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As we get older, things that never posed a safety hazard suddenly do; something as simple as sleeping in our bed can now become dangerous. That’s where bed rails come in handy.

What Are Bed Rails?

Bed rails or hospital side rails as they’re sometimes called, are widely used to prevent people from falling out of their bed. They can also be used to help people get into and out of bed without falling. Bed rails can be used in nursing homes and assisted living facilities as well as in everyday homes. Many times rails are put on both sides of the bed if the person is sleeping alone. This provides the best type of protection.

Many bed rails and accessories for bed rails can be purchased online or in a store without a prescription. Other types of bed rails are considered medical equipment and may be subject to FDA rules.

Types of Bed Rails

There are two basic types of bed rails for seniors; those that are adjustable and can be mounted to a bed and those that are hospital bed rails. Adjustable bed rails cover any type of rail that can be attached or removed from the bed at any time. They are rails that do not come with the bed whereas hospital bed rails are meant to be part of a hospital bed or any other FDA-regulated bed.

The majority of bed rails is adjustable and can be extended to cover most of the length of the bed if needed. They can also be shortened to give support to get out of bed and then folded down so that the person can get out easily. They are installed by sliding the base tubes between the mattress and the box spring. From there, the rails are secured by strapping down the unit to the opposite side of the bed with a safety strap that comes with the rails. Many adjustable bed rails now also come with LED nightlights to make it easier to see in the dark.

There are also portable bed rails (also adjustable) for those who are more mobile and may not need as much as help. These rails go on and off the bed easily, are lightweight, and come in a travel case.

If a person does not need protection from falling out of bed, then a bar that is placed along the bed may be an option. This simply provides extra help to get up and out of bed.

Things to Consider When Buying Bed Rails

Since many bed rails can be purchased without a prescription, it is important to make sure you are getting the right type. Here are some things to consider:

  • Bed height. The height of the bed should be taken into consideration when purchasing bed rails. If it is a low-profile bed, then folding the rails may become problematic.
  • Bed characteristics. Is the bed twin, full, queen, or king size? Is there a box spring and a mattress? These are things that will impact the type of bed rail you choose.
  • Are the rails going on one side or two? If a person is alone and both sides of the bed are accessible, rails are typically put on both sides.
  • Who is going to pull rails up and down? If the bed rails are going to be used at home, you need to think about who is going to be pulling the rails up and down. Some people may not have the strength to do it on their own at home. If they are in a facility, then there should always be someone around to help. Be sure to buy bed rails that can be operated correctly by whoever is using them, especially if they’re going to be used with someone who is home alone.
  • Weight limit. Many rails have a weight limit. Be sure to check before committing to a certain bed rail.

When buying bed rails, some people also purchase protective padding to avoid any limbs getting caught in the rails and to prevent any injures that may occur from bumping into them while sleeping.

While bed rails can be put on almost any type of bed, there are exceptions. These are the types of beds that cannot accommodate bed rails:

  • Many Sleep Number Beds
  • Platform Beds
  • Tempurpedic Beds
  • Waterbeds
  • Any bed that has had its box spring removed to lower the height

Does Insurance Cover Bed Rails?

If a doctor prescribes a hospital bed (which can come with hospital rails) for home use, then Medicare will cover it. Be sure to check your coverage to see if you are still responsible for a percentage of the cost. For adjustable rails, Medicare may cover at least a percentage as long as there is a prescription from the doctor and the rails are Medicare approved. Medicare Part B covers a wide variety of what is considered “durable medical equipment” in the home. It does not cover equipment that is permanently installed in the home.

Since Medicaid coverage is decided on a state by state basis, it’s best to check to see if and what may be covered for you.

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt