How to choose a hospital bed for home care

Nobody expects to require a hospital bed

Llewellyn did not expect to be admitted to the hospital. 4 weeks ago, he was eating dinner when he felt chest tightness and fainted. His wife called the ambulance; Llewellyn was transported to the hospital and diagnosed with a mild heart attack. Having stayed at the hospital for 2 weeks, he was released and went home. However, home was a different place now, mainly because Llewellyn himself was different.

During 2 weeks of mostly laying in bed at the hospital, Llewellyn lost much of his strength. His heart attack also weakened him. Getting in and out of bed became a challenge. Many activities of daily living became difficult as well - for example, bathing, toileting, eating and reading.

Llewellyn has lost some mobility, and his risk of pressure ulcers has risen. At the same time, he is at risk of falling out of bed due to occasionally becoming disoriented. Llewellyn's wife is mentally and physically tired due to caring for Llewellyn.

Does Llewellyn need a new bed, and what kind of bed should it be?

Reasons to get a hospital bed

Hospital beds create a safe, empowering and comfortable environment for a person to rest, recover, care for themselves as well as receive care at home. Unlike home beds available at furniture stores, a hospital bed offers greater support, pressure management, security and flexibility in positioning. 

Bed types

  • Operation - hospital bed functions can include raising and lowering the head and/or the foot of the bed and adjusting the bed height. A bed could be manual, semi-electric (only the head and the foot controls are powered) or full electric (the head and the foot controls plus the bed height control are powered). We suggest always using a full electric bed, if possible.
  • Size and weight capacity - standard beds usually measure 36" x 80" and support up to 450 lbs. Bariatric beds could measure up to 48 inches wide and some could support up to 1000 lbs.
  • Additional functions - Trendelenburg and reverse Trendelenburg positions tilt the bed to lower or raise the head with respect to the feet, correspondingly. A high/low bed can be lowered to within 7-8 inches off the ground and raised all the way to the caregiver's waist height. A cardiac chair position elevates the patient from the waist up without requiring the patient to move very much; this helps patients recover from heart surgery and respiratory illnesses.

Miscellaneous features

  • Side rails help keep users from falling out of bed, while providing support as they move in and out of the bed. They can extend down the full length of the bed, or are available in half-length for less coverage.
  • A medical-grade mattress is just as important as the bed. Foam mattresses are the standard now, and memory foam is an improvement over regular foam. An air mattress can help prevent pressure ulcers even in clients who have little to no mobility.

Environmental considerations

  • Home decor - standard hospital beds tend to look clinical, and premium hospital beds tend to "fit in" better with normal household ambiance. Many clients prefer home care to facility care precisely due to the familiar, welcoming environment oft heir own home; a hospital bed should not detract from that feeling.
  • Heat and humidity - given that we live in Bermuda, a mattress that provides good air flow is important, particularly during the hot summer months. Low air loss mattresses are particularly well suited for providing good air flow, as well as excellent pressure management. 
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