Types of bed alarms: What you should know before you buy

by | Beginners Info, Safety

Last summer, after my mom had a hip replacement at 89 yrs young, I quickly realized I was going to need some kind of device to let me know when she was trying to get out of bed, in case I didn’t hear her call me. 

Types of bed alarms and motion sensors –

  • Bed sensor pads and in-room bed exit alarms
  • Bed sensor pads and wireless monitors
  • Chair sensor pads and exit alarms
  • Chair sensor pads and wireless alarms
  • Floor pressure sensor mats and in-room bed exit alarms
  • Floor pressure sensor mats and wireless monitors
  • Motion sensors and in-room bed exit alarms
  • Motion sensors and wireless monitors
  • Motion sensors and pagers
  • Room motion monitors – pager and talk back
  • Pull string alarms

For the little extra, I am going to be looking at baby monitoring devices which can send you alerts as well if your loved one gets out of bed in the night.

So let’s get to it….

These systems are only for use you, or another caregiver, are present in the home with your elderly parent or loved one.

 For my mom I just need to know when she gets out of bed in the night, in case she needs my help, as she can be a little drowsy and something could happen, and I have extended that to chairs in the daytime as well.

A few points to note about the technical terms –

I would like to clarify one point which made things rather confusing for me at the beginning of my search, and that is the difference between what the different manufacturers call “Exit Alarms” and “Wireless Monitors”.

  • Exit Alarms are alarms that ring in the same room as the sensor and have to be placed in close  proximity to the sensors.
  • Wireless Monitors are alarms which, due to the fact they are wireless, can be placed anywhere in your home within a 100 – 300 ft distance of where the devices with the sensors are placed. This is a much more flexible system.

Do bear this in mind as it makes a huge difference to both your freedom as the caregiver, and to the disturbance of your sleeping parent.

 Wireless devices – the term “wireless” can be very confusing, as it refers to devices which form a network without the use of cables, by using radio waves.
Wi Fi uses certain wavelengths, Cellular phones use certain wavelengths, and NFC uses another set of wavelengths, and this can lead to confusion as they are all “wireless” technologies.

For this reason certain devices interfere with one another, as they are operating networks on radio frequencies which are very close to one another.

Bed Sensor Pads and Exit Alarms

Bed sensor pads and alarms work by placing pads with pressure sensors on the bed. If your parent tries to get up from the bed an alarm is triggered and the you, or another caregiver, can come to their aid.
Do check what the weight limit is before you purchase any bed sensor pads, as they do vary – many have a limit of 120 kg which is 264.5 lbs

You can find both corded and cordless bed sensor pads and alarms – a lot of cables around a bed when you are trying to prevent falls doesn’t make a lot of sense. But you will have to bear in mind that if you buy the cordless types, you will have to keep an eye on the batteries.

The pads are in general either placed under the shoulder area or under the hip area, under the sheets on the mattress.

The pads should be waterproof if you are going to be placing them under the hip area in case there are problems with bed wetting. So do check that in the manufacturer’s specifications.

If you are looking to have the maximum amount of time to get to the bedside before your elderly parent is out of the bed, I would suggest using the sensor pad under the shoulder area. This will activate the alarm more quickly, as it is activated when the shoulders lift off the pad, as opposed to the sensor pad placed under the hip area, which may be triggered in some cases only when the person has stood up off the bed.

Alarm response time – this can of course be checked with the manufacturer’s specifications of whichever device you may choose, but do be aware that there may be differences in the time delays.

Be aware that pads with alarms may not have the alarm located with the caregiver. Some device manufacturers have the alarms next to the bed, and others have systems which allow you to place the alarm in another room. In the case of the alarm next to the bed the you may have to have it turned up rather high to hear it if you are not in the same room, and you could give the person you are caring for quite a shock if they are half asleep. I’m not so sure that this is great for preventing falls, as our elderly parents may be a little woozy when they wake up to pee in the middle of the night !! I leave that decision up to you !

You also need to check the range of the system you decide to use, if the alarm is placed in another room from the bed, as the devices on the market all have their own specs and you don’t want to get one which doesn’t have the enough range to trigger the alarm where you are.

In general the warranties that I read said that the pads were good for at least one year.

