It’s an alarming statistic, but each year, 2.5 million patients are treated for bedsores in the United States. An air mattress for hospital bed ridden patients could be the best tool in the fight to prevent and treat bedsores. Caused by low blood circulation and infrequent movement, bedsores are the bane of many caregivers, and even more so for the patient.
We do a lot to prevent bedsores in our nursing home, but from time to time they fester their ugly heads. It’s a losing battle, but we’re always in the trenches trying to keep them at bay.
The issue with bedsores is they can be hard to notice at first. The first warning sign is a red mark, just the type you had on your face when you fell asleep in history class.
At this point, repositioning your patient should squash the bedsore, but those tricky devils start inside the body, so it’s hard to see if the damage has already been done.
We don’t have many air mattresses in our nursing home because we have staff on duty that reposition residents at least every 2 hours. This is mandated by law.
Unfortunately, if you’re taking care of someone by yourself, it can be very difficult to be available every 2 hours to roll the person you’re caring for, especially during the night.
An air mattress shouldn’t be a complete replacement for repositioning your patient, but it will add extra protection and help promote blood circulation.
Of course, we have to talk about how to find the best air mattresses for hospital bed so you can make sure that you’re not picking out just anything. Throughout this article we’re going to talk about the top 5 products that you should consider (and that we consider too).
How Do Air Mattresses Prevent Bedsores?
Have you ever thought about how these mattresses really work? We all hear about how an air mattress is a great tool to protect patients from bedsores but have you ever really looked at just how that works? Have you ever paid attention to why that’s so well known? We’re going to take a look at what it is about an air mattress that can actually help your patient and how you can ensure that your patients are getting the best air mattress to provide the best care.
First, the most important thing is to note that all air mattresses are not the same. This means that the air mattresses you hear about being used to prevent bed sores are not the same ones that you see on TV or in your regular store for $20. When you’re getting an air mattress for a medical purpose you need a higher quality product that’s designed to actually provide support and the right level of pressure for a patient who is otherwise at risk for bed sores, pressure ulcers or other pain points as a result of not moving.
When you use a proper air mattress, designed for medical purposes, you’re actually getting something that reduces skin shear by reducing the level of friction that occurs between the patient and the bed. These mattresses also have different sections or air pockets that provide support in different areas of the body. There are also holes and gaps throughout that allow for better air flow, decreasing the amount of moisture and making it safer for your patient to remain in their bed for extended periods of time.
These types of mattresses primarily work because they have what’s called alternating pressure. What this means is that they not only are filled with air, which decreases the level of pressure on the entire body as the patient lies in the bed, but also the air moves. The air will be focused and more intense in one area of the body for a period of time and then will move to a different area of the body. By doing this, the patient is never truly lying in the same place for more than 10 – 25 minutes (depending on the settings of the specific mattress).
The movement of the air allows for less pressure on the joints and the fragile areas of the patients body. This movement also ensures that the patient is able to feel more comfortable. Because there is no pressure in one spot for very long the mattress not only reduces the risk of the patient developing bed sores in the first place but also helps to heal pressure ulcers, bed sores and more that have already started. Even severe bed sores can be healed through the use of these types of air mattresses. The patient doesn’t need to do anything and the system runs on a pump so the caregiver or medical professional does not need to intervene either.
Repositioning Your Patients
Are you ready to actually move your patient around while in their hospital bed? If this is the case then you’re going to need the right tools with which to do it. It’s actually not as difficult as you might think, but it’s going to be a whole lot easier if you know the things that are necessary. For the most part, you’re going to need a sheet that can be placed under the patient, prior to when you actually need to move them. This is going to make the whole process simple, especially if you have a second caregiver to assist.
When repositioning the patient with a sheet under them you and a second caregiver need only stand on each side and use the sheet to move the patient as needed. The sheet can be picked up easily, picking up the patient as well. From there, it (and the patient) can be moved from one side to the other or raised up or down in the bed. This allows the patient to become more comfortable in whatever position they want, even if they are not capable of moving themselves into the position.
A second caregiver can also help with lifting the patient, if needed. If there is no sheet to use as a transfer pad it may be necessary to hold onto the patient directly and move them where they need to be. This could encompass rolling the patient to one side or the other or actually raising them up or down in the bed. When moving them side to side a single caregiver may be able to provide enough support to pull the patient toward them (never push them away from you) and get them onto their side.
When it comes to raising or lowering the patient two caregivers are necessary. They would each stand on one side of the patient and would take hold of the upper arms of the patient, bracing themselves fully with their feet shoulder width apart. From there, you would use the patient’s arms to lift them and pull them carefully up the bed so that they can be put into the position that they prefer. If you need to lower the patient you can repeat the process in the opposite direction. It is important to watch for the rest of the patients’ body and to make sure they don’t rub against the bed when they are being moved.
