AT for Bed Rest

Products that can help us get comfortable when we need to most.

At one point or another, most of us will spend a significant amount of time in bed. It may be a temporary or permanent disability. It may be an illness. It may be an at-risk pregnancy. It may be a hospice situation.

Recently I visited a family member new to an assisted living residence. I was surprised at the inadequacy of her bedding for her circumstances and I was astonished at how long it took me to notice. This, along with my own experience with chronic low back pain, inspires this post.

Here are 10 product types to consider for getting comfortable, avoiding pressure injury and reducing anxiety:

One: Bed Wedges

Foam wedge with cover. Wedge separates into two parts for customizing.
Luxelift Bed Wedge

Bed wedges are great for reducing acid reflux, edema in the legs, and assistance propping upright.

Two: Knee Pillows

Contoured knee pillow made of wrapped firm foam
Luna Knee Pillow

Knee pillows are scalloped to cradle joints and reduce pressure. They are helpful for side sleepers. One of my family members with arthritis uses his from bed to recliner in a variety of creative positions.

Three: Foam Mattress Toppers

A hand lifts the corner of a large piece of textured foam.
Authentic Comfort 2-inch Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers reduce pressure, overall, when a mattress feels too firm. Options include memory foam, egg-crate foam, and latex of different thicknesses.

Four: Alternating Pressure Mattress Systems

Alternating pressure mattress topper installed on a hospital bed.
Meridian Alternating Pressure Mattress

These range from affordable alternating pressure mattress toppers to more elaborate professional systems. They are powered to continuously redistribute pressure via air cells that inflate and deflate in an alternating pattern beneath the user. Hospice can supply one with a hospital bed. However, these can make transferring in and out of bed more challenging (best to consult a physical therapist for an evaluation).

Five: Body Pillows

Long narrow quilted pillow with zippered pouch and label with "Coop" brand.

Consumer-grade body pillows provide support for side sleepers and may help reduce anxiety.

Six: Specialized Positioning Systems

A girl is supported on her side in bed with a body-length wedge beneath a mat with handles.
A side-positioning system

Body positioning systems are especially useful for individuals with paralysis to help avoid pressure injuries or to help injuries heal.

Seven: Weighted Blankets

A folded comforter.
Linenspa Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets can help some people reduce anxiety (or cause others to feel trapped; be cautious!) Aim for purchasing a blanket that weighs no more than 10% of the user’s body weight. The price of these has dropped significantly in the last two years and there are many more on the market as awareness of this calming strategy grows.

Eight: Fluidized Positioners

A person with a stethoscope wedges a moldable plastic-like material under a side sleeper.

Fluidized positioners are moldable (like clay) to take any shape and provide highly customized support. A family member of mine used one following hip surgery to get comfortable in a variety of critical ways. Ours came with the Tortoise Bed Turning and Positioning System provided by the hospital, a game-changer for both caregiver and patient. The bed turning mat has an air pocket to help prevent pressure injury and makes repositioning easy on the caregiver while preventing skin damage from friction and shear.

Nine: Customized Latex Mattress

Cross-section of FloBed vZone layer with woman lying on mattress. Shows 6 sections from feet to head ranging from extra firm to soft.

There are many latex mattresses on the market. The FloBed vZone allows for a high level of customization. Choose the firmness desired for each zone of your body: head, shoulder, back, hips, legs and feet. Zone segments allow for accommodating bodies of all shapes and sizes and latex sections may be swapped out to allow for changes (as with pregnancy). Each half of a bed may be individually customized.

Ten: Rotating Bed

Shows cross section of bed in a left rotation and right rotation position
The Freedom Bed

The Freedom Bed is a high-tech solution for preventing pressure injury and other secondary conditions common to persons with paraplegia and quadriplegia. The bed gently turns the user during the night to assure even distribution of pressure. The device is computer-controlled and programmable.

Remember to shop around! Specialized equipment sites can be expensive. Make sure to check a variety of consumer marketplaces. A recent visit to eBay displayed new brand-name hospital bed tables at one-third the cost found elsewhere.