Bed Mobility

get up and get out!

home health physical therapy bed rails medical equipment Bed Mobility - one of the toughest transfers to master but critical to get on with your day. The ability or inability to be mobile in bed may sound odd at first until you realize how important it really is when you can't!

When you can't move in bed, life gets pretty complicated. Dependency, weakness, joint pain and stiffness and bed sores often sets in as well as depression and sometimes panic attacks. This simple form of mobility is crucial for two reasons - we must sleep at night and we must get up and be active in the morning.

Discover how patients and caregivers alike can improve the odds of making independent bed mobility a reality.

What is bed mobility?

Bed mobility includes turning from side to side, butt scootin', sitting up and being able to lie back down and just being able to reposition yourself for comfort. There are many reasons why these tasks becomes impossible for the patient. There are also considerations for the caregiver to inventory. Sometimes, the patient will have the ability to go through the task but the caregiver is lacking in some way.

What do caregivers need to consider?

Each situation can be widely different however, the goals for the caregiver are the same - know and improve your limits, take advantage of gravity, protect your back and neck, and understand what is helpful and what is not (to you and the patient).

Know and improve your limits.

Caregivers often become patients themselves while assisting patients in and out of bed. This can be due to caregiver weakness, previous caregiver injuries, poor caregiver health or just plain unsafe transfer techniques.

Improving your limits can be as simple as beginning a simple fitness program - at home - in 5 or 10 minutes blocks of time. Over time, you won't be able to tell if YOU are the one getting stronger or if your patient is! Just do it - as NIKE would say... today is all you have - begin now.

Gravity is a friend to your back and neck.

Time and again, I've assessed a patients bed mobility by watching how the caregiver and the patient go about this task. Time and again I've stopped the process almost as soon as it starts and done one thing - raise the bed. For two reasons - would you rather bend over and fight with 100 or 300 pounds? Or would you rather be able to stand up straighter? Secondly - would you rather pull that same person up and out of bed or allow gravity to help with that process?

So, by raising the bed, we can better protect our backs and necks AND, we can allow gravity to help us when it comes to actually getting out of bed!

You've only got one!

The number one mistake that will land you with neck and back pain for a long time to come is this - allowing your patient to grab you around the neck while you pull them up. Makes me cringe to think of it but I've seen in 100's of times. DO NOT allow this. If you want to remain a healthy caregiver, you have now allowed that for the LAST time.

Bed mobility can be possible without this dangerous and often caregiver crushing maneuver. Remember that many patients and caregivers may be fighting depression even before this bout of illness and therefor each side can lack the patience and the motivation to learn how to accomplish bed mobility safely.