If you do not have a second caregiver and the patient is not able to assist you may need to lift the patient using a different method of support. Using a sheet underneath them will still be a good way to go, however this sheet would need to be one that can be attached to a full body lift. These are generally not able to be kept under the patient unless that particular patient needs to be moved frequently. This means you may need to roll the patient from one side to the other in order to get the sheet for the full body lift under them.
Once you have them situated on the sheet for the full body lift you are able to attach the sling (as it’s called) to the lift itself. This then allows you the ability to move the patient however they need to be moved. While this is typically not going to be used to reposition a patient within their own bed it can be, if necessary. For example, if the caregiver is not capable of lifting the patient themselves in a safe manner and if a second caregiver is not available to aid with the lift or use of a transfer sheet, it may be the only option.
No matter how you are actually going to reposition the patient it’s important that you know what they’re actually looking for first. Make sure you understand the type of positioning that the patient is looking for and that you know where they would like to be when you are done. This allows you to reposition them properly the first time and means that you shouldn’t have to worry about having to move them again once you thought you had them right.
Choosing the Best Air Mattress for Hospital Bed
When it comes to actually choosing the mattress that you need for your home or facility there are several different things you absolutely need to look at closer. We’re going to look at the different features that are going to help you choose a new air mattress. That way, if you’re not so sure about jumping right in with our ‘in a hurry’ pick you can take a look at some of the others we have or start doing a little research entirely on your own. This is what you need to know.
First, what size is the mattress that you’re looking at? Chances are you already have a bed, right? So you want to make sure that the mattress you choose is going to fit that bed. If you don’t have a bed you want to make sure you still get a convenient size mattress so you can find a bed that it’s going to fit. The size of the mattress that you’re looking at should be very well marked and will generally be a twin or twin XL. These are the most common sizes for most hospital beds and these mattresses are primarily designed to work with them.
If you are looking for something larger, for example for home use, there are a few options available in other sizes. You may also want to look at combining more than one mattress together to create a larger surface for patients who need or prefer a larger surface. Mattresses are generally designed for use by patients who are unable to move around and therefore do not require a larger space to sleep in.
Alternating Pressure Settings
Next, look at the alternating pressure settings that are available. There are generally different levels of settings, which means that the bed will alternate at different intervals depending on what you select. Some will give you only a single option, such as 10 minute intervals. Others will let you select from several different options, such as 10, 15, 20 and 25 minute intervals (as with several of the options we have below). If you can, an air mattress with multiple pressure settings gives you more freedom for different patients.
Some patients may require or prefer more frequent or less frequent pressure adjustments. For patients who are ambulatory or at least partially ambulatory there is less need for pressure changes because they are able to move for themselves as well. Patients who are entirely non-ambulatory or who already have severe bed sores may need more frequent pressure changes to ensure healing or to make sure that they are more comfortable in their bed.
Does the air mattress that you’re looking at have a static mode? This means can you stop the alternating pressure if you want to? While this may not seem important in a hospital setting or for a patient who needs assistance because of bed sores, there are situations where they may not need the pressure. If the patient is ambulatory and attempting to get out of bed the movement of the mattress can decrease support. When a patient is not in the bed or when a fully ambulatory patient is using the bed there may be no need for the alternating pressure either. In these situations it’s a good idea to have the static mode available.
Some of these air mattresses even have automatic settings that are designed to turn the static mode off if too much time has passed. This ensures that the patient is getting the movement that they need as a patient in a facility setting is to be moved at least every 2 hours in order to protect them from getting bed sores. These automatic settings make it easier on nursing and other medical staff who would otherwise need to monitor the bed settings more closely.
What is the overall weight capacity of the bed? Is it designed for bariatric patients or for smaller patients? Does it have a high weight limit or does it have a moderate or low limit? You want something that will support any of your patients, so choose an air mattress that is designed for the highest weight limit you believe you could have in your facility. This ensures that your patients will all get the same level of support and care when they are staying in your facility.
A mattress that is not designed for the weight of your patient may not work properly. This means that it may not be able to push the air through in the same way that it is supposed to and therefore would not provide the same level of support that the patient needs. This type of air mattress would the not be able to protect the patient from pressure sores or to help them heal from any type of bed sores. A heavier duty mattress would be able to take care of this for any patient.
What is the level of air pressure that is actually put into the mattress? You want something that is going to be firm but you may want something that can be adjusted. Not all air mattresses allow you to have full control over the amount of air that is put into them. You may want to look at the options and see if there is an automatic fill or if you have the ability to adjust and choose just the right balance. This may be different for different patients in order to keep them comfortable and that’s an important reason for you to look at what level you’re going to get.
