For people who are elderly or have injuries or illnesses that reduce their mobility, falls are always a very prominent concern. They can be a determining factor in whether they can remain in their own homes or have to move to an assisted living facility.
The CDC reports that 28% of adults over age 65 report falling each year. While not all of these falls occur while getting in and out of bed, many falls occur while performing actions that require shifting balance and lifting or lowering your body.
For the elderly, hip fractures often resulting from falls are one of the leading causes of hospitalization or accidental death. If a piece of equipment such as a bed lift can help minimize some of that risk, it can be a wise investment.
What Is a Bed Lift?
A bed lift is a frame that moves a bed from a flat reclined position to an upright position, essentially moving the occupant from a sleeping position to a standing position – and back again.
Getting into and out of bed requires numerous movements, including lowering or raising their body to or from a seated position, twisting, scooting, lifting their legs onto or off the bed, and lying down or sitting up.
These movements employ arms, legs, and torso. Suppose mobility is impaired in any of these muscles or bones due to age, injury, illness, or other reasons. In that case, the action of entering or exiting the bed can be comfortable or even dangerous.
A bed lift allows a person to enter and exit their bed more safely and efficiently when they might not otherwise be able to do so. In addition, it can reduce or eliminate concerns about falling or slipping while getting in and out of bed.
How Does a Bed Lift Work?
An electric motor or combination of motors works to move the bed from the flat position of a typical bed to an upright position that allows the occupant to stand. A bed lift is similar to a recliner-type lift chair, except the bed lift will also recline from the seated position to completely flat.
The bed can function as a flat bed, a bed with an elevated head, or a chair. Some bed lifts include a second motor that can lift the foot area of the bed as well, allowing it to be elevated while the bed is in a reclined position.
A remote control is used to control the movement of the bed, and it can be stopped in any position between standing and lying flat. The head can be raised slightly for easier breathing at night, or the user can raise it higher for watching TV or reading. It functions much like a recliner when raised even more.
Bed Lift Versus Adjustable Bed
The main difference between a bed lift and an adjustable bed is that the lift brings the occupant to a standing position. In contrast, the adjustable bed allows for different upper body angles but remains in a reclined position.
Adjustable beds also commonly allow for the lower portion of the bed to be lifted.
Keep in mind that specific bed lifts also have the ability to raise the foot portion of the bed. If that is a feature you want, look for that feature as not all bed lifts can do this.
Pros and Cons of a Bed Lift
The pros of a bed lift include:
- Allowing safety and independence
- Reducing fall risk
- Assisting caregivers
- Positioning for optimal sleep
- A flat surface allows for sleeping in various positions
Some cons of a bed lift include:
- A thin mattress may not be comfortable
- Requires some degree of mobility to use
- The room must allow space at the foot of the bed for entry and exit
Will a Bed Lift Allow Someone to Get In and Out of Bed Without Assistance?
Depending on their individual mobility, a person may be able to use the bed lift unassisted. However, there may still be some movement and strength required.
A person must be able to stand and position themself near the bed. They may also need to scoot further up on the bed once it has reclined, so their feet aren’t hanging off the end of the bed.
People experiencing dementia or other memory issues may have difficulty learning and remembering how to operate the remote.
However, a person who just needs a bit of assistance in the process of getting from a standing to a lying position and back could very likely experience enormous benefits from a bed lift. It could be a major factor in such a person maintaining their independence and remaining in their home.
Bed Lifts Can Benefit Caregivers, Too
Even if any of those limitations exist, and the person cannot use the bed completely independently, a bed lift can still be a useful aid for their caregivers.
Using a bed lift for all or part of the process of helping a person into or out of bed can take a tremendous strain off of a caregiver, who may otherwise have to do all of the lifting or lowering with their own strength.
For example, for a person who can stand but can’t safely lower themself, the caregiver can simply assist the person into the correct standing position near the bed and then use the remote to lower the person into the bed.
A caregiver could also assist a person from the bed into their wheelchair, putting the bed into the best position to move the person without having to do all the lifting.
Alternative Options for Lifting Yourself In and Out of Bed
Despite it being a fairly common obstacle as people age, the options that help a person into and out of their bed are still fairly limited. And among the options, those that include an actual bed are nearly non-existent.
The only bed-like option is a lift chair which reclines to a position parallel to the floor, which could be an alternative to a bed lift but keep in mind that these chairs will still be more like a chair than a bed.
