The short answer is to prevent or help heal decubitus ulcers, commonly called 'bedsores' or 'pressure sores' and to provide burn patients, patients with Multiple Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, fibromyalgia, etc. with some comfort. Patients at risk for bedsores are those that are bedridden, have moist skin from fever, and those that suffer from incontinence, perspiration, anemias, renal failure, osteoarthritis, dehydration, and a decreased nutritional intake.
If the patient is bedridden, sensitive body parts can be protected by:
- Sheepskin pads.
- Special cushions placed on top of a mattress.
- A water-filled mattress.
- A variable-pressure mattress whose sections can be individually inflated or deflated to redistribute pressure.
A hospital bed can make a big difference in comfort for ALS patients. These beds have adjustments for raising and lowering both the head and the foot sections. Sleeping with the head raised 10-40 degrees allows for easier breathing. Sleeping with the legs raised slightly will help reduce the common problem of swollen feet. There are three types of hospital beds: manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic. A semi-automatic model with electrical controls to raise and lower the head and the foot sections is the most appropriate type for an ALS patient. A fully automatic bed which will also raise and lower the entire bed to facilitate transfers and aid caregivers is nice but not necessary. Hospital beds should be ordered with half linked side rails that can be raised or lowered as desired. These give the patient something to grab when transferring and turning or repositioning. Insurance companies will usually cover the cost of a semi-automatic hospital bed. In most cases, the beds are provided on a rental basis.
Mattress overlays are commonly used to help burn victims but they work well also for people like us who have difficult turning at night. And probably the best thing about them is that they don't cost and arm and a leg.
Damage to the skin and soft tissues following prolonged decubitus of the patient in a conventional bed is known to be caused by excessive pressure of the skeleton on the soft parts, with values 4-5 times as high as that of the pressure within the capillaries, which is about 26 mm Hg. If these local conditions persist, the collapse of the capillaries and the veins leads to functional circulatory disturbances, at first transitory but later permanent, followed by organic damage with cutaneous necrosis spreading to the subcutaneous tissue, the fascia, the muscles and the bones. Further damage is caused by friction between skin and bedsheet due to gravitational slipping and by imperfect cutaneous evaporation at the pressure points.
Find an appropriate Alternating Pressure Mattress for you or your patient.