Some bed sensor pads can also be used as chair pads, so you can also use them in the daytime. Again I would just advise you to check that with the manufacturer’s product specifications.

Bed Sensor Pads and Wireless Monitors

The Bed Sensor Pads are the same as those mentioned above and are place in the bed either under the shoulders or the hips.

The main difference between these Bed Sensor Pad systems and those previously outlined is the wireless monitor. The wireless monitor replaces the exit alarm and can be positioned anywhere within a certain range of the bed sensor pads.

This means that they can be placed outside of the bedroom, and in whichever area you wish, within the range of the pad. And as such the alarm is not triggered in the room where it may startle your parent, or even not be heard by you if you have moved out of earshot.

Another advantage of the Wireless Monitor being outside of the bedroom is that should it be triggered for no reason, your parents will not be disturbed in their sleep. And once you’ve checked that everything is okay the monitor can simply be reset.

I personally think this is a great advantage. I did read reviews where people said, that if there was a lot of tossing and turning in the night, there could be false alarms, and those people who had the alarms by their beds were unnecessarily disturbed from their sleep.

Some wireless monitors can also talk with pagers and other remote devices, which means that you can move around within range of the monitor and pick up the signal on a pager – one which is compatible with the monitor of course. This gives you even greater freedom.

There are generally no cords in these systems at all so you will have to use batteries for all the devices unless you want to to buy AC adapters. The devices have battery level warnings on them to notify you when the power is getting low, so there should be no problem there.

Some sensor pads in these systems also have a technology which tracks the life of the sensors and warns you ten days prior to the pad expiration and giving you time to replace it.

As with the pads and exit alarms you will need to check the weight limit; that the pad is water proof if you are placing it under the hip area; and check the ranges of the different devices to make sure they fit your needs and your palace !

Chair Sensor Pads and Exit Alarms

The system is similar to that of the Bed Sensor pad and the Bed Exit Alarm, and works in the same manner.
You have the alarm right next to the chair which may startle if your elderly parent has been sleeping, but it may be a bit less of a worry if they are only lightly napping.

Chair Sensor Pads and Wireless Monitors

The system is similar to that of the Bed Sensor pads and Wireless Monitors, and works in the same manner.

You have the alarm right next to the chair which may startle if your elderly parent has been sleeping, but it may be a bit less of a worry if they are only lightly napping.

 Floor Sensor Mats and Exit Alarms

These mats work in the opposite manner to the Bed Sensor Pads. That is to say that when a person gets down from the bed onto the mat, and their weight is applied the alarm is triggered. It is pressure on the mat, rather than pressure off the mat.

In these setups the alarm is a Bed Exit Alarm and is placed by the bed. So the alarm will ring in the room. I have already discussed the pros and cons of this.

The mat and the Bed Exit Alarm are both corded which may cause problems if fall prevention is a worry. I must say though that if you are trying to prevent falls, then once you parent is down from the bed it may be a little late for triggering the alarm, as they are already on the move.

Just like the bed pads you want to check the weight limits on the mats – a lot of them go from 54 lbs and up.

Some mats are to be used under a rug, which means the edges could get quite high and be a fall hazard in themselves, so for bedside fall prevention mats seem to be a little dubious in my mind…….. I certainly wouldn’t get one if my mum or dad walked without really lifting their feet.

Floor Sensor Mats and Wireless Monitors

The main between these Floor Mats and those mentioned above is that they come with a Wireless Monitor, and both are also cordless. This means for a start that there are less cables around for people to trip on.

The Wireless Monitor can be placed outside of the room greatly increasing the distance you can be from the bedroom to hear the alerts when they are triggered, and adding to the peaceful sleep of your parent in their room.

One other difference with some of these cordless mats is that they can come with non-slip grip and bevelled edges and no requirement of a rug on top , so that they are less likely to cause someone to trip. So just for that, they seem a better option to me.

Lastly don’t forget to check the weight limit of the mats, and the range of the mat sensors for the placement of the Wireless Monitor.

Motion Sensors with Exit Alarms

These first devices are a simple Motion Sensor and built-in Exit Alarm, which can be placed anywhere you would like in the room to detect the movement of the occupant.