With a standard air mattress (the type you purchase in any store in your neighborhood) you are able to adjust the level of fill however you prefer by adding or taking out air as you want. Not all medical air mattresses are designed in the same way and you may not be able to have full autonomy over just how firm the mattress is. This is something that the patient may not be as happy about, however it is going to make sure they are safer.
How loud is the pump when it’s running? If you have a low air loss mattress the pump is going to be running at all times and you want to be sure that your patient can sleep with the noise. Not only that but you want other patients around them to be able to sleep or for anyone to be able to carry on a conversation. All of these things are going to be hindered if the air pump is operating at too high of a volume.
Low Air Loss
If you haven’t heard of it before this is actually a very important feature for any air mattress that you’re using for medical purposes. You want to make sure that it’s not going to lose air while it’s being used. Any air mattress is going to slowly start to deflate over time. This is because the seal, where the air mattress is filled, is not completely airtight. If you fill it up entirely and leave the mattress alone you’ll eventually see that it starts to sag and becomes less firm. That’s why low air loss is important because with this feature the pump runs continuously at a low level, replacing the air that’s being lost through this process.
Where it’s Used
Another important feature to consider is where you’re using the air mattress. Are you going to use it in a hospital or other medical facility setting? Are you going to use it in your own personal home? Wherever you decide to use it is going to be entirely up to you, but you want to make sure that you have a mattress that’s going to fit for the bed that you have as well. If you’re using it in a home setting this might be different from what you would find in a hospital setting. The beds are likely different and this could affect how the air mattress fits.
Make sure you pay attention to how the air mattress can be attached (if at all) to the bed you currently have and how it’s going to work for the patient in their own home. If you have a facility you can choose a bed specifically to work with the air mattress (or vice versa) more easily than when trying to work with a standard home bed.
There are going to be several air compartments to your air mattress (at least if you have a good one). But you want to look at just how those air compartments are actually attached. You don’t want compartments that are static, meaning that they can’t be removed. Instead, you want something that has multiple different compartments and each one can be separately taken off the mattress itself and replaced with a new one. That way, if something goes wrong with a single compartment it doesn’t mean the entire mattress needs to be replaced.
Many air mattresses that are designed for medical purposes are starting to have these types of air compartments because it makes things easier on the manufacturer as well. Still, you’ll want to double-check before you decide on the mattress that you want to get. You could end up with something that doesn’t work the way you thought and that could mean a very expensive fix if just one of the compartments fails. You may need to purchase an entirely new mattress.
Does the mattress you’re looking at have a cover to go over it? You’re definitely going to want one and while most mattresses will come with some type of cover, not all of them will. You want to make sure that you have something that’s fully waterproof as well. This takes care of the cleaning process, especially if you have patients who may have accidents or if something might get spilled on the mattress (very likely in a hospital setting where patients are eating in their beds). It’s important to have a quality cover that will also protect against bacteria and skin shearing.
The 5 Best Air Mattresses for Hospital Beds
When it comes down to it, now that we’ve taken a closer look at the different features you should consider when it comes to choosing the best air mattresses for hospital beds, you’re ready to take a look at our favorites. These ones are presented in no particular order, but each one is going to provide you with a great quality product that is designed to protect your patients.
With several different sizes available, and different designs as well, you want to make sure you’re choosing one that works for you. Consider the features that we talked about and then take a closer look at each of these to see what’s most important to you.
Available in 3 different sizes from 36” to 48” the Medacure mattress even comes with built in rails to provide even more protection for your patient. Settings are available at 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes, so you can choose the right alternating pressure for your particular patient. Plus, the pump runs at a whisper quiet level, making it more convenient for a patient who is trying to sleep (and anyone sleeping around them). Whether you use it as a static air mattress or an alternating pressure one, it provides just the right level of firmness as well.
The unit itself has a hospital grade cover that’s made with nylon, making it water resistant and comfortable for the patient. Not only that but it has different comfort levels, an option for alternating or static pressure and inflates in just a few minutes. You’ll also be able to attach this mattress to a standard hospital bed or you can attach it to most standard bed frames and that includes the pump itself. Overall, you’re going to have a system that can keep your patient comfortable while also being easy for any of your medical staff to operate as needed.
- Adjustable comfort levels
- Alternating pressure at different time settings
- Automatic inflation to optimum firmness
- Pressure range can be adjusted based on patient weight
- Replaceable air cells
- Weight capacity up to 1,000 lbs.
- Pump can be somewhat large attached to bed
- Static setting holds for only 2 hours
- High price point for some needs
The MedMattress is designed to help relieve not just bed sores but pressure ulcers and other pressure points as well. In fact, it has a total of 18 different laser holes that are ideally placed to help keep every patient cool and dry while they are lying in bed. This mattress also has a waterproof cover that’s made with nylon to make it even more comfortable. When you’re moving a patient from this bed you can just remove the nylon cover for cleaning and you can easily wipe it down periodically to keep it ready for your current patient.
