Bed Alarm Systems for Fall Prevention with Elderly

Bed Alarm Systems for Fall Prevention with Elderly

time icon 5 min read update icon Sept. 16, 2019


Falls are the leading cause of injury in seniors. Upon waking up, a person is often disoriented or cannot see clearly due to the darkened room. Many seniors who suffer from chronic illnesses and balance issues may be confused when they wake up in the middle of the night and think they can safely get out of bed. Caregivers often strive to keep a senior in bed during the night because of the potential risk of falling, but the aging individual may still try to get up. While sometimes necessary, this can be dangerous. A bed alarm helps keep a senior safe during the night. 


Even with the best of care, it is difficult to monitor someone 24/7. During the night hours, many seniors are at a significantly increased risk of falling. As a person ages, they become frailer, which makes them more prone to falling, especially when rising from a bed. Seniors who suffer from dementia may also become disoriented in the middle of the night and try to get up. Such circumstances can be dangerous. The elderly person could fall or wander off into a dangerous area of the home such as bathroom or stairwell where they could trip or stumble. 

Having a bed alarm automatically notifies a caregiver or family member if the senior tries to rise from the bed, so that an accident can be circumvented.  The caregiver can immediately come to the aid of the senior when they hear the alarm. 

Bed Alarm Systems Help Prevent Falls

No matter what a person’s age, the nighttime hours can be disorientating. If a senior who is on medication, suffers from mobility issues, chronic illness, or dementia should wake up in the dark, they may automatically get up in a state of agitation. In some cases, medications may even cause sleepwalking. Most caregivers do not want to place uncomfortable restraints on a senior to keep them in bed, so instead, they turn to a bed alarm system. A caregiver often has a difficult time monitoring if a senior gets up in the wee hours of the night when falls are likely. However, a bed sensor can quickly alert the caregiver if the elderly person tries to rise from bed. 

A bed alarm detects motion in the bed, or it senses when the weight is reduced and shifted on the mattress. The system relies on either a motion sensor or a bed pad alarm to detect if the person gets out of bed or starts moving excessively, which could indicate that the individual requires assistance. A bed alarm quickly alerts during a dangerous situation by setting off an alarm. Upon hearing the alarm, the caregiver can immediately enter the bedroom to aid the senior. 

There are two common types of bed alarms:

  • Pressure Sensors: Pressure sensors are the most common type of bed alarm for both medical and home use. The alarm relies on a pressure-sensing pad that automatically knows every move the senior makes. When the pressure is alleviated, an alarm is set off. Pressure sensor alarms are extremely thin, which makes them barely detectable. They can easily be placed on the mattress and the senior will not even feel the pad. Most bed alarm pads are also incontinence proof and easy to clean. Pressure sensors are often the most economical bed alarm option. 
  • Infrared Sensor: A bed alarm with an infrared sensor relies on a beam of light to detect whether a senior is lying down in bed. If the light is tripped, such as when the senior gets close to the bed’s edge, then an alarm is set off. The sensors are usually attached to surrounding furniture or the wall beside the bed. There are a few caveats to consider with these types of sensors. Unfortunately, if the senior owns a cat, then the infrared sensor can be tripped accidentally if the feline jumps in front of the sensor’s beam. Also, a caregiver who is checking on the senior in the middle of the night can also accidentally trip the sensor and wake up the senior. 

It is impossible to monitor someone 24/7. The night hours pose a significant fall danger for elderly individuals, so using a bed alarm system is beneficial. With the alarm, a caregiver can rest easy knowing that if the senior should try to get up in the middle the night, the alarm will sound and they can immediately respond. Most elderly individuals do not want to be restrained in bed, so the use of a bed alarm is emotionally and mentally reassuring.  It is a valuable safety tool that should be utilized to prevent an unnecessary fall. Ideally, a bed alarm should be used in conjunction with other fall prevention strategies. 

Kimberly Sharpe - Senior Advisor

Kimberly is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.