1300 885 886 Independent Living Centres Advisory Service

Bed Transfer Equipment and Adjustable Beds

Transfer Equipment

These devices assist those who struggle with independently getting in and out of bed or readjusting their position in bed. Those who are unable to move in bed at all may require the assistance of carers. Devices to assist carers with repositioning an individual in bed are also avialable.

Equipment to Assist Carers

Sliding is generally the easiest way for carers to help an individual reposition themself in bed. The following devices assist carers with sliding an individual;

Single Thickness Slide Sheets

  • Single thickness slide sheets are often nylon and are designed to be folded. The carer bunches the corners to get a grip.

Tubular Sliding Aids

  • Tubular sliding aids are when the material has been sewn end to end and can assist with sliding sideways or up a bed, depending on the placement and size of the material tube.

Semi-Rigid Sliding Aids

  • Semi rigid transfer aids are amongst the more complex aids which can minimise friction and the likelihood of material bunching under the user. Semi rigid transfer aids have a flexible sheet of plastic inside a padded cover and air filled mats. They come with handles to assist with pulling.

Self-help Devices

Bed Blocks

  • Bed blocks raise the bed and may help the user to stand from the edge of the bed.

Bed Ladders

  • Bed Ladders attach to the foot of the bed and allow the user to sit up from a horizontal position by pulling up on each rung of the ladder. Rungs may be grasped by hand or the whole forearm may be used for extra leverage.

Bed Sticks

  • Bed sticks are placed between the mattress and bed platform and act as anchor points to be grasped when assistance turning in bed is required. The device must be properly fitted and consultation with an Occupational Therapist is recommended.

Self Help Poles

  • Self help poles, also known as a monkey pole, consist of metal pole with a chain and triangular handle to hang above the user's head. They are useful for those who need help lifting themselves up from bed but can be difficult to use as they require substantial upper body strength

Slide and Self Turn Tubes

  • Slide and self-turn tubes aid with independently turning in bed. Made of nylon materials, they provide a slippery surface on which turning is easier.

Leg Lifters

  • Leg lifters asist a person with getting their legs in and out of bed. More complex electrical inflatable leg lifts are also avilable.

Electric Beds

  • Electric beds with adjustable backrests can be used to assist with moving from a lying to a sitting position. Tips on selecting the right adjustable bed are avilable below;

Selecting an Adjustable Bed

Beds are available to suit a variety of support, comfort and functional needs. It is important to consider these needs with each individual when selecting an adjustable bed. Some of these factors are discussed below;

Bed Adjustments

Depending on the case of each individual, different adjustment capabilities may be required;

  • Height adjustment, also called hi-low adjustment, enables the height of the bed to be adjusted.This may be useful to assist transfers in and out of bed or for carer tasks such as changing the bed linen or nursing someone in bed. Beds with an extra low height adjustment are avilable.
  • Backrest adjustments are used to support the user in a semi-sitting position or to help with moving from lying to sitting.
  • Knee break adjustments elevate the knees without elevating the feet and can be used to prevent the user from sliding down the bed.
  • Leg elevation elevates the users legs from the hip and may be used to prevent or reduce leg swelling.
  • The Trendelenberg or reverse Trendelenberg feature allows the entire bed to be tilted towards the head or towards the feet, which is useful to users with a range of medical conditions, including, but not limited to, circulatory problems, breathing difficulties and reflux.

Other Considerations

Manual vs. Electric

When selecting an adjustable bed, one has the choice between manually adjusted beds and electrically adjusted beds. Electrically adjusted beds have a hand help controller and allow the user to adjust the bed themselves while they are in it. Some beds also may offer the option of voice control or remote control. Electric beds, although operated by a motor, tend to be quiet or almost silent. Manually adjusted beds tend to use either a hand wind or foot pump mechanism. The action required for the manually adjusted beds can be tiring for the carer and the movement can be jerky for the user. The bed cannot be operated by the user and must be positioned strategically so that the mechanism is accessible.

Storage and Transport

Some adjustable beds can be folded for storage and transport.

Castors (Movement)

Many adjustable beds are on castors which allow the bed to be repositioned. Most alos have locking castors which may either be individual locks or a central locking mechanism. Directional castors on some beds assist with steering the bed in one direction.

Load Capacity

Beds are avilable with different load capacities. It is important to consider the combined weight of the user and mattress when checking this specification to allow for optimal performance.

Clearance Space

Different beds have different clearance spaces under them. It is important to be aware of these if the user is to be hoisted in and out of bed.

Companion Beds

These are two beds placed alongside each other. Depending on the different needs of each user, both or only one of the beds may be adjustable.


There are many accessories that may assist with the specific requirements of each user. Some of these have already been discussed in the sections on bed transfer equipment.

  • Bed rails
  • IV pole
  •  In-built massage
  • Removable head board (for ease of carer access or protection from injury)
  • Removable foot board (for ease of carer access or protection from injury)
  • Self-help pole
  • Bed Extensions
  • Alternative controls
  • Battery back-up
  • Voice activation

Mattresses Suitable for Adjustable Beds

Mattresses suitable for adjustable beds are specialised as they need to be flexible and capable of bending with the movement fo the bed. Different mattresses may also help with addressing the specific needs of users.

Inner Spring

  • Inner-spring is the most common type of mattress. It consists of padding over springs which support the user's posture while they sleep. Manufacturers recommend replacement every 10-13 years.


  • Latex mattresses can be firm and it is not known whether they provide the same level of postural support as an inner-spring mattress. Latex mattresses can be a better choice for incontinent users. They can be a good choice for older people as they are not required to be turned as regularly.


  • Foam mattresses are generally lighter and easier to flip and turn. Many foam mattresses are now covered with a water resistant two-way stretch cover that can be helpful to incontinent users and can also assist with pressure care. Different densities and combinations of foam further improve the pressure care qualities.

Pressure Care

  • Pressure care mattresses are for users at risk of developing pressure ulcers. These are avilable as either an overlay that lies on top of an existing mattress or as a complete mattress replacement system.

Require assistance?

If you require advice or assistance in choosing relevant AT products for your needs, please call our national ILC Infoline 1300 885 886. You will be connected to your local state/territory ILC for the cost of a local phone call.

** NT callers are automatically directed to ILC in South Australia.