When most people think of a hospital bed, they imagine the bulky, white, convoluted contraption often found in hospital rooms. However, hospital beds don’t have a set definition, and come in many shapes, sizes and types for clinical and in-home settings. If you are in a position to purchase a hospital bed for the home, but you are not sure where to start, the following information can help you to find the right hospital bed to suit you, but also to ensure that you and your patient will be able to use the medical bed safely and efficiently.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) note that about 2.5 million hospital beds are in use today. The CDRH regulates hospital beds as medical devices, as many can be quite complex. As a result, hospital beds are often available through a prescription only, which may dictate what type of hospital bed you will purchase. Hospital beds are different from regular beds because they help healthcare providers, including family members, carry out a number of medical-related functions. Hospital beds can:
- Recline and incline to help patients get upright to take medications or eat with little to no use of their own body strength, or to simply get more comfortable.
- Elevate to keep healthcare providers from constantly bending and stooping to provide care.
- Include railings to keep patients from rolling out and incurring injury.
- Offer support with trapeze fixtures and other items to help the patient pull themselves up.
Hospital beds can also accommodate a wide variety of other functions, depending on the needs of the patient and their condition.
With all of the benefits of a hospital bed also come specific risks. Some of the risks of owning and/or misusing a hospital bed include:
- Patient entrapment or entanglement in a hospital bed itself or fixtures attached to it. While not a common occurrence, it can lead to injury, strangulation or even death, and usually effects confused or disoriented elderly patients.
- Fires started in or around medical beds due to electrical wiring, clutter or lack of maintenance.
- Injury from misuse of the hospital bed and/or its parts.
Entrapment, fire and injury from hospital beds are often easily avoided. Some tips for mitigating these risks include the following:
- Only use hospital beds and equipment that are meant for that purpose. You cannot just use any sheets or bed rails on hospital beds, as this can increase the risk for entrapment.
- Become familiar with the common “entrapment zones” of a hospital bed:
- Within the rail.
- The space around the rail, including under the rail, between rail supports, at the ends of the rail or next to a single rail support.
- Between the rail and mattress.
- Between split rails.
- The space between the rail and the footboard or headboard, including the flat surface and edges of each board.
- Inspect wires and cords attached to and near the hospital bed for signs of wear such as fraying or strained wires.
- Avoid connecting the hospital bed’s power cord to a multi-strip power outlet or an extension cord.
- Keep the bed motor clean by keeping floors and surfaces free from dust, lint, dirt and debris.
- Keep the hospital bed’s control panel clean and covered to avoid infiltration of liquids or condensation due to moist atmospheres (such as those created by humidifiers).
- Check the hospital bed and related electrical equipment for signs of overheating or physical damage.
- Avoid hanging or draping clothes and linens near power outlets.
Preventing Other Injuries
- Be cautious around motors and items with moving parts.
- Ensure that each component fits together properly, including:
- Bed frame
- Other accessories
Once you’ve become familiar with the basic safety measures for using a hospital bed, you can spend some time thoughtfully choosing the right bed for you. Though hospital beds are often prescribed, there are still a number of specifications to choose from. Different types of hospital beds can be generally categorized in three ways:
- Full-electric Hospital Beds: These medical hospital beds enable the patient to lower the head and foot section simultaneously or separately with the use of a single hand control. These are the hospital beds most commonly found in clinical facilities. They are the most expensive type of hospital bed, but also the most convenient.
The Invacare Bariatric Hospital Bed is one of the higher-end examples of a fully electric bed. When purchased in a package, this bed features a foam mattress, steel frame, matching bed rails, 750 lb capacity and up to a 29 inch maximum elevated height. Perfect for accommodating high turnover in professional environments, this bed provides for the comfort and convenience of both the patient and the caregiver.
- Semi-electric Hospital Beds: A semi-electric hospital bed features some electric assistance in addition to a hand crank to raise and lower different sections of the bed. Semi-electric hospital beds have a mid-level price range.
The Invacare Semi-Electric Bed is an example of this type of hospital bed. Invacare has two Semi-Electric Hospital Beds–the Semi-Electric Bed and the Semi-Electric Value Care Bed. A single crank at the foot of the bed allows a caregiver to raise or lower the patient while they are still in bed, and the compact motor system provides assistance to limit strain.
- Manual Hospital Beds: A manual hospital bed raises and lowers by hand crank alone. These are typically the most affordable kind of hospital bed, though not significantly more so than a semi-electric bed.
Like the semi-electric bed, the Invacare Manual Bed features a single crank at the footboard to raise and lower the head and foot of the bed, and interchangeable headboards for maximum usability and storage. The Invacare Manual Bed can be purchased for less than $500.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Hospital Bed Safety