How to Install and Use Bed Rails for Seniors

How to Install and Use Bed Rails for Seniors

Getting in and out of bed is one of the top reasons for falls for seniors.

Many of these falls could have been prevented with the addition of adult bed rails. I decided I wanted to provide an overview of how to install and use bed rails for seniors.

The bed rails discussed in this post will focus on improving ease of bed mobility by giving a stable grab point for anyone to use when rolling, pulling up in bed, or transitioning from laying down to sitting up.

There are several different types of bed rails for the seniors. In this guide, I’ll specifically address 2 styles of adult bed rails that attach by sliding into position between a box spring and a mattress. These specific bed rails require a box spring and mattress. Below are images of the two styles that we will be installing.

Adult Bed Rail with Fixed Handle
Adult bed rail with fixed handle and adjustable feet
Adult Bed Rail with Swing Away Handle
Adult bed rail with swing-away handle, adjustable feet, and wide base

If you prefer a video how-to, please check out my video on my YouTube Channel!


Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Estimated Cost: $30 USD*

Supplies Needed:

  • Standard bed rail kit (all necessary installation supplies included)
    A “standard” bed rail kit is a bed rail with a fixed arm. Here is a standard bed rail kit from Drive Medical:

    Standard Bed Rail

The one we will be setting up is called the HandiRail, but it is essentially the same as the Drive Medical one above

Adult Bed Rails - HandiRail Box
Here’s one adult bed rail called the HandiRail that we chose
  • Bed Rail Kit with Swing-Away Arm
    Another option for a bed rail is one with a “swing-away” arm. These are more expensive (about $123 USD*), but may offer more flexibility when getting in and out of bed. I will be demonstrating both.
HealthCraft Bed Rail with Swing-Away Arm

Tools Needed:

3/32 inch allen wrench

*all prices are at the time of publishing


  1. Assemble bed rail
  2. Position bed rail between mattress and box spring
  3. Push bed rail into position until it is flush with the edge of the mattress
  4. Adjust leg height to match the height of your bed

Bed Rails for Seniors – Step 1: Assemble Bed Rail

The first step is assembling the bed rails. Assembling the bed rail will be dependent on the brand/type you select. Most bed rails for the seniors consist of 3 parts: the handle, a piece that slides between box spring and mattress, and the feet.

Adult bed rails assemble the bed rails
Assemble the three parts together

These pieces are typically assembled using push pins. The feet are adjustable so you can match them to the height of the bed. Some adult bed rails also come with additional add-on features like a safety strap or pockets.

The safety strap is an optional add-on that attaches the bed rail to the opposite rail of the bed frame with a buckle for added security. I recommend these especially for bed rails that do not have feet to ensure maximum stability.

Bed Rails for Seniors – Step 2: Position Bed Rail

When positioning a bed rail, it is important to know how you will be using it. I highly recommend positioning it near the head of the bed about the width of a pillow away from the top of the mattress.

Adult Bed Rails Position Near Head of Bed
Adult bed rails positioned near the head of the bed

This will ensure that you won’t be positioned too far down the edge of the bed when attempting to get in and out.

The second bed rail type (HealthCraft Swing Away Bed Rail) has the feature of a swing-away arm.

Adult bed rail swing-away open position
Adult bed rail with swing-away arm in open position

This allows it to be positioned slightly farther down the bed due to the arm being moveable when necessary to get in and out. This is a nice feature if the person using the rail is also a significant fall risk from rolling out of bed. The first option of adult bed rail would not be the best for preventing these types of falls.

Bed Rails for Seniors – Step 3: Push Bed Rail Into Position

Push the bed rail between the box spring and mattress until the handle is tight to the edge of the mattress.

It is important that you avoid a gap between bed rail and mattress to prevent a possible pinch point and ensure it is positioned within easy reach while lying in bed.

Adult bed rails swing-away push under mattress
Push the bed rail under the mattress and above the box spring

Bed Rails for Seniors – Step 4: Adjust Leg Height

Adjust the height of the legs/feet of the bed rails. The legs on these bed rails will adjust with a push pin assembly. The feet should sit flat on the floor once adjusted to match your bed height.

Adult bed rail with feet on floor
Ensure the feet of the bed rail are flat on the floor

If you have a tall bed, adult bed rails with feet may not be the right type of bed rail for you. A rail without leg rests is also available and more appropriate for a bed with greater height.

The second bed rail type (with swing-away arm) installs with one additional adjustment step that will require a 3/32 size allen wrench to adjust the height of the locking mechanism. This will allow for the entire leg length to adjust to fit the height of your bed.

Adult Bed Rails swing-away lock adjustment
The height of our swing-away arm bed rail could be adjusted with a 3/32 allen wrench

That’s all the steps to install bed rails. Please remember to do a safety check before using your bed rail.

We reviewed how to install two types of bed rails, however, there are other types as well particularly for those beds without box springs. Some adult rails attach directly to bed frames. Research bed rails for the seniors if your bed requires this type of bed rail.

Note: This post contains affiliate links that provide a small commission without any added cost to the user.

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