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Aids to Help Elderly People Spending Prolonged Periods in Bed

Aids to Help Elderly People Spending Prolonged Periods in Bed

Issues like arthritis, back pain and joint stiffness can lead to difficulty in getting in and out of bed. As we get older and more toilet runs are required, it can become a painful and awkward exercise. Those recovering from an operation may find themselves in a similar position.

Mobility aids for the bedroom are becoming ever more popular. Ranging from devices to help you pull yourself up to a sitting position, to more substantial installations, there are plenty to choose from. Whether it's turning over, just getting comfortable or ensuring adequate movement, there is equipment which may help.

At Essential Aids we've developed and refined our range of aids for the bedroom. Some are designed for people with specific disabilities, while others are inventive devices which improve comfort, if you find yourself spending longer than usual confined to bed.

Aids to help getting in and out of bed

Various physical conditions can make it tricky to raise oneself from lying flat to a sitting position. This might be down to a back problem, inflexibility or some other physical problem.

One of the simplest and indeed cheapest pieces of equipment at Essential Aids is the bed rope ladder, sometimes referred to as the 'jacob's ladder'. This is a short length of nylon rungs, one end of which attaches to the foot of the bed. The user is then able to pull it tight towards them and use the rungs to pull themselves upright.

Another item also made of nylon strapping is a leg lifter. It has a loop at one end which fits over the user's foot. The other end is held in the user's hand allowing them to pull it upwards, lifting the foot off the ground and the leg with it.

It is useful for people with a lack of mobility on one side to lift their bad leg up onto the bed, so they can follow it with their good one. Stroke survivors sometimes have immobility in certain parts of the body and this type of aid can be invaluable.

If you have a particularly high bed, you might use bath steps to make it easier to step down to the floor. They are available with legs or as flat 'modules' which lock together in order to create the required height.

Bed rails or bed support rails are more substantial aids for getting up from a sitting position or providing a balancing point when getting in or getting out of bed. Different models have various fixing methods, usually via clamps or straps. In the latter case, nylon strapping fits beneath the mattress and around the bed base.

Some types of rail, often described as cot sides, extend down the length of the bed and prevent someone rolling out of bed overnight. These are usually adjustable in length and sometimes in height. Most models fold or slide down out of the way so they don't obstruct the person as they access the bed.

Other kinds of support rail are much shorter and protrude upwards in a U-shape above the height of the mattress. This provides a useful support point to help with balance as you get in or out of bed. They also provide something to lean on while getting dressed.

As with bed rope ladders, rails require a certain amount of upper body strength to use effectively. This is something to bear in mind if the rail is for a particularly frail person.

Another bedroom aid which requires a degree of upper body strength is a support which attach to the ceiling. This features a strap which hangs down and a small 'trapeze' style handle on the end. Using it, the person is then able to pull themselves up into a sitting position.

A floor-to-ceiling pole is another option. As the name suggests, these extend to the full height of the room. As they are permanent installations, it's important to consider their positioning carefully before they are fitted.

Some involve a simple vertical pole, while others have an additional horizontal support bar. This swivels and can be locked into the most desirable position for the user.

As with all products designed to attach to floors, walls or ceilings, it is important that a qualified tradesman does the installation. They will have a good understanding of the surfaces and the type of fixings safest to use.

If you have a divan bed, offers numerous rails which fit beneath the base and protrude upwards. Other designs have a section which slides between the bed base and mattress, using the weight of the latter to maintain position. If you are going away, there are travel versions which fold-up, making them easier to pack.

Sitting up comfortably is another consideration if you're spending a lot of time in bed. While a combination of pillows may work, you might also consider a back rest or a foam wedge of some kind.

Essential Aids does a number of back rests for beds. These have an aluminium frame with a canvass section strung across it. There's a simple catch mechanism which allows you to set the tilt to the angle of your choice.

A bed wedge works in a similar way. These are large triangular pieces of foam, usually with a cotton cover. These have the advantage of being softer to the touch and having more solid feeling than a back-rest with a frame. Their disadvantage is that they are not adjustable in terms of angle of support.

Using a rolling table while you're in bed

Another useful aid if you're spending long periods of time in bed, is an over bed table. These give access to all sorts of things you might need, which otherwise you might require assistance to reach. Most models have caster wheels fitted to the legs which roll beneath the bed. Almost all tables at Essential Aids are height adjustable, so you can set them to the desired level.

Features which you should look out for include a raised edge running around the table top. This prevents things like pens rolling off the surface. You might also prefer an over bed table which can be set at an angle. These are great for ipads screens, books, magazines and newspapers which you might want to keep open in front of you.

The table's mechanism for height adjustment is another thing to think about. Some have push-button hydraulic controls, while others have a more basic a pin and clip set-up.

This type of equipment is also great if you need to have your meals in bed. Make sure you select one sturdy enough for this purpose and will not shake too much as you cut food. The table-tops vary in size and stability, so check the specification before making a choice.

Before selecting an over bed table, make sure you have enough space for it next to the bed, when it is pushed out of the way. If you're using a divan, measure the clearance space of the gap at floor level. It is it too small for the wheels to fit, some models are available with legs which simply slide across the floor, requiring only a small clearance gap.

Are you at risk of pressure sores?

People spending a lot of time lying in bed with no or only partial ability to reposition themselves are at risk of pressure sores. Sometimes referred to as pressure ulcers, they are lesions to the skin which if untreated can worsen, leak fluid and cause pain.

Elderly people tend to be especially vulnerable because their skin can become fragile. This means it is more liable to break if sustained pressure is applied.

Essential Aids features a range of high quality pressure relief cushions suitable for the various grades of ulcer someone may have. Some extend the length of the bed, providing relief for someone lying down.

Other types of pressure relief cushion are more conventional, designed to be placed beneth the person's posterior while they are in a sitting position.

It's important to take advice from a medical professional about the specific type of pressure relief cushion which might be suitable. Foam versions are available, as well as gel filled and inflatable models, all of which have their advantages depending on your situation.

Smaller pads, usually made either rom foam or fleecy materials are great for protecting boney parts of the body. These areas can be especially prone to pressure sores so can benefit from preventative attention.

When using these types of protectors, make sure they do not create any additional pressure themselves. Again, a medical professional should be able to give you advice specific to your situation.

It's good to talk!

Whether it's you or someone you care for who might require extra equipment for the bedroom, it's vital to have an open mind. At Essential Aids, we are lucky to have an ever expanding range of living aids for the bedroom, with lots of options to choose from.

Discussion with your GP or occupational therapist is a great starting point to get the right advice about aids which might be appropriate for you. They may recommend a piece of equipment you have never heard of, but which ultimately makes a huge difference to your daily routine.

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Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally Madeley-Carr, OT

Sally qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1996 and is a well-respected professional in the field of rehabilitation equipment and living aids. She has worked in private practice and within the NHS, developing a broad experience with adults and children. Click here for Sally's registration with the Health and Care Professions Council. The HCPC regulates health, psychological and social work professionals in the UK.

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