What’s even better about this one is that it has antimicrobial and antifungal properties as well as being considered non-shear for your skin. The pump is designed to be extremely quiet and it has three different alarms with both audible and visual settings. These are for low pressure, power failure and alternating failure. When you are ready to set up the system it can be alternated at 10, 15, 20 or 25 minutes or can be set to static mode. That way, you can use it for patients that are mobile and able to move around themselves and for those who need extra support.
- 2 year non-prorated warranty for both mattress and cover
- Automatic inflation to optimum firmness
- Designed for pressure sores, ulcers and pressure points
- Supports up to 450 lbs.
- Designed to hold air even in the event of a power outage
- Support and alternation is customizable for each patient
- Lower weight limit than some options
- Static mode does not automatically end
- Pump is not as quiet as some
With the Drive Medical mattress you’re going to have an 8” thick mattress that offers alternating pressure as well as a static mode. Even better ,the 20 air bladders are actually all separate, which means they can be removed independently and replaced as needed. When you’re ready to inflate or deflate this mattress it works fast and holds the ideal level of firmness. That’s especially important when it comes to your patients who are unable to move around on their own and need a little extra support.
The pillow function also means that the top 3 cells are designed to support the patients head and pillow. This function keeps those cells from ever adjusting, keeping them static to support a more comfortable sleeping position. With the nylon cover you’ll have something easy to clean, low-shear and even vapor permeable. That means your patients aren’t going to get overheated and they’re not going to have a problem feeling comfortable throughout the night. This mattress takes care of absolutely everything.
- Whisper quiet pump to enable patients and others to sleep easily
- Spring lining for air tubes to maintain consistent air flow
- Offers alternating pressure setting as well as static setting
- Air bladders are designed separately so they are replaceable independently
- LED and audible alarms for performance information
- Comfortable and easy for patients to use
- Weight support is lower than most
- Only one cycle setting
- Bladders are not always properly sealed
The Medical MedAir mattress is actually unique because it’s collapsible and folds down small when you’re not using it. It also has a digital remote that allows you to inflate it to the right setting in no time. Designed with a nylon cover for added waterproofing and comfort for the patient, this particular mattress system also has a quilted surface at the top to increase softness. Add in the fact that the pump is super heavy duty and you’re going to have no problem getting this system to work for you.
Designed to help with pressure ulcers in any setting, whether a hospital, a long term facility or your own home, this mattress has a static mode and alternating pressure mode. Even more, the alternating pressure mode will reactivate after 2 hours if the static mode is left on. The whole unit even has a weight capacity of up to 450 pounds and it offers 4 different settings when it comes to just how fast you want it to alternate. You can choose between 10, 15, 20 or 25 minute cycles to fit your patients’ needs.
- Static mode automatically switches to alternating after 2 hours
- 4 different cycle time options
- Unit folds down for easy storage
- Offers full 1 year replacement warranty for mattress and pump
- Easy to interact with customer service
- Designed for patient comfort even for those with mobility issues
- Weight support is lower than some
- Control panel does not include instruction manual
- Takes 30+ minutes to inflate fully
The Invacare MicroAIR mattress is designed to give you the alternating pressure that you would expect with one of 3 different weight limits. You can choose between a 350, 500 and 600 pound weight capacity to accommodate your patient. With any of them you’ll have 3-in-1 alternating fluctuation, which means you’ll have support for a total of 2/3 of your body at any one time. Not only that but you can keep it up and running even when the power goes out in your facility.
With this mattress you get maximum inflation in just a few seconds and the whole thing is made with a nylon urethane to make it easy to clean. Your patients won’t have to worry about bacteria either, because this material is resistant to it. The nylon cover over this material gives a non-slip base, reduces shear and friction and also increases moisture protection for your patient. Add in the heel pressure feature to keep added pressure off the sensitive areas of your feet and you’re ready to go.
- Several weight capacity options
- Supports 2/3 of the body at any time
- Inflates in seconds for immediate use
- Nylon cover is moisture resistant as well as bacteria resistant
- Keeps pressure off the heels
- Able to hold pressure even when there is a loss of power
- Single pressure alternation setting
- No specialty feature for head support
- Pump can be somewhat loud
When it comes down to it, you can’t go wrong with any of these alternating pressure mattresses. They really are the best options for an air mattress for hospital beds. Now, we definitely like the Medical MedAir Low Air Loss Mattress best, but it’s going to be up to you which one works out the best for your patient. Whether you’re picking out a mattress for use in a hospital setting or in a long-term care setting or even in the patients own home, you want something that you can count on to be comfortable and to provide them the support they need. Luckily, any of these 5 mattresses are going to do that. And they’re going to make sure the patient isn’t going to suffer from bed sores, pressure ulcers and other pain from pressure points.