You can place it so it detects the rise of the shoulders as your parent sits up in bed, or chair, before they step down, or on the floor so it detects the movement of their feet down to the floor. As the motion sensor detects the movement it will then trigger the built in alarm.

This is the cheapest form of motion sensor and alert system and as such it has the inconvenience of the alarm built into the motion sensor unit which means it is located in the room.

To hear the alert the caregiver must be close enough. And as the occupant of the bed will have it close to them, it can either startle them if they are half asleep, or wake them, neither of which are much good if it’s a false alarm. Of course it is less of a problem if they are just sitting awake in a chair.

The devices can be corded or cordless.

Motion Sensors and Wireless Monitors

For this type of system a Motion Sensor is coupled with a separate Wireless Monitor. The Wireless Monitor can be placed wherever the caregiver wishes within the range of the Motion Sensor. The range is generally 100 to 300 ft.

Again the Motion Sensor can be placed on the nightstand, on the floor or anywhere else in the room where it can detect the motion of your parent getting out of bed, or up from a chair. I would place it where it gives me the earliest warning that Mum is on the move !

All of the devices I found were battery operated and completely cordless, so there are less cables around the home causing hazards. Don’t forget to keep an eye on battery levels though, you don’t want them running out !

With some of the Motion Sensors and Wireless Monitors you have the option of adding a Call Button as well, so your parent can also just press that before they even try to get up, and the Wireless Monitor will alert you.

With these systems the only specs to check are the volume of the wireless Monitor and the range of the signal from the Motion Sensor to the Wireless Monitor.

Motion Sensors and Pagers

This setup comprises a Motion Sensor and a Pager.

As before you can set up the Motion Sensor in a optimal position to detect the movements on and off the bed. Once a movement is detected it will send a wireless signal to the pager.

This has all the advantages of the other systems with motion sensors plus the portability of a small pager that you or any other caregiver can easily put in their pocket and walk around with.

All the components are battery operated, so again no cords to mess around with, but you do have to stay up on the power levels of the batteries.

With some of the Motion Sensors and Pagers you have the option of adding a Call Button as well, so your parent can also just press that before they even try to get up, and the Pager will alert you.

Once again with this system check the specs to find out the signal range from the Motion Sensor to the Pager so you know how far you can go !!

Pull String Alarms

The set up comprises the alarm and a cord with a clip on it.

These are really used as an alternatives to pressure pads.

It can be used for a bed or, more often a chair. The unit is either hung on the chair or bed, and the string which comes of it is clipped to the clothing of your loved one.

The different models have the strings attached to the monitoring unit with a magnet, or by a separation switch.

In cases where the use of magnets may disturb other medical devices it is best to use the monitors with the separation switch.

The monitors sound the alarm when your loved one gets up and the string will either open the separation switch or pull the magnet off the monitoring device (depending on which type you have).

The alarm on some models can be modified to be a voice message which may be less disturbing to your loved ones. You will need be within a certain distance of course to be able to hear this device.

Where can I buy all these devices ?

I’ve made a list of some of the companies that make and sell Bed Sensor Pads, Floor Sensor Mats, Exit Alarms, Motion Sensors, Wireless Monitors and/or Pagers. You can just type these names into google or which ever browser you use and they will give you their websites –

In the US –

  • Smart Caregiver
  • SafeWander Bed Alarm
  • Posey
  • Drive Medical
  • Skil-Care
  • Malem
  • Secure
  • Innogear
  • Life Link Response
  • Secure Safety Solutions
  • LogicMark
  • AliMed
  • RF Technologies
  • Vive
  • Syrtenty

In the UK –

  • Smart Caregiver
  • NRS Healthcare
  • Lifemax
  • Easylink UK
  • Alerta
  • Syrtenty
  • Power Options Ltd (Mat-On -Guard)
  • Patterson Medical
  • Medpage
  • Airlert

Here’s a buyers checklist to help you remember what to look out for –

For the Bed and Floor Sensor Pads –

  • Is it waterproof ?
  • What is the weight Limit ?
  • Corded or cordless ?
  • If it is a Bed Sensor Pad is it for the hips or shoulders ?
  • Exit Alarm, Wireless Monitor or Pager ?
  • If it is a Bed Sensor Pad with an Bed Exit Alarm, where does the alarm go ?
  • What is the range of the Alarm/Pager from the Bed Sensor Pad or Floor Sensor Mat ?
  • Will an in-room Exit Alarm scare the person using it ?
  • If the Bed Sensor Pad has a Exit Alarm, what is the volume range ?
  • If it’s a cordless Floor Sensor Mat, is it bevelled at the edge and non-slip ?
  • If it’s a Floor Sensor Mat, does it require a rug over the top of it ?

