We often encounter the term “bed rest” when we get diseases like the flu. However, while the flu often calls for bed rest that lasts for 3 to 7 days, some conditions have patients staying in bed for a period of months — in worse scenarios, patients are sometimes confined in their beds for years.
Comfort is an utmost necessity for prolonged bed rest. Being comfortable in this kind of situation helps maintain a positive outlook for the patient, as well as prevents further health concerns like pressure ulcers (more commonly known as bed sores) and gastrointestinal problems.
Luckily, there are several options in the market that are especially made to accommodate patients assigned to prolonged bed rest.
As the name implies, an alternating pressure mattress constantly switches pressure points on the body to promote circulation. These mattresses have rows of air bubbles, which inflate and deflate alternately, so that the pressure on different points of the body continuously changes, thus preventing bed sores.
The usual cycle time is about 10 minutes from head to foot, although some units can be programmed to have longer intervals. Patients rarely feel this alternating inflation and deflation of the air bubbles since the process happens slowly.
Some models have both alternating pressure and low-air-loss modes in one mattress system, though these tend to be more expensive than single-mode mattresses.
- Low air loss mattress
A low air loss mattress has air cells, similar to an alternating pressure mattress. But while an alternating pressure mattress has an inflate-deflate cycle, a low air loss mattress has small laser-made holes on its surface that continuously blow 100 to 150 liters of air per minute. This makes the patient float slightly, while air continues to circulate across the skin. This helps maintain the ideal skin temperature. The limited contact with the mattress’ surface also helps wick away moisture from the skin to prevent skin breakdown.
- Pressure redistribution mattress
These mattresses are usually made of high-density, highly resilient materials such as viscoelastic foam or “memory foam”. Some models use gels or air chambers, or a combination of both. Whichever material is used, pressure redistribution mattresses work by creating a more malleable sleeping surface.
As the foam follows the shape of the body of the person laying on it, the corresponding pressure is distributed evenly. This helps relieve pressure, especially on the heavier, bonier parts of the body like the head and neck, elbows, hips, and knees.
To maximize the effect of pressure redistribution, however, the patient still needs to be regularly rotated in bed by a professional caregiver.
- Lateral rotation mattress
A lateral rotation mattress is also called a turning mattress due to its primary function: it rotates or turns the patient from side to side to cyclically change the pressure points on the body. This is accomplished through changing the air pressure in the mattress, which creates an angled plane to turn the body. The turning cycles can usually be programmed for 10 to 60 minutes, with 10-minute intervals, depending on the model.
This kind of mattress is also often coupled with either a low air loss or alternating pressure feature, sometimes even both.
A lateral rotation mattress has an added benefit of preventing pulmonary complication by improving blood circulation. It also helps prevent upset stomachs in patients because the turning motion stimulates the gastrointestinal tract as well.
Prolonged bed rest is not an ideal situation for anybody, but with the latest technologies, patients can be made as comfortable as possible, on their way to healing and complete recovery.