is why care homes will have them.
Profiling Bed Features
As well as being fully adjustable, profiling beds have side rails which can be raised and lowered. This type of bed for the elderly is usually on wheels so it can be moved easily when unlocked and whilst you can find a double profiling bed, singles are much more common.
A specialised low profiling bed can improve the safety of those who are at risk of falling out of the bed. They can be adjusted to be very low to the ground for safety when the user is sleeping, they are raised up when they need to get out.
There’s a few ways to get your hands on a profiling bed for your parent at home. There are companies that offer profiling beds for hire – this is a good way to test it out, or if your parent only needs one for a short while.
They are also available on the NHS if there’s a clear clinical need for it (for example, during palliative care or for someone with very poor mobility). You would need to go via the district nurse for this.
You can also buy an electric profiling bed outright – this gives your parent more flexibility on the mattress type, headboard style and overall look.
Wow, there is so much I can talk about when it comes to beds for the elderly! From single adjustable beds to larger electric beds, there’s a huge market out there. As well as looking at mobility beds, I’ve also wanted to make sure there’s options here if your parent doesn’t need to buy a new bed. From bed grab rails to bed raises, the world of bed aids goes on and on. Hope you’ve found it useful. Comment below and let me know!