Should we get my mother a hospital bed?

Susan sambuceti asked...

My mother's primary caregiver (nurse) has asked my brother and I to get my mother a hospital bed. The nurse says this will allow my mother to be more comfortable and sit up in bed more easily to watch TV. Her weekend caregiver disagrees. My brother and I are afraid that if we get my mom a hospital bed, she will never get out of bed. Currently, she is completely confined to a wheelchair, so she moves from her bed to the wheelchair and back again. The only exercise she gets is moving from one location to another. Any advice?

Expert Answer

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

At the end of life, a hospital bed is usually needed if the patient is bedridden. A caregiver could cause serious damage to her back by trying to transfer the patient from the height of a regular bed. Or she might injure the elder. Also, it is easier to adjust the bed so pressure points from staying in the same position don't develop into bedsores. For others, lying in bed to watch t.v. day and night causes problems with body and mind.

If your mother has collapsed into bed to watch television, it might be better to use the desire to watch t.v. as a carrot to get her out of bed. Do you need a plan of care? She could watch while sitting in a regular chair in the living room. After watching a program, the t.v. could be turned off. Discuss the program. Did she like it or not? "Now that the program is over lets take a walk to the kitchen for a cup of tea." After tea your mother could get dressed before the next program starts. Does your mother get dressed? If not she should at least have her personal care routine and a clean nightie and robe. If this tires her, she could rest for awhile and watch the t.v. while the nurse prepares her lunch. Create a simple routine to bring discipline into an elder's life. It brings cheer and a feeling of worth. But, there could be another issue. If your primary caregiver works 24 hours a day 5 days a week, she might be too exhausted, especially if your mother needs help at night. Perhaps you also need a personal care attendant for a couple of hours a day, so the primary caregiver can rest for while or take a walk.

Find out what is really needed. It might be a hospital bed.It might be a perked up way of life. Maybe it is both. Trust yourself to decide. And if you feel that you can't, try to get a consultation from a geriatric care manager. Or visit the rehabilitation deparatment of a skilled nursing facility so you can get an idea of what your dear mother might be able to do.