Mishaps with Hospital Beds

My husband was recently in the hospital for a fractured hip and underwent a hip replacement. Rehab was not easy for him and getting in and out of bed was challenging to say the least. But the partial upper side rails on the hospital bed really did help; they provided a stable support for him to hold onto when transferring. As we were getting ready for discharge, I spoke to a rep from the durable medical equipment (DME) company about renting a hospital bed for home use. We went over the controls (semi–automatic) and he recommended a gel mattress overlay pad to reduce the chances of pressure sores. However, in my heightened state of stress, I never thought to ask about the bed rails. After all, the DME office was in the hospital and I had just assumed that we would get a bed imilar to the one in my husband’s hospital room. After all, he had been getting inhospital bed full bed railsstruction from the physical therapist on how to get in and out of the bed using the upper bed rails. You can imagine my shock then when the hospital bed was delivered with full bed rails. Full bed rails? The last thing I needed during this time was another problem to sort out.

Didn’t the DME representative check in with my husband’s doctor to see what type of bed to order? Full rails were not appropriate for my husband and they can actually increase fall risk and agitation. And with full rails, there is no side rail to hold onto when getting in and out of bed. When I questioned the DME rep, all he said was: “Well, what kind of rails were you expecting?” I never got a satisfactory answer on why a bed with full rails was ordered.

So, the rep put in an swap order and in a couple of days the partial rails were delivered. But in the meantime, caregiving was so much harder as I then had to provide more physical help so my husband could safely get in and out of bed.

Oh by the way, that wasn’t the only problem. The DME company didn’t ship the gel mattress overlay pad. I was the one who noticed that it was listed on the delivery receipt but not delivered! Again, my stress level rose as I knew that a regular hospital bed mattress would be hard and uncomfortable for my husband to use, (which it was) especially after surgery.

So my advice to you is to go over in detail the type of hospital bed the DME rep or the doctor is planning on ordering, including the type of bedrails and any overlays. And of course, check carefully when you get your delivery to make sure you have received it all.

Have you had similar problems when ordering a home hospital bed? How did it turn out for you? Let’s share.

I'm an interior designer, gerontologist, author, blogger, and most importantly, a former caregiver to my mother, Arlene, who had Alzheimer's disease.
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7 Responses to Mishaps with Hospital Beds

  1. Marcie says:

    I had a similar experience when my husband got discharged when he had a hip replacement several years ago. I was overwhelmed with his reduced mobility and I was so afraid that he would fall. And then I had to get on the phone and make several phone calls to get the company to replace the full bed rails to partial rails. My husband also needed them to hold onto when getting in and out of bed (of course I or my son was by his side to help). So all caregivers out there – do not get a hospital bed delivered unless you make sure that the order includes the bed rails that YOUR loved one needs. And if they need a comfy mattress make sure you get a separate “overlay” (we got one with a gel and foam pad and it made the mattress more comfortable) to reduce pressure sores.

  2. Maria says:

    My husband will be discharged soon after having surgery. I am not planning on getting a hospital bed. Is there another alternative to getting out of bed? I once saw an adjustable post that went floor to ceiling and it seemed like a good tool to help you out of bed if you were having mobility issues. What is your advice?

    • Rosemary says:

      Hi Maria,

      It depends on how much assistance your husband will need to get out of bed. Most of these handles are not meant to support the full weight of an individual. If your husband only needs partial assistance, these handles can be helpful. I am aware of the product that you’re referring to, but I have not used it personally. You might want to look at a couple of product reviews that I wrote to see what the most important issues are when choosing a bed handle. When you click on this Bedroom Product link, just scroll down to the section on Transferring. Keep in mind that your husband still needs good upper body strength and the ability to stand and bear weight.

      Good Luck!


  3. Elvio says:

    My wife has a hospital bed and the original mattress they sent was really uncomfortable for her. Maria spends a lot of time in bed, she has had Alzheimer’s for a long time, and she was getting red areas on her skin and I didn’t want her to get pressure sores. I finally got the doctor to write a prescription for a special mattress with special foam and gel and it is so much more comfortable for her now. I try to get her out of bed as much as possible, but it isn’t always easy as she doesn’t want to get up. Any suggestions?

  4. Rosemary says:

    Hi Elvio,
    Here are a few suggestions to encourage Maria to get out of bed.
    – Try offering her a favorite food at the dining or kitchen table
    – Tell her that her favorite tv show is on in the living room (and put a video in)
    – Invite her for a visit with special loved one, like a grand daughter

    You know your wife best – what activities or loved ones would make her most happy? Try offering them and see how it goes. But make sure you know how to assist Maria in the safest and most pain free way to get out of bed. You may want to see our section on transferring for some new ideas. http://www.thiscaringhome.org/spec_concerns/transferring.php

    Good Luck Elvio.

    Project Director, ThisCaringHome

  5. Jennie says:

    This article was extremely helpful! My grandmother just had surgery and when she came home the hospital bed that was ordered was extremely uncomfortable. After reading your article I called her doctor to ask for a script for a gel mattress overlay pad for the bed. Do you think that Medicare will cover this expense?

    • Rosemary says:

      Hi Maria,

      If the person qualifies, Medicare will reimburse for a gel mattress overlay or other types of supportive bed surfaces. But I would advise to check with her doctor or a local durable medical supplier as there may be regional differences in reimbursement qualifications.

      Best of luck,

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