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A bed-bound person is typically described as someone who cannot independently transfer to and from the bed or someone who cannot turn and reposition themselves while in bed. Life can be very difficult for people like this, not to mention for their caregivers. However, there are aids that can make day-to-day tasks much less challenging.
If you are spending a lot of time in bed then it is essential that you are as comfortable as possible. While many of us take the comfort of our beds for granted, it can be a vastly different experience for someone who is stuck in bed more often than not. Without these comfort aids, pain, pressure sores, and other unpleasant conditions can develop.
Hospital beds have a range of features that make them far more suitable for bed-bound patients. For example, they have adjustable head and leg sections as well as the ability to be raised and lowered, which can make life easier for the caregiver.
However, there are a lot of things to think about when it comes to choosing a hospital bed. For example, would you need an electric or manual bed? This very much comes down to the ability of the caregiver as a manual bed needs to be operated using a hand crank. These beds are also suitable for patients who have some ability to adjust themselves and are much more cost-effective. That said, an electric bed is ideal for people who spend most of their day in bed but may not always have a caregiver present, as they can more easily use the bed without assistance.
It’s also essential to make sure that you choose the right type of hospital mattress for your bed as this will help to relieve pressure. We would always recommend buying the mattress from the same supplier as the bed as they will be able to offer you something compatible with the bed.
Generally speaking, there are four different types of hospital bed mattresses to consider. Below, we outline each of these and what they’re suitable for.
- Innerspring mattresses are more bouncy, so may not offer as much stability. They’re a very affordable option but aren’t likely to be suitable for bed-bound patients.
- Foam mattresses are an excellent choice for reducing pressure sores and they are generally much firmer than an innerspring mattress with far less bounce. The main problem with these mattresses is that they aren’t very breathable which could be an issue for bed-bound patients.
- Low air loss mattresses are another great choice for people who are prone to sores. What’s more, they can help to relieve pressure and help to reduce skin moisture which is important to bed-bound patients.
- An alternating pressure mattress is one of the more expensive options, but they are ideal for bed-bound patients as they will relieve pressure on existing sores and help to prevent further ones from occurring. Moreover, these mattresses promote better circulation and can ensure that bodily fluids keep moving.
When choosing a hospital bed and mattress, you will need to consider the weight and size of the patient. There are bariatric beds for larger users, which improves comfort and the safe use of the bed. Also, think about hygiene. If the person struggles with incontinence, for example, you may need to source a mattress that is waterproof and easy to clean.
Elbow & Heel Pads
Elbow and heel pads are protective pieces of equipment that are designed to stop pressure sores and prevent skin shearing. These simple devices cradle the heels or the elbows in cushioning, which helps to redistribute pressure throughout the whole limb as opposed to that one area. Some elbow and heel pads feature non-slip material to prevent the limb from sliding around the bed.
Dressing and undressing for bed-bound patients can be incredibly difficult when using regular clothing. However, there are several types of adaptive clothing that can make this task much simpler.
For example, there are pants that open partway down the side or are heavily elasticated around the waist which makes them easier to put on and take off while seated. These pants are also ideal for wheelchair users as they’re normally cut higher in the back which improves comfort. For those who struggle with incontinence, there are seatless pants.
There are shirts that feature magnetic closures as opposed to buttons which are easier to fasten for patients with limited dexterity. Some items of clothing, such as the SnapBack range, open at the back using velcro, snaps or zippers, making them easier to put on while the patient remains in the bed. Some shirts will also open through the sides of the arms, so they’re incredibly easy to slip on and off.
When heading out using a wheelchair, there are adaptive footwear options that the patient can easily step into and fasten using zippers or velcro.
An overbed table is an extremely simple but just as useful piece of furniture that can make a huge difference for bed-bound patients. These tables are usually on lockable wheels so can be moved over the bed and away again easily. They provide a place for the patient to do crosswords, play games, eat meals and much more.
Many of these tables are height adjustable, and they usually can tilt to suit the user’s needs. You’ll also find that they’re either wipeable or come with a waterproof cover to keep them as hygienic as possible.
Since a lot of bed-bound patients have postural problems, this can make sitting in a comfortable and beneficial position more difficult. However, there is a range of positioning aids to improve comfort, posture, and support.
Pillows & Bed Wedges
Using pillows and wedges can dramatically improve the posture and support of a bed-bound patient, which also improves their level of comfort. A wedge pillow is primarily designed to go behind the head and upper torso either while the patient is sleeping or when they are sitting in bed. Not only can they improve posture, but they can also reduce problems with reflux and snoring.
A wedge pillow is a more affordable alternative for people who might struggle to buy an adjustable hospital bed as it largely does the same at the head end. Since they’re made from memory foam, they are more anti-slip than a regular pillow so offer better stability.
If the patient suffers from back pain, placing a wedge pillow underneath the knees can go some way in relieving this.
Bed rails serve two main purposes; to prevent the sleeper from falling out of bed and to give them something to grab onto as they move in and out of bed. Most bed rails are compatible with regular beds, but it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t suitable for hospital beds. That said, many hospital beds come with built-in rails.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that bed rails are not suitable for those with dementia. There is a high risk of these patients becoming entrapped in the rails, which could cause serious injury. The user must be cognitively able to use the rails.
There are several different types of bed rails, including portable rails that are not permanently fixed to the side of the bed. These are ideal for people who may recover from an injury or illness in the future and won’t need permanent aids. Bed handles are much smaller and are good for patients who just need something to hold onto while getting in and out of bed.
Bed Rope Ladder
Bed rope ladders can be used to help patients move independently from a sitting to a lying position. They attach to the bed and feature a series of rungs onto which the patient can hold as they move up and down.