They will be only the width of the seat and maintain their molding and padding, which leaves little option for a person who cannot sleep on their back or isn’t comfortable in that position.
Another common option among those with limited mobility is forgoing the bed and sleeping in a lift chair. However, this is not an option that should be chosen just because it seems like the easiest option. These chairs do not allow you to lie completely flat, which can cause several issues for your comfort and even your health.
The potential issues of sleeping in a recliner include:
- Sore neck, back, hips, knees, or any combination of these
- Joint contracture, especially in the elbows, hips, knees, and ankles
- Pressure sores
- Lack of deep sleep or fewer hours of deep sleep
- No decompression of the spinal column, leading to back pain
- Poor blood circulation, which can exacerbate some health conditions
- Blood clots or deep vein thrombosis
Can a Bed Lift Promote Better Sleep?
Considering that most people choosing a bed lift were previously sleeping in a lift recliner, a bed lift can absolutely promote a better night’s rest. In addition, recliners allow a person to sleep in only one position and don’t recline completely flat, which some people may not find comfortable for sleep.
Compared to a traditional bed, bed lifts can also be raised at the head, similar to an adjustable bed, to ease breathing, reduce snoring, minimize some digestive issues such as acid reflux, and decrease the effects of sleep apnea.
Questions to Ask When Considering a Bed Lift
There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to purchase a bed lift. They include:
- Is the person able to operate the bed independently?
- If not, will the bed make the caregiver’s job easier?
- Is there a suitable place in the home to allow the bed to operate?
If you’ve decided to go ahead with the purchase of a bed lift, these questions can help you make the best choice of bed:
- Does it come with a mattress?
- If not, what are the mattress requirements?
- What size bed is best for the height of the person?
- Does the bed lift also need to raise the foot of the bed?
Choosing the Right Size Bed
Make sure to consider the person’s height when purchasing a bed lift. Many bed lifts come in two size options optimized for different heights. You will want the bed to bend in the right places to match the person’s body, and having a bed too long for someone short, or vice versa, can negate the benefits of the bed lift.
Different brands have different guidelines regarding height, but if the bed’s intended occupant is near the height range of 5 feet, 9 inches to 6 feet tall, you will want to pay special attention to the recommendations of the bed you are looking at.
Someone shorter will be fine with the regular length bed, but someone over 6 feet tall will want to go with the longer bed.
What Are the Bed’s Size Limitations?
You will want to look into the size restrictions of the bed lift, especially if it will be for a person who is taller or heavier than most.
An exceptionally tall person may be too long for a bed lift, and bed lifts will likely have a maximum weight capacity.
Take a look at the dimensions, both length, and width, of the bed and its weight capacity to make sure that the occupant will be able to use it comfortably.
How Much Does a Bed Lift Cost?
The cost of a bed lift will vary depending on its individual features, but you can expect to pay between $1700 and $3400.
Some of the factors that will influence the price include:
- Whether the mattress is included
- Size of the bed
- Whether it can also lift the foot of the bed
If your bed lift does not include a mattress, you will also need to figure the mattress price into the total cost. Mattresses for bed lifts must typically be thinner than 7 inches and made from foam without any springs.
If a doctor has prescribed a bed lift, Medicare or your insurance may cover a portion or all of the cost.
Other Factors to Consider
There are several additional factors to consider in a bed lift purchase to ensure that it operates smoothly for your needs.
You will need to have access to a standard 120VAC outlet to operate the bed, and it is recommended that a surge protector be used. You may also want to ask if the bed you are considering has a battery backup in case of loss of power.
Consider the sleeping position of the person. A bed lift may work well for a person who sleeps on their back or side. However, if the person prefers to sleep on their stomach, make sure that they can comfortably and safely roll themself from back to stomach and back again.
If the person may require extra care while in the bed, consider a bed lift that can raise the entire bed to the caregiver’s level. Most bed lifts sit within only a couple of feet of the floor, which can strain the person bending over to provide care.
There are many factors to take into consideration when making decisions about a bed lift for yourself or a loved one.
A bed lift can be a significant investment in the health, safety, and independence of a person with limited mobility. Whether they are at home or in an assisted living facility, having a bed lift could improve their everyday life. So take the time to ask any questions you need and take into account the person’s specific needs and desires to make the best decision.