How to Properly Position Bed Bound Patients

Mastering this skill will make patients more comfortable

Young woman holding sleeping senior woman's hand
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Properly positioning someone in bed will not only make the patient more comfortable but can help prevent the development of painful pressure ulcers, also known as pressure sores or bedsores.

Learn to perform this skill with confidence with this step-by-step guide.

How to Begin

Get a "lift buddy." This is another able-bodied person that can help you lift and position the person in bed safely. It can be a spouse, a sibling or a teen or adult child.

Just make sure this person is reliable and strong enough to carry out the task.

If needed, you and your buddy can lift the patient up in bed so his head is at the top. Then, with the help of your "buddy," turn the person on his side. The easiest way to do this is to stand on the side that the person will be facing.

Reach over the person and grab the drawsheet on the opposite side. Gently pull the drawsheet towards you while your buddy gently pushes the person's hip and shoulder towards you.

How Pillows Come in Handy

Use a pillow or a foam wedge to place under the drawsheet at the person's back. Position the pillow close against the back to help prop the person on her side.

Place another pillow or a specially designed foam leg wedge to place between the person's knees. This will add to her comfort by keeping the spine in alignment and by easing pressure on the bony areas of the knees and ankles.

Use another pillow to prop the person's arms. This will have to be done by sight. Everyone will remain on his side at varying degrees and depending on the incline of the head of the bed, arm positions will vary. Nurses have found that most patients are comfortable with the arm on the side they are lying on propped on a pillow to keep it from being compressed between the body and the bed.

If your loved one is going to remain on her back, raise the foot of the bed enough to bend the knees. In addition, you can place a pillow under the knees. This will help prop the person up so she doesn't slide down in bed, which can create painful skin sores.

Place another pillow under her ankles with her heels "floating" off the end of the pillow. This helps alleviate pressure on the heels.

Use pillows as needed to place under the person's head and arms for comfort. If he is unable to let you know if he is comfortable, you'll have to use your judgment. If something doesn't look comfortable, it probably isn't. Adjust as necessary until the person looks cozy and content.

Alternate between the back, right side and left side every two hours while you're awake. Don't wake yourself up at night to turn the patient, but if he wakes you up in the middle of the night, reposition him while you're up.

In Summary

Remember to always use a "lift buddy" and a drawsheet. And don't forget that pillows are your best friend! If you still have questions about how to properly position a patient, seek out a health care professional for advice.

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