Help Getting Out Of Bed For The Elderly
We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential for our wellbeing, but what happens when the simple act of getting in and out of bed becomes difficult? This could be for a number of reasons, such as decreased mobility and strength, pain or even fear of falling. Luckily, there’s some fantastic gadgets and simple aids to help getting out of bed for the elderly. Read on for our physiotherapist Nancy’s run down of these bed mobility aids and exercises to improve movement and balance.
This article’s all about aids to help get out of bed. If you’re interested in learning more about how your parent can be more comfortable and safer in bed, then check out our feature on the best beds for the elderly. We cover adjustable beds and affordable bed aids such as grab rails and a bed wedge to make your parent’s current sleep set-up more suitable for their needs.
I’ve given a considered view of the bed aids available in this article. Some of these links are affiliate links so I may make a small commission if you click on them and go on to buy. This won’t cost you anything extra.
- Why Do We Need Help Getting In And Out Of Bed?
- Physiotherapist Approved Aids For Getting Out Of Bed
- Bed Leg Lifter
- Bed Steps For Elderly
- Bed Lever
- Bed Mobility Exercises
- Mattress Lifter
- Bed Ladder
- Bed Transfer Aids
Why Do We Need Help Getting In And Out Of Bed?
There’s a number of reasons why our parents can experience difficulty getting in and out of bed – and why these adaptive gadgets have been designed.
The first is body strength. As we get older, we can lose muscle mass at a rate of 3-5% a year (starting from the young age of 30). Whilst some strength and weight bearing exercises can help you build this back at any age, having reduced body strength can impact mobility and make daily movement like lifting your legs in or out of bed harder.
A stroke and conditions such as MS and Parkinson’s disease can also cause one-sided or limb specific weakness making bed mobility difficult. Arthritis and a recent hip or knee operation can make getting in and out of bed hard and they too could also really benefit from bed mobility aids. As these devices help with movement, they can also be useful if your parent is in pain (e.g. from osteoarthritis or back pain).
A fear of falling is also very valid – small bed aids can give your mum and dad confidence that they won’t fall over and help them feel more independent.
It’s also worth noting that if your parent currently pays for home care to help them get up in the morning, or go to bed then these bed aids could cut down on the amount of time or need for a carer and increase their independence.
Like most aids you should be able to get a referral via your GP for an occupational therapy review and they will be able to provide occupational therapy equipment for home for free if they think it is clinically justified.
Physiotherapist Approved Aids For Getting Out Of Bed
There’s a real range of mobility aids here to help you feel informed. So whether your elderly parent just needs a little assistance getting in and out of bed, through to if they are bed bound and need a bed transfer aid, here are some solutions for you.
This equipment will help your parent maintain their independence, and give you peace of mind.
A bed leg lifter is one of those small but mighty mobility aids that can make life so much easier. Great for someone with lower limb weakness, arthritis or heavy swollen legs, a manual leg lifter is really affordable and suitable for use on either side of the bed.
How Does A Leg Lifter Work?
Leg lifters are easy to use once you get the hang of it.
The leg lift device is made up of a strap which has a rigid hoop at one end and a hand strap at the other. If your parent wants to get out of bed, they need to sit up by the edge of the bed and stretch their leg in front of them. Loop their hand through the hand strap for support and then place the rigid hoop onto their foot. From there, they can move the leg onto the floor.
Getting into bed works in exactly the same way. And it doesn’t have to be limited to the bedroom – leg lifters can help older adults move their legs onto footstools or even get into a car.
Your parent will need some upper body and core strength to be able to use a manual leg lifter. This video explains it well:
Leg lifters are great value for money – they’re inexpensive and can make a huge difference to everyday mobility and independence (they could reduce the need for an orthopaedic bed or care hours required).
I like this Leg Up leg lifter. Lightweight yet sturdy, it’s 26 inches long and made from a pliable plastic and resin. How does it work? Well with the foot resting on the floor, you place the smaller, flexible loop over your hand and use that to guide the larger loop around your foot. You can then swing the foot up onto the bed – it works for both feet and can also be used in reverse to get down off the bed too.
So who is it for? Anyone who’s lacking lower limb mobility, such as from a stroke, hip operation etc. It can even fit over a cast if need be.
If your parent is tall then you may want a slightly longer bed leg lifter. This option from Vive is that, and also features two hand loops so you can have more support when lifting your leg in and out of bed.
