It can be challenging for older people to get into and out of bed as it requires flexibility and strength in different parts of the body. If you’re experiencing difficulty, here are some options that may help.
- Bed risers (or bed raisers): moulded shapes – usually plastic cones – designed to fit under the existing legs or castors to increase the height of your bed.
- Bed levers (also known as bed rails, grab handles, grab rails or support rails): help you get into or out of bed, or to raise yourself from a lying to a sitting position within the bed. There are various models available – the difference tends to be in the way they are fitted or secured (to the bed itself, the floor or a wall).
- Bed ladder: this helps you get yourself into a sitting position from lying down. One end of the rope ladder is attached either to the footboard of the bed or the bed frame. Then pull yourself forward using the rungs of the ladder.
- Leg lifters: to help people who can’t lift their legs on to the bed. Leg lifts are manual devices, such as a leg loop, a reinforced strap that hooks around an individual leg to enable you to lift it up on to the bed. If you lack the strength or balance to do this, there are a number of power-assisted devices on the market to help.
- Slip-prevention footboards: if slipping down the bed is a significant problem, then a slip-prevention footboard may be useful. Again, there are several variations on this device to choose from.
Check the bed is the right height
To ensure your bed is at a good height, check that your knees are reasonably bent when sitting on the bed. When a bed is too low to the ground, it will be more difficult to stand when getting out of it.
If necessary, raise the bed slightly using bed raisers (see above). However, it’s important not to raise the bed too high, as it's important that your feet will touch the floor when you get out of bed to ensure you can get your balance quickly. If the bed is too high, it also makes it difficult to get into, as well as it being less safe to sit on while getting dressed. Wearing silk nightwear can also increase the risk of slipping off the bed.
We’ve also moved my mother’s bed downstairs for now, with a commode in that room.
Getting dressed and undressed
If you are finding you have less flexibility in your fingers, making a few changes, such as buying more suitable clothing or using aids such as button hooks, putting on or taking off clothes doesn’t need to be such a difficult task.
Keeping a chair in the bedroom will allow you to sit down while you dress and undress. This can help with any balance problems and makes it easier to put on socks and shoes, while also easing any discomfort and reducing potential pain.
A chair with a firm seat and arms will be easier to manage than sitting on the side of the bed, and the arms will help you stand up after you have got dressed. To make the routine as smooth as possible, try to ensure that all clothes are within easy reach of the chair.
Keeping a chair in the bedroom will allow you to sit down while you dress and undress.
Many aspects of getting dressed can be made easier by choosing suitable clothes and footwear. For example, zips and Velcro are both easier to fasten than small buttons or shoelaces; easier still are clothes that don’t require fastening at all. You might like to consider the following ideas:
- magnetic buttons rather than traditional buttons
- elasticated waist bandsslip-resistant shoes
- Velcro fastenings on shoes instead of laces and/or elastic shoelaces
- bras and underwear with front fastenings or side openings.
There is also a large range of clothing aids available to help make it easier to put your clothes on, including:
- Sock aid: a handy design that helps you put your socks on when you have difficulty bending down to your feet. Slip the sock over the sock aid and drop it to the floor, holding on to long straps that allow you to pull the sock on to your foot and then pull the sock aid off.
- Grabber sticks (or pick-up stick): not only useful for picking up items from the floor, this can also be used to help pull trousers or underwear over your feet and take off socks.
- Long-handled shoehorns: to help with putting on shoes.
- Button hooks: a comfortable plastic handle attached to a metal loop, helps to fasten buttons.
- Zip grips: to help you pull zips up or down.
- Dressing sticks: a wooden stick with a rubber tip at one end and a double wire hook at the other, used to pull on or take off garments, such as socks, that can’t be reached easily.
- Bra angel: this tool allows people to independently manage a bra fastening with the use of only one hand.
If you have problems with your eyesight, it may be worth considering items that can help you identify different clothes, such as:
- audio labellers
- tactile markers
- special buttons.
If you’re handy with sewing (or know someone else who could help you), you may be able to make adaptations to some of your favourite garments so you can still put them on or take them off.
Our guide to online retailers has links to websites where you can buy adapted clothes and clothing aids.
Think about how your clothing is being stored and whether it’s appropriate for your needs.
Tall wardrobes with high rails and low drawers may no longer be suitable, for example, if you have a physical disability or a mobility problem. Wardrobes with sliding doors are easier to open, particularly if you use a walking aid.
It might also be useful to have a light fitted in the wardrobe if you have problems with your eyesight.
Even making small changes to clothing storage systems, such as labelling drawers, can make a big difference, and in some cases it may be all that is required for you to stay independent in your dressing routine.
However, if you require a bit more help there are other options, such as having drop-down rails in wardrobes or replacing chests of drawer units with wire baskets or clear drawers.
Helping your loved one
If you have to physically help a family member or friend to get dressed, allow them to do as much as possible themselves.
Often it’s easier for people with physical problems to take clothes off, so maybe your loved one only needs help putting clothes on. Some people are also able to dress their upper body and just need help with trousers or skirts.
If you’re caring for someone who is partially sighted or living with dementia, see our dressing tips for people with special requirements guide to find out the best ways you can help them.
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