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How to use a bed alarm

May 01, 2020

Bed alarms are extremely useful devices that can be utilised at home, in hospitals or in care homes. Age Co reveals exactly how to use one and how they work.

Bed alarms can alert you, other family members, carers or staff that a person has fallen out of bed and may need assistance. 

Why do I keep falling out of bed?

There may be a number of reasons why you fall out of bed. They could be as simple as a change in lighting, furniture or even the height of the bed, however, it could also be due to a change in medication, recovery from surgery or the impact of a recent stroke or heart attack. 

Therefore, you could prevent this incident from reoccurring by changing things back to the way they were before your falls or seeing your doctor for a medication review. Some older people have even reported an increase in falling out of bed due to slippery pyjamas or sheets. Therefore, before resorting to a bed alarm, there may be some preventative measures you can take first. 

Carer for elderly woman

If you live alone and have fallen out of bed a few times, you may benefit from a personal alarm. This device would enable you to get help even if you can’t move and means that, should you fall out of bed, help is never far away.  

Age UK Personal Alarms

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How do bed alarms work? 

If you, your partner or another family member regularly falls out of bed, a bed alarm could become a necessity. These alarms sound when a person falls out of bed or, depending on the device you have, when the sleeper is very near the edge. 

Bed alarms generally work using a sensor pad and a wireless alarm unit. When the sensor pad detects a marked weight decrease, it will send an alert to the alarm unit, which will begin to sound. Because this sudden noise may be distressing to the sleeper, you may be able to put it in another room. This means that if, for example, you’re caring for a senior, such as an older parent, you may choose to locate the alarm in your bedroom instead of theirs. Should they fall out of bed, you will be the first to know and, therefore, able to help them immediately. 

The sensor pad can usually be placed either on top of or underneath the sheets on the bed. In many cases, they are easy to clean and are waterproof if the older person should be incontinent. 

Before setting up a bed alarm, you should read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure that you’re using the device correctly, otherwise it may not work as intended. For example, because the alarm works by sensing the weight of a person in the bed, adding pillows or fresh sheets could affect the accuracy of the device. These things add weight and, if the person were to fall out of bed, the alarm may not sound if it doesn’t sense the correct weight change. For this reason, it can be a good idea to test the device when you first set it up to ensure it is working correctly. Do this by getting in and out of the bed yourself until you’re certain you know how to use it. 

Because of this, most bed alarms have a zero or reset button. This button should always be used just before the person gets into the bed and after additional sheets or pillows are added. This will improve the accuracy of the sensor. Once the person is in bed, the alarm can be activated and you can have a restful sleep, knowing that, should they fall out of bed, you will be alerted immediately. 

As previously mentioned, some sensors can tell where the person is sleeping and may alert you if they’re precariously close to the edge. This would allow you to get up and help them to get into a safer position. 

Do bed alarms prevent falls? 

Bed alarms are excellent at notifying people nearby of a patient or older person falling out of bed. However, many studies, notably one done by the University of Florida, has shown that these devices are not able to prevent falls altogether. 

Therefore, instead of using a bed alarm to prevent falls, you could try some other methods, including bed rails and pillows. Bed rails can be put up or taken down as needed, which makes it easy to get into bed but difficult to fall out once the rails are up. If you’re unable to invest in permanent rails, pillows can be as good a barrier. Simply set them up around the person, particularly on the nearest edge, and you should see an improvement in how often they’re falling out. 



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