Another simple solution to help those who struggle to get their legs in and out of bed can be the simple addition of a bed step.
A high bed isn’t necessarily a bad thing (so don’t think you need to invest in a lower bed) – whilst it can be harder to get into, it’s easier to push up into standing from. Meaning that a bedside step stool could be one of the best purchases you make!
They can sit on the side of the bed then turn and put their feet onto the step first and from there lift their legs onto the bed, meaning they don’t have to lift their legs so high in one go.
It doesn’t need to be limited to the bedroom either – a step can be used to help get in and out of the bath, in the kitchen to reach something up high or to make a steep doorstep easier.
This plastic step is made up of four sections, letting you add or remove up to four inches. It has a slip resistant surface and can hold up to 30 stone.
I personally wouldn’t recommend any of the steps available with a handle attached to them. They’re not very stable and for an elderly parent with balance problems, they could fall over. The one I explain above is the safest way to use a step stool to get into bed.
Another great device for people who need minimal help getting in and out of bed but may struggle with rolling over, maintaining their balance or need something extra to push up into standing from.
You may find that your parent has developed their own routine for getting into bed – such as holding onto the bedside table for support. These novel routines are not always the safest or easiest, and the simple addition of a bed lever can make all the difference.
There are two ways the bed lever can work (depending on the type you buy, and we have both options below) – either slot between the mattress and bed base, or is freestanding on the floor next to the bed. Whichever your parent chooses, it will give firm support.
You want to position the bed lever about a third of the way down the bed. To get in to bed, your parent should get a firm hold on the bed lever, sit down next to it on the bed and move their legs up. To get out, it’s just the opposite.
Your parent may also find a bed lever helpful to hold for extra leverage when moving up and rolling over in bed.
This bed lever from trusted brand Aidapt is a great cost-effective option. No straps, it’s really easy to assemble – it sits solidly between the mattress and bed base and works on a divan, metal frame or wooden slatted bed frame. You can adjust the height of the lever too.
This freestanding bed lever is the crème de la crème of bed levers! It works with all kinds of beds (including adjustable) – there just needs to be 3cm clearance between the floor and bed for it to fit under. The lever measures up to 82 cm (but is height adjustable) and it takes weight up to 115kg.
Bed Mobility Exercises
If your parent uses a leg lift or a bed step, they may benefit from these bed mobility exercises. They can improve their ability to move around in bed and for getting in and out of bed.
1) Bridging Exercise
Lying on your back, lift the pelvis off the bed to form a bridge and hold then repeat. Build up the length of time you can hold up for and the number of repetitions you can complete. This is a good functional movement to maintain and can be used to help push yourself up the bed or with personal care/dressing in the bed.
2) Straight Leg Raise
Improve your ability to lift your legs into bed by practising a straight leg raise. From lying, lift your leg straight up from the bed and hold and repeat, then build up the length of time you can hold up for and the number of repetitions you can complete.
3) Sit To Stand
Improve your ability to be able to stand up from the bed by practising the sit to stand exercise. Start off in a reasonably high chair with arms and practice stand uping and sitting down repeatedly.
As it becomes easier and once you are able to comfortably complete 10 sit to stands in a row, push up from the base of the chair rather than the arms, mimicking the side of the bed. To make it harder still move to a lower chair. If you use a walking frame have it in front of the chair so that you have it to hold onto when you stand up.
A mattress lifter is a useful bed mobility aid for people with postural hypertension. This is a sudden fall in blood pressure when changing position from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing and can make you feel dizzy and faint. Some more support to ease into changing position can really help them with the movement of getting in and out of bed.
This NRS adjustable angle back rest can be set at six angles and has a fabric back and padded headrest. It’s much more secure than just using pillows (which can easily move) and it can fit down the side of the bed or under it when not in use.
It’s not just for people with postural hypertension. Mattress elevators are also a good bed aid for propping up, so your mum or dad can watch TV or drink a cup of tea in bed (or even sleep semi upright) more comfortably.
Electrical versions of these mattress elevators and lifters can also be useful for this who struggle with upper limb strength to push them themselves into sitting as the motor will do the work for them, bringing them up into a sitting position. A profiling bed would do the same job if you were looking at changing the bed completely.
Another less widely used solution to help someone come up into sitting position in bed would be a bed ladder, but I want to flag that bed ladders should only be used by people who have sufficient upper body strength and do not suffer with shoulder problems.
Bed pull up devices like this can put real strain on the shoulders as you’re pulling all your body weight up through them, so please think carefully about whether any of these other bed aids are more suitable (or get specific advice from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist).
A bed ladder is a repositioning aid – it helps older adults or those who need more support (such as spinal patients) to go from lying down to sitting up. From there, they can move towards the side and get out of bed.
It’s easy to fit. The bed ladder attaches around the legs of the bed and then can be in the bed until it’s needed. Just a note for fidgety sleepers, as they could get a little tangled in it.
This inexpensive version from NRS is a good buy (if your parent has the necessary limb strength).
I also want to flag that you might have heard of a trapeze bar or lifting pole. This mobility aid works in a similar way, needing upper body strength. They only work with hospital beds so please don’t buy one unnecessarily – if your elderly parent has a profiling bed then the manufacturer or an OT is best placed to advise you.
Bed Transfer Aids
We’re moving onto the bigger aids now. These can make such a difference to quality of life for people who really struggle to get in and out bed – I’ve had great success with clients using them.
The banana board is bright yellow and curved, hence its name! It’s one type of slide transfer board (you can also find variations in wood) and is used to help an individual who has weak legs or can’t move their legs go from wheelchair to bed (and vice versa). Transfer boards can also be used to get into cars, the bath or move to the commode – the principle is the same.
Your parent will need good balance and core strength, whether or not a carer is helping them. For this seated transfer, the wheelchair goes next to the bed, with the arm rest closest to it down. It’s easier to move from a higher height to a lower height (so the bed should be slightly lower than the chair).
The banana board essentially bridges the gap. Your parent needs to lean away from the bed to fit the board under their legs, and then move themselves along. Once safely on the bed, they lean to the other side and slide the bed transfer aid out. These transfers should be practiced with a physiotherapist or occupational therapist first. It is important that the user knows how to use them correctly and can demonstrate safe use. They can be used with the help of a carer aswell as a means of transfer.
This transfer board with sliding disc reduces any risk of friction as the seat moves with the individual. It can however can cause issues with loose nightwear or clothing getting stuck in it so it is not one I would generally recommend as I have had little success with them.
It has a rotating seat that your parent sits on and it moves along the rigid board, from wheelchair to bed (or vice versa). Less arm strength is therefore needed, although your parent needs to be strong enough to hold themselves up (even if a carer is there).
A patient turner, like this Orbi-Turn is a more advanced and sturdy version of the transfer turntable, and is great for helping your parent get in and out of bed onto a chair or a commode etc (seat to seat transfers).
It has to be used with a carer and it does require them to help the user into standing. To get out of bed, your parent sits on the edge and places their feet securely on the base plate. Secured into place, they stand up and the carer then rotates the base around allowing them to sit in the wheelchair.
Agin these transfers are best practiced with a therapist first to ensure safe use. Getting the chair in the right position and the environment clear before start is important to. The user also needs to be able to stand confidently for long enough to complete the transfer and have good upper limb strength to hold on securely.
You would use a bed hoist to transfer someone with very limited mobility as it doesn’t require any effort form them. They protect the carers and avoid unnecessary strain as they assist the individual in the transfer. You need to have an assessment with an OT before buying one, so they can help you choose between the right model and ensure there is enough space to use it safely, the environment is correctly set up and make sure you all know how to use this bed aid properly.
Getting in and out of bed is something we take for granted, until it becomes more difficult. This rundown of bed aids, from simple through to more the advanced bed hoist, shows the breadth of products on offer. There is something out there to help your parent – take the time to speak with them and understand exactly what they’re struggling with (this could be physically or fears they have about bed transfer).
This will help you collectively work out which mobility aids will best suit them. Don’t be afraid to try, these bed assist devices have been designed to help improve quality of life!
From a simple leg lifter to a hoist, there’s a solution for every ability. Including:
– Leg lifter: Great for someone with lower limb weakness, arthritis or heavy swollen legs, a manual leg lifter lets you lift the leg in or out of bed.
– Bed step: A stepped approach to getting legs in and out bed. Sit on it, bring legs up onto the bed step stool and swing round into bed.
– Bed lever: Gives more mobility and balance support.
– Mattress lifter: Good for people with minimal upper limb strength.
– Bed transfer aids: There’s a real selection, from banana boards to hoists. Our article goes into more detail.
Our physiotherapist loves bed mobility exercises such as a bridge, sit to stand and straight leg raise to build up strength and help people get in and out bed.