Our first three elders have moved into St. John’s community Green Houses, and are having a wonderful time! Their brief experience has raised some interesting questions in my mind.
Another “first” for St. John’s in opening these Green Houses was that we decided that everyone would have a comfortable, full-size bed. But we were unable to find a hospital-style bed vendor who would make an adjustable bed that was truly full-sized.
So our Green House Guide, Rebecca Priest went to the local residential mattress store and bought 20 adjustable full-size beds, similar to the Tempurpedic®. (The beds do not elevate from the ground as fully as a hospital bed, but with our ceiling lifts and ergonomic training of staff, they work fine.)
The big difference is in how they feel. One of our elders with quadriparesis who lived at St. John’s Home lay on the bed for 5 minutes during a test run before the mattresses were purchased. His assessment: “Five minutes on this mattress undoes five years of hell on that bed upstairs!”
All three folks at the Green Houses slept in late Wednesday morning and awoke happy and refreshed. So here are the questions:
1) How many people with arthritis and muscle weakness are functionally disabled by sleeping on uncomfortable beds every night? How does the cost of replacing those beds with something better stack up against the additional assistance required for transfers and locomotion after sleeping on a standard hospital bed?
2) How does an uncomfortable night’s sleep (or many uncomfortable nights) affect the disposition of people in nursing homes, particularly those living with dementia? What would be the effect of these beds on mood disorders or episodes of distress?
3) What is the additional cost of medications (antipsychotic, anxiolytic, pain medications, etc.) due to sleeping in uncomfortable beds?
We all know that one bad night’s sleep can affect our disposition. Imagine what it does for our elders, day in and day out? And the use of a 3-foot wide mattress also contributes to the fear (and possibly risk) of falls.
I’m aware that many homes, including ours, use pressure-relieving mattresses or overlays to prevent skin breakdown. But has any of you ever actually tried to sleep on one? Give it a go, and let me know how you feel in the morning.
*As a footnote, our Department of Health survey has just been completed and we are deficiency-free. Among the surveyors’ comments:
Congratulations to all for their hard work and dedication!