For the Motion Sensors with Wireless Monitors and/or Pagers –

  • What is the size of the Wireless Monitor ?
  • What is the volume level range of the Wireless Monitor ?
  • What is the range of the Motion Sensors to the Wireless Monitors ?
  • What is the range of the Pager ?
  • What is the volume level range of the alerts ?
  • Can you get a Motion Sensor, Wireless Monitor and a Pager on the system you are choosing ?

A quick round up so far

All of the above devices work without the internet or a mobile/cellular network, so they will continue to function even if your Wi-Fi or your phone network goes down.

They are though, only of use, if you or another caregiver is present in the home with your elderly loved ones.

For my “little extra”  I am going to look at video monitoring for those without the internet or celllular/mobile network.

This is the simple Wireless Baby Monitor which can very easily be used to monitor an an elderly person from another room if they are agreed to being on camera.

Wireless Video Baby Monitors

(no internet required, no cellular network required)

If you want video and sensor activity monitoring for your parents, you should look at my article here.

I am adding Video Baby Monitors here because they also will alert you when someone gets out of bed. They are “digital wireless” devices which do not use the internetThis won’t work if you, or a caregiver, are not there all the time, as they only work within the home – they won’t send alerts to a smartphone.

The systems consist of two devices – a camera for filming and a small handheld monitor with a screen about the same size of a smartphone which receives the video pictures. You can carry the monitor around with you within your home, and as long as you are within range you will receive the video.

Some of the monitors have a range of up to 200m or 650 ft and will give you a sound alert when you are coming to the limit of the device’s range from the camera.

The camera will detect any motions or sounds, and they will be heard and seen in real time on the handheld video monitor. You will be watching a real time video feed.

The Video Baby Monitors have Night Vision technology, ordinary color video, and two way audio so you can chat with your parent if you need to.

Most of the Video Baby Monitors are battery operated, and some are both battery or corded. The cameras are generally corded.

Of course you have to assume that the handheld monitor is battery operated or else you couldn’t walk around with it. So you will need to keep an eye on battery levels on most devices.

Popular Baby Video Monitors

All of these below use digital wireless transmission and don’t need the internet. They are listed in no particular order –

Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor
  • features wireless 2.4GHz FHSS technology
  • secure private connection
  • allows multiple cameras – 4 max
  • scan through cameras one at a time
  • monitor can only be paired to one camera at a time
  • you can stay connected from up to 590 feet away
  • 3.5″ diagonal color screen shows real time video and sound
  • you can remotely pan and tilt
  • you can zoom in
  • has three different angled lenses to choose from
  • the night vision is infra red
  • there is a room temperature display
  • there is two way communication between the monitor and the camera
Motorola MBP36 Remote Wireless Video Baby Monitor
  • features wireless 2.4GHz FHSS technology
  • secure private connection
  • allows multiple cameras – 4 max
  • equipped with multiple camera viewing with picture-in-picture and auto-switch screen options
  •  you can watch 4 rooms at a time
  • you can stay connected from up to 590 feet away
  • 3.5″ diagonal color screen shows real time video and sound
  • you can remotely pan and tilt
  • you can zoom in
  • it has a viewing angle of 300 degrees
  • the night vision is infra red
  • there is a room temperature display
  • there is two way communication between the monitor and the camera
  • you can only hear from one selected camera at a time
  • you select the camera you wish to here from by indicating with an arrow on the monitor screen allowing you to quickly go from one camera to another
Philips Avent SCD630 Video Baby Monitor
  • features wireless 2.4GHz FHSS technology
  • secure private connection
  • you can stay connected from up to 140 feet indoors
  • 3.5″ diagonal color screen shows real time video and sound
  • you can remotely pan
  • you can zoom in 2X
  • the night vision is infra red
  • there is a room temperature display
  • there is two way communication between the monitor and the camera
Angelcare AC310 Baby Video Monitor
  • features wireless 2.4GHz FHSS technology
  • secure private connection
  • allows multiple cameras – 4 max
  • split screen options for multiple cameras
  • view four rooms at the same time
  • you can stay connected from up to 250 meters open field
  • 4.3″ diagonal color  touch screen shows real time video and sound
  • you can remotely pan and tilt
  • you can zoom in
  • the night vision is infra red
  • there is a room temperature display
  • there is two way communication between the monitor and the camera
Babysense Video Baby Monitor
  • features wireless 2.4GHz FHSS technology
  • secure private connection
  • allows multiple cameras – 4 max
  • you can stay connected from up to 900 feet open space
  • 3.5″ diagonal color screen shows real time video and sound
  • you can remotely pan and tilt 360 degrees
  • you can zoom in
  • the night vision is infra red
  • there is a room temperature display + alarm for high or low temps
  • there is two way communication between the monitor and the camera
HelloBaby HB32 Wireless Video Baby Monitor
  • features wireless 2.4GHz FHSS technology
  • secure private connection
  • allows multiple cameras – 4 max
  • equipped with multiple camera viewing with picture-in-picture
  •  you can watch 4 rooms at a time
  • you can stay connected from up to 960 feet away without barriers
  • 3.2″ diagonal color screen shows real time video and sound
  • you can remotely pan and tilt 360 degrees
  • you can zoom in
  • the night vision is infra red
  • there is a room temperature display
  • there is two way communication between the monitor and the camera
  • you can only hear from one selected camera at a time
  • you select the camera you wish to here from by indicating with an arrow on the monitor screen allowing you to quickly go from one camera to another

If you decide to buy a Wireless Video Baby Monitor here’s a checklist to help you remember what to look out for –

  • How difficult is the camera to install – some install from above and are rather tricky ?
  • What is the range of the camera to the monitor ?
  • Does the monitor give you an alert when you are coming to the edge of its range ?
  • What is the resolution of the camera ?
  • Does the camera have good night vision ?
  • What is the quality of the audio on the monitor and on the camera ?
  • Is the camera battery operated or corded ?
  • If the camera is corded, how log is the cord is the monitor battery operated, re-chargeable or corded ?
  • How long do the batteries last if they have to be charged ?
  • How long do the batteries last if they are not re-chargeable ?
  • How big is the screen on the monitor ?
  • Hoes the monitor indicate battery levels ?
  • Does the camera indicate battery levels
  • How do you set the camera up ?
  • What is the angle of view of the camera ?
  • Does the camera have “tilt and pan” ?
  • Can the camera motion track a subject on the move once they are detected ?
  • When you are viewing in real time can you zoom in ?

What can you do for Alerts ?

One drawback with the Video Baby Monitors is that there are no alerts, so if you don’t hear your elderly parent or other loved one getting out of bed, or they don’t speak to you over the two way audio, you may not realize that they are on the move.

So unless they alert you by speaking you may, if you are sleeping, not hear a thing without an alert.

If you want to have both alerts and video monitoring, but you have no internet, a solution to could be to have both a Wireless Motion Sensor and Pager, for the alerts, and a Video Baby Monitor for the video, as none of these devices needs the internet.

This way you can’t miss it when if your parent gets out of bed or a chair, and you can look to see what is happening on the monitor. And if it’s a false alert, you can stay where you are.

You will carry the pager and the video monitor around with you as you go about your life in your home. As usual you need to just check the ranges of the devices.

I would suggest, that if you are considering purchasing Video Baby Monitor, you find someone who has one, and see how loud they are etc. You can also pop into any local child daycare center and do a little research there with all the mothers.

What about interent wifi devices ?

I have a long article about home monitoring systems using indoor video cameras, on their own and combined with moniyoring sensors which are either wifi enabled, or use the cellular/ mobile phone network that you can read here.

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com

I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.

Gareth Williams

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Summary
Article Name
Types of bed alarms: What you should know before you buy
Description
A survey of all the different types of bed exit alarms on the market, complete with what you need to know before you buy.
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Publisher Name
Lookingaftermomandad.com