Buyer’s Guide to Adjustable beds
Adjustable beds are hospital beds that are designed to support people with limited mobility or health issues. They have hinges that move the base of the bed into different positions, often electronically through the use of a hand-operated control. This allows you to recline in various ways, get out of bed without assistance, or be safely lifted by a carer.
In the past, adjustable beds were primarily used in hospitals setting. Now it is now common to have these specialised beds in private bedrooms for home care, especially for people who are living with a disability or have a chronic condition that requires full-time support.
Buying an adjustable bed is a big investment, so you want to make sure you choose the right bed for your needs. Here is a guide to get you started.
Positioning your adjustable bed
When deciding which bed to buy, don’t forget to consider the layout of your room. Is the bed able to be placed by a window, or in a position where you can chat to people? Will you need to make space for other mobility equipment, such as a wheelchair, walking frame or hoist? If so, make sure you have enough room around the bed for easy transfer, as well as space for a support worker to provide care.
Also consider the furniture that will go around the bed. Side tables or shelves are great for storing personal items like books or your phone. Good, easily-accessible lighting is also important for doing activities, but also for safety if you go to the bathroom at night.
Why get an adjustable bed?
People get adjustable beds (sometimes referred to as hospital beds) for many different reasons. Thinking about why you want one is a good way to clarify which features of the bed are most important to you. This will ultimately help you choose the product that will best meet your long-term needs.
Some of the common reasons for getting an adjustable or medical bed are:
- Assistance with positioning – adjustable beds can be moved to a range of positions, such as sitting up, raising the foot area or elevating the head. If you’re spending long periods of time in bed, this can help reduce the risk of pressure sores and provide support for different activities (e.g. eating, reading or watching TV).
- Easy adjustments – fully electric adjustable beds can be controlled through a hand-operated pendant, which gives those with limited mobility more control over their position and movements.
- Help for caregivers – adjustable beds can be raised so carers and nurses don’t have to bend down to perform tasks. It allows them to use the optimum height for jobs such as bathing or administering treatment.
- Help getting in and out of bed – the ability to lower and raise a bed can help you transfer safely. This allows you to live more independently in your own home and reduces your risk of injuries.
- Improved circulation: from a therapeutic perspective, being able to raise your feet while resting is beneficial if you have circulation issues or are at risk of swelling.
- Being lower to the floor: an adjustable bed can be positioned closer to the floor to prevent injury from falls. It can also come with bed rails to prevent you from rolling out of bed.
Adjustable beds or hospital beds for sale
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Types of adjustable beds
All hospital beds are adjustable, but they can vary as to how many adjustments are possible, and whether they are done manually or electronically. Here are some of the common types of adjustable beds you might come across.
Full electric bed
A fully electronic adjustable bed is powered using a remote or a pendant control. By pressing the buttons, you can access all functions and adjust the electronic bed base without assistance, e.g. moving the head and knee section up and down, lowering or raising the bed.
Although electronic beds are more costly, people often choose this type of bed because it offers more flexibility and independence than a manually powered bed, as a carer is not required make adjustments.
This type of adjustable bed has an electric bed base that is adjusted with a hand control in a similar way to a fully electric model. The difference is the height of the bed is adjusted manually using a hand crank.
A semi-electric bed requires physical effort to change the height, so make sure your loved one or carer is able to manually adjust the bed before purchasing. It can be a more cost-effective option if you don’t need to adjust the height on a regular basis.
Manual hospital bed
A manual bed requires all adjustments to be made manually. It is a cheaper bed to purchase, but requires physical effort from a loved one or carer.
Trendelenburg hospital bed
The Trendelenburg position is when a person’s feet are elevated higher than the head, while the anti-Trendelenburg position is the opposite position with the head elevated.
Some adjustable beds offer the Trendelenburg tilt as an adjustable option. This can help relieve pressure, improve blood circulation and provide comfort, though this function should only be used with advice from your healthcare professional.
Hi-low beds can be lowered closer to the floor (approximately 17cm from the ground) to provide protection of those at risk of falling out of bed.
This function is usually operated electronically with a hand control, making it easy for you to get safely in and out of bed. The adjustable bed base can also be raised to help carers transfer their clients without bending or straining their back too much.
Bariatric hospital bed
Bariatric hospital beds are built to support those whose weight ranges from 150 to 450kg. They offer the same features as an electronic bed, but come with a wider, more durable frame and adjustable bed base.
This type of bed allows a partner, carer or parent to sleep alongside someone in an adjustable bed. A companion bed is stationary and can be positioned next to the left or right side of a person’s bed, with no gaps between the mattress.
Things to consider when buying an adjustable bed
If you are thinking of purchasing an adjustable bed, the first thing to do is talk to a health professional such as your GP, a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist. They can assess your current health situation and help you choose a bed that is best suited for your circumstances.
Once you have consulted a health professional, here are some factors you may want to consider when choosing your bed.
Finally, it may seem obvious, but choose a bed that you like! These days, adjustable beds combine functionality with style, with finishes that blend in with the home environment. Having a bed that you enjoy is important for your wellbeing, so choose one that helps create a warm and welcoming environment in your home.
Extra features for adjustable beds
Once you have decided which bed you want, think about whether you will need any other aids or equipment to go with your bed. Some additional features you may want to consider purchasing are:
- Bed rails – these can be added to the sides of the bed to protect those who are at risk of falling out
- Floor pads – strategically placed pads create a soft surface that helps protect you from injury if you fall in the night.
- Night lights or motion sensor lights – it’s important to have adequate lighting if you need to get up and go to the bathroom at night. A motion sensor light, for example, turns on automatically as soon as you get out of bed.
- Waterproof bedding and sheets – for protection and comfort
- Castors – most adjustable beds come with castors so you can move the bed into position. They can be locked into place once the bed is installed
- Attachment points – these may be needed for equipment such as an IV pole or a self-help pole
- Storage pockets – a place to place your personal belongings can be handy if you will be spending an extended amount of time in bed
- A strap with an adjustable grip – these are designed to help you turn over or re-position yourself when lying in bed.
Choosing the right mattress
The bed frame and adjustable bed base is only part of the equation; equally important is the mattress you purchase to go with your hospital bed.
Like with the rest of your bed, speak to a health professional who can help you choose a mattress that best addresses your health issues. If you are spending extended periods of time in bed, it’s a good idea to choose a mattress that provides pressure redistribution, as this will make you more comfortable and reduce the risk of developing pressure sores.
Specialised medical bed mattresses with multiple layers of foam can provide enhanced patient positioning, greater stability, pressure relief and a low-shear surface for comfort. Specialty air mattresses are another option: these types of mattresses use a ventilation system to distribute pressure and provide support. They can be easily operated and maintained with an ergonomic pump.