Patients that are unable to transfer in and out of bed alone will need assistance from a caregiver. However, it can be incredibly dangerous to do this without the help of a transfer aid. Depending on the needs of the patient and the caregiver, there are several different options.
Patient lifts are essential aids for people that are unable to independently or safely transfer to and from bed. They can be used to move the patient from the bed to a chair, the toilet, a wheelchair, and many other places. However, it is important to keep in mind that there are several different options, so you should choose the right one for your needs.
- A manual patient lift features a hand crank used by the caregiver. They place the patient within the lift and are able to move them to the desired location. These are affordable options but do rely on the physical strength of the caregiver.
- Powered patient lifts offer the same transfers as a manual lift but are powered by electricity so are ideal for caregivers who cannot use a manual lift. Naturally, they are more expensive and can take up more room.
- Some people might not require full transfers but may need help moving from a sitting to a standing position. In this case, a sit-to-stand lift is the best option.
- Larger users may require a heavy-duty patient lift which is designed with a higher weight capacity for safer use. These lifts are also incredibly stable.
- Pool lifts are used to lower and raise the user in and out of swimming pools and spas. You’ll often find them at community facilities but it is also possible to purchase a portable lift for personal use.
When making a transfer between a bed and a chair, slide or transfer sheets can reduce the risk of falls. The sheet is used to create a surface over which the patient can slide without friction or pressure.
They are used by rolling the patient to one side and placing the transfer sheets underneath them. One sheet should be placed on one side, and then the patient can be rolled to the other side to fit the other sheet. Once they are back in position, the caregiver can then lift the top sheet which moves against the bottom sheet, allowing them to move the patient.
A transfer board is also used to move a patient from the bed to a chair or wheelchair. Much like slide sheets, they have a smooth surface over which to move the patient. However, they are firm and rigid and allow you to create a bridge between the two surfaces for the transfer.
It’s important to remember that a transfer board should be used for patients who have good trunk and upper limb strength. The patients will help to guide themselves along the board using several small movements as opposed to one big transfer. When using a transfer board, it is recommended to wear a gait belt which will allow your caregiver to provide you with additional support. That said, some people are able to use these boards unaided.
Bathing, toileting, and personal hygiene are things that many of us take for granted. But for bed-bound patients, these things aren’t always easy. Here are some hygiene aids that can make hygiene much more manageable.
Washable Bed Pads
Bed pads are absorbent pads that are placed on the bed and can prevent damage or moisture from things like bed baths, incontinence, and sweat. While it is possible to get disposable ones, it’s a far more eco-friendly and cost-effective option to use reusable bed pads.
Most of these products can be cleaned in the washing machine, and there are also options for chairs, car seats, and floors.
Adults urinate on average between six and seven times each day. Moving a bed-bound patient to the bathroom every time they need to go can take a lot of effort. But having a bedside commode makes things much easier as the transfer is nowhere near as far.
Commodes are essentially portable toilet chairs and are a good option for people who may be able to stand out of bed but cannot walk to the bathroom. They feature a removable receptacle that the caregiver can take away and empty and clean, ready for the next use. This is a far more dignified option for semi-mobile patients as opposed to using a bedpan.
Urinal with Lid
Portable urinals are small devices that can be used for urination while the patient remains in bed. They are ideal for people who may be left alone without a caregiver for a short period, and the lid allows them to seal the urinal so that it can be emptied and cleaned later on.
Inflatable Shampoo Basin
When it comes to washing the hair, an inflatable shampoo basin is ideal for bed-bound patients. The device attaches to the end of the bed and the patient can rest their head so that it is over the basin allowing the caregiver to wash and rinse the hair without having to struggle getting the patient into the bathroom. Since they’re inflatable, they’re very easy to store in between uses.
No Water Shampoo Caps
Washing your hair in the shower can be tricky when you’re bed-bound so a shampoo cap makes life much easier. These caps are warmed in the microwave prior to use and then placed on the head. You can then massage the shampoo in and dry the hair with a clean towel. No water is needed.
Inflatable Bathtub Shower Basin
These air-filled aids are ideal for bathing in bed and bring the shower to the bedroom. An inflatable shower basin is placed on the bed and the patient can sit or lie down inside. You also have a water bag and a portable shower hose which can be used for washing.
These kits come with everything the patient needs to take a shower in bed, including a water unit, waste hoses, and connections for different types of faucets.
Bathing wipes are a convenient way to keep the patient clean without the need to physically put them in a bathtub or shower. These thick wipes can first be warmed in a microwave and then used directly on the body.
We like to divide the body into eight zones, using one wipe for each zone and then disposing of it before moving on to the next zone. These zones are as follows:
- Face and neck
- Left arm and hand
- Right arm and hand
- Left leg and foot
- Right leg and foot
- Genitals and groin
No-Rinse Body Bath
For patients that find it difficult to get into the bathroom, a bed bath may be a more convenient option. No-rinse body bath can be diluted in warm water and applied directly to the skin without the need to rinse; simply wipe off with a dry towel. This product is gentle on the skin and effectively cleanses it for the utmost hygiene for bed-bound patients.
Moisture Barrier Cream
When you spend a long time in one position, it is likely that pressure sores may occur. However, by keeping the skin clean and dry as well as applying barrier cream, you can prevent them. One of the biggest causes of pressure ulcers is moisture, such as sweat, but a barrier cream will essentially create a barrier between moisture and the skin.
These barrier creams are also ideal for people who struggle with incontinence and use adult diapers or absorbent underwear. These things can chafe or irritate the skin, but barrier creams can prevent moisture from irritating the skin. While keeping the skin as clean as possible does help, studies have shown that this alone is not enough to combat the development of sores and chafing.