Bed Rails vs. Bed Step Stool for Elderly - What's the difference?

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Mobility issues are common as we age. It can make simple everyday tasks, like getting in and out of bed, walking around the house, getting in and out of the bathtub, and climbing stairs, very difficult. Seniors who live alone are always at a risk of falling, even if they do not have mobility issues. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in every four older adults in the United States fall each year. And falling once can double your chance of falling again. 

Taking measures and setting up the home can enable seniors to move around safely. For example, you can install handrails for support near stairs, put in bathroom grab bars, place bed step stools near beds, or add handrails to a bed. All these modifications can provide support for seniors at home and significantly reduce the risk of falling.   

Table Of Content

What Are Bed Rails for the Elderly?

Bed Rails for the Elderly

Bed rails for adults or older adults are additional rails added to beds to increase safety and prevent falls. Bed rails are of three main types:

  1. Portable bed rails for adults
  2. Portable bed rails for children
  3. Bed rails for hospital beds

Bed rails for seniors serve three primary purposes:

  1. They prevent seniors from falling or rolling out of bed, especially a high bed.
  2. They assist in getting in and out of bed.
  3. They help in repositioning the bed when needed.

Bed rails come in various styles and sizes. Some rails go along the entire side of the bed, and others only partially cover the length of the bed. The gaps between the rails also differ based on the height and need of the patient. Additionally, bed rails are easy to install and remove. 

When to Use a Bed Rail?

You can use a bed rail if you have an older parent at home who needs assistance getting in and out of bed. It can also help older adults with vertigo, mobility issues, injuries, or those recovering from surgery and require additional support. 

However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the FDA record many injury and death reports due to falling or entrapment while using bed rail products. Therefore, you should use all bed rails with extreme caution.

What Is a Bed Step Stool for the Elderly?

A step stool often comes with folding steps or a portable set of steps used for reaching high cupboards, shelves, etc. A bed step stool caters specifically to getting in and out of bed easily. Bed step stools for the elderly are usually available in a range of styles, heights, and sizes. They are commonly made up of a variety of different materials. The most common materials used to make step stools are wood, plastic, and steel. While wooden and plastic step stools may seem sturdy at first, they give in to wear and tear over time, making them less reliable. Bed step stools made of reinforced steel are always the best option as they are stable and do not succumb to wear and tear.

Benefits of a bed step stool:

  1. It reduces the distance between the bed and the floor.
  2. It makes it easier to lift the leg and climb on and off the bed.
  3. It reduces the strain on the leg and thigh muscles.
  4. Bed step stools with handrails provide additional support.
  5. It significantly reduces the risk of falls.

When to Use a Bed Step Stool for the Elderly?

Consider a bed step stool if the following issues prevail:

  • Dizzy spells
  • Vertigo
  • Issues with mobility
  • Recent injury or surgery 
  • Arthritis 
  • Osteoporosis 

Bed step stools are highly reliable if chosen right. The safest and dependable bed step stool is one that has the perfect height-weight balance. For high beds, it is always best to choose a bed step stool with height adjustability. It will allow you to use the stool regardless of the changes in your living space and furniture.  

Depending on your need, you may also choose a small or average-sized bed step stool that can withstand 200 to 400 pounds. Smaller bed step stools are perfect for small rooms as they fit in well and are easy to move around if needed.

On the other hand, if you prefer a more heavy-duty bed step stool, try getting a larger one with a weight capacity of 800 pounds. These are highly reliable and work well with larger spaces.

If you are on a budget, you can even try a refurbished bed step stool. They are affordable, quality checked, and are every bit as safe as a brand new one.

Bed step stools for the elderly also come with handrails for additional support and stability.

Key Difference: Bed rails vs. a Step stool for bed for the elderly 

The key differences between bed rails and a step stool for bed for the elderly are as follows:

  1. Bed rails are attached directly to the bed and do not rest on the floor for support like bed step stools. This makes bed step stools more reliable on the whole.
  2. If bed rails are not appropriately attached, there is a high risk of entrapment and falls. However, with a good quality steel bed step stool, the risk of falling reduces.
  3. The main purpose of bed rails is to keep a person from rolling out of bed. On the other hand, a bed step stool assists with getting in and out of bed safely. 

To summarize, bed rails and bed step stools may seem to be of similar use, but they have quite prominent differences. While bed rails provide a certain amount of protection, the risk of injury and entrapment is still prevalent. For seniors with mobility issues, a bed step stool can serve as a more long-term solution that is also safe and reliable. 

Bed step stools can prevent falls and promote confidence in the elderly. So, if you have independent older parents, you can rest easy knowing that they are safe using a bed step stool.

 

FAQ

Are Bed Rails Safe for the Elderly?

Bed rails are relatively safe for the elderly if installed correctly with close attention to instructions. However, there are cases where bed rails have caused entrapment, falls, injury, and death among seniors. Hence, we recommend you take all the necessary precautions and follow the installation guidelines for safety.

What Are the Alternatives to Bed Rails?

A safe alternative to bed rails would be a bed step stool. However, it is important to select one made of reinforced steel that withstands at least 300-400 pounds. Ensuring there are handrails on your bed step stool provides additional safety.

What Are the Two Types of Bed Step Stools?

The two main types of bed step stools are:

  1. A single piece that one cannot fold or put away. It has to be completely dismantled.
  2. A foldable stool for easy storage when not in use.

Both types of bed step stools may come with or without handrails for additional support.

How Do You Help an Elderly Person Get Out of Bed Safely?

Using equipment like step ladders, handrails, and bed step stools is the best way to ensure that older adults have the proper support to get in and out of bed safely.

When Should Bed Step Stools Be Used?

Seniors who have issues with mobility, have just had surgery, or are recovering from an injury, along with those who struggle with balance and coordination, can use bed step stools.

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