Hospital bed mattresses, also known as therapeutic or medical mattresses, are usually six inches thick and found in both clinical and in-home settings for the comfort and support of patients and loved ones.
Types of hospital bed mattresses
Foam mattresses are also economical, and lighter in weight than an innerspring. They don’t breathe as well as inner springs, but they do absorb some shock from motion. Many are designed to shift the user’s body weight, preventing bedsores and pressure ulcers.
Low air loss mattresses are for low mobility patients with bedsores. They reduce pressure on weight-bearing areas and reduce skin moisture. Many are ‘zoned’ for pressure points, where bedsores commonly develop.
Alternating pressure mattresses provide the benefits of a low air loss mattress, while also aiding in circulation. Alternating inflation and deflation of air cells shift a person’s weight gently, preventing constant pressure on vulnerable bedsores. This type of mattress helps keep lung secretions and other body fluids moving and usually has side perimeters to prevent patients from rolling off the mattress.
Features to consider when choosing a hospital mattress
Patient size: average, tall, or bariatric?
Most mattresses come in a selection of lengths, to accommodate users of various heights. When selecting a hospital bed mattress, one rule of thumb is particularly trusty: choose a mattress somewhat longer than the user is tall.
Worth noting is that bariatric mattresses (designed specifically for heavier patients) come in both foam and pressure-relieving models.
Need for cleaning: frequent or non-frequent?
For patients who are incontinent, a mattress with anti-microbial covers and seams is a must – for both patient and caregiver health.
Many hospital mattresses on the market currently meet this requirement. You will also want to look for mattresses and covers which are waterproof and stain-resistant.
Mattress life: short-term or long-term?
You may be looking for a mattress that you or a loved one can use long-term, as in cases of chronic or degenerative conditions.
Or, you may simply need a more comfortable option for a period of recovery from illness or injury!
Either way, budget and cost is something worthy of consideration.Clearly, if the mattress will only serve a temporary need, it is wise to weigh cost against features so users don’t overspend on something they will not use in the long run.
User mobility: less than 12 hours spent in bed, or more than 12 hours spent in bed?
The more time a person will spend in bed, the more care must be taken to prevent skin conditions such as bed sores, ulcers, and skin shearing.
If a patient is going to spend the majority of their waking hours in bed, an innerspring mattress is not a good choice. Look for a foam mattress which distributes weight evenly. These usually are constructed with several ‘zones’ which accommodate the varying weight and pressure of different parts of the body, thus preventing bedsores.
An even better choice would be a low air loss or alternating pressure mattress. These do the best job of preventing bedsores and skin shearing.
Patient movement: low or high?
Some hospital mattresses feature perimeter guards. These guards give added protection against a patient rolling or falling off of the mattress. (For patients who are at high risk for this, hospital bed guard rails are also advisable.)
Shearing is a factor to consider. Shearing occurs when the skin rubs against the mattress and gets stuck there, decreasing blood circulation. The result is skin injury below the surface, and eventually, a visible sore.
For restless patients, a smooth mattress cover specifically meant to prevent shearing is recommended!