How to Properly Position Bed Bound Patients

Young woman holding sleeping senior woman's hand
Gary John Norman/Getty Images

Properly positioning someone in bed will not only make her more comfortable but can help prevent the development of painful pressure ulcers, also known as pressure sores or bedsores.

How to Begin

Get a "lift buddy." This person is another able-bodied person who can help you lift and position the person in bed safely. The buddy 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.

Use Pillows

Place a pillow or a foam wedge 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 between the person's knees. This extra bit of support 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 technique is done by sight. 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 to prop the person up so she doesn't slide, which can create painful skin sores.

Place another pillow under her ankles with her heels "floating" off the end of the pillow to 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 him, but if he wakes you up in the middle of the night, reposition him while you're up.

Getting Help

You should have had some orientation to the patient-turning process by a nurse or physical therapist. If you have questions about the right procedure, or if you see signs of skin injury, contact a health care professional to reduce the risks to your loved-one's comfort and well-being.

Continue Reading