A technology already commonly used in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes, bed alarms for fall prevention can also be an important asset for the home caregiver. If you are living with a senior loved one, installing a bed alarm can give you peace of mind, knowing you’ll be alerted if your loved one falls out of bed, tries to get out of bed or does get out of bed.
What Are Bed Alarms?
A bed alarm is a device that emits a warning sound when a senior gets out, or attempts to get out, of bed. There are three main types of bed alarms currently on the market.
- Mattress pad alarms: A pad that is placed under a bed’s fitted sheet responds to changes in weight and pressure by sounding an alarm. The sound of the alarm stops if normal weight/pressure returns or if the alarm is manually reset.
- String alarms: This type of bed alarm includes a headboard-mounted, box-shaped unit with an attached string that you can clip onto your loved one’s clothing at the shoulder. If your loved one begins to get out of bed, the string, connected by a magnet to the box unit, pulls loose and sounds the alarm. There are some risks with this type, as it could be a strangulation hazard if your loved one becomes very agitated. It is also a poor choice for seniors aware of and resistant to the alarm who can disconnect the clothing clip and leave the bed unnoticed.
- Passive infrared (PIR) alarms: These alarms set up an infrared light plane along the edges of the bed. If that plane is broken, an alarm sounds. PIR alarms have a unit on the headboard and footboard of each side of the bed. These are very effective but can result in false alarms if your loved one drapes an arm or leg off the bed while sleeping.
Why Do Seniors Need Bed Alarms?
There are several reasons why your senior loved one, and you as their caregiver, might benefit from using a bed alarm. Some of these reasons are associated with aging and certain medical conditions, while others are more commonly associated with seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
- Fall and injury prevention: The risk of your loved one falling is just one factor that might warrant the need for a bed alarm. Falls can cause serious injuries in seniors, and a person’s risk of falling increases significantly as they get older. If your loved one is dealing with an injury or arthritis or if they are recovering from surgery, they might have a slight risk of falling. Certain medications can also cause dizziness or disorientation, increasing a senior’s risk of falls until a different dosage or alternate drug can be arranged with their doctor.
Others may need significant physical assistance, including those who have more serious neuromuscular conditions; illnesses causing dizziness, weakness or balance problems; or partial paralysis. If your loved one has middle- or late-stage dementia, they may forget they can’t walk well on their own, leading to a fall. A bed alarm for fall prevetion gives you the chance to come to their aid in time. For more information related to fall prevention, check out Elmcroft’s Fall Prevention Program.
- An alert that they need assistance: Maybe your loved one just needs some help getting to the bathroom. Maybe they are thirsty, have a cramp in their leg or were startled by a strange noise. In these cases, their natural reaction would be to get up and address the issue. In a sleepy state, however, some seniors may forget their physical impairments, putting them at risk of injury.
- Wandering prevention: Some people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia exhibit wandering behaviors as part of their illness. They may get out of bed and try to leave home intentionally or may accidentally leave the bed and the house. In either case, there’s a significant risk they will get lost or otherwise put themselves in danger. A bed alarm would alert you as they attempt to leave the bed.
The 8 Best Bed Alarms for the Elderly
When purchasing a bed alarm for your loved one, it’s a good idea to read plenty of reviews and talk to doctors, friends and other caregivers about their experiences with certain types and models. Here are some popular choices representing the various types available.
1. Smart Caregiver Bed Alert System
The 10-by-30-inch pad has pressure sensors built in and should be large enough to reliably detect a user’s movements. Once the pad is triggered, it quickly sends an alert to the TL-2016 monitor. Caregivers can adjust the volume and receive alerts if the pad is lost or when the battery is low. In reviews, caregivers like that this product can send a signal to receivers in other rooms, but this does require the purchase of additional monitors. This model is corded, which means the unit can come loose or be a hazard in some cases.
2. Smart Caregiver Cordless Bed Alarm System
This alternative product from Smart Caregiver shares many similarities with the version above but features a cordless design and an additional pad for a chair. Pros include enhanced safety due to the lack of cord, quick response to the receiver and a sensor pad that can be used on furniture and wheelchairs. Cons of this system include a reduced range (100 feet vs. 300 feet) between the monitor and pad and continuous chiming when the pad is triggered, which may be annoying or alarming to some users. Its typical retail price is also twice that of the corded product.
3. Smart Caregiver Short-term Bed Alarm System
This a more affordable option for short-term use. These pads are built to last for a few months so are better suited to seniors with acute care needs, who may not need the system for long. The pad is thick and comfortable with vinyl padding, as well as water-resistant and easy to clean. The corded device connects to a simple monitor and provides clear alerts when users move from their normal position in bed. Because this is a very sensitive pad developed for acute and critical care needs, however, it may be too sensitive for users and disrupt their sleep.
4. Secure 45BSET-1Y Bed Alarm System
This is not a wall-mounted alarm. Instead, caregivers can put the alarm/receiver in its protective, Velcro-sealed case and carry it around with them. This allows for greater access to the alarm whenever there is an alert. The bed pad is thin and latex-free with a water-resistant cover. At 12 by 30 centimeters, the pad is also a little larger than some other models. A downside is that this portable alarm system requires regular battery changes, which means there is a risk of missed alerts if the battery runs out in the middle of the night.
5. Secure 45BSET-5 Tamper-proof Bed Pad and Sensor
This system offers many of the same features as the previous pad alarm, but with additional features like useful volume control settings and battery life indicators. Those battery life indicators are helpful because this model also eats through batteries quickly. Reviewers have mentioned some difficulty in locating the on-off switch and resetting the alarm, but this is actually part of a tamper-proof design so seniors can’t turn the system off intentionally or unintentionally (in the case of dementia patients).
6. Smart Caregiver Basic Pull String Monitor
Simply attach the garment clip to the senior’s clothing, and when they rise to get up, the string pulls free of the monitor, triggering an alert that assistance is required. Pull-string monitors can also be used as chair monitors. As mentioned above, pull-string monitors may not be the best choice for seniors who can disconnect the clip or who may become tangled in the cord.
7. Smart Caregiver Motion Sensor with Remote Alarm
This passive infrared remote alarm can be placed up to 100 feet from the motion sensor, which can be mounted in any convenient location in your loved one’s sleeping areas. The alarm comes with three volume levels and is designed with an on-off button to manage it when it goes off. Both are battery powered. Pros for this system include no alarm delays after motion is sensed, and an alarm that only sounds where the remote unit is located, as not to startle the sleeping senior. A relatively short range, just 100 feet, is the biggest complaint.
8. Secure Wireless Caregiver Pager and Passive Infrared Motion Sensor
This basic but functional pager and PIR motion sensor is completely cordless, and you can add up to four motion sensors or other monitoring devices to work with the pager. The PIR motion sensor can be installed in any place near your loved one to detect any form of movement. When working with more than one motion sensor, the pager lets you assign unique tunes to each. In addition, you can set alerts to sound only, vibrate only, or sound and vibrate. This motion sensor operates over a 500-foot distance, so it has a significantly bigger range compared to similar sensors. One common complaint is that there is no on-off switch on the pager, so the alarm must be turned off at the patient-monitoring unit, which could disrupt your loved one’s sleep.A bed alarm can provide peace of mind for family and caregivers, knowing you’ll be alerted if your loved one falls out of bed, tries to get out of bed or does get out of bed. Learn more about each device to determine which one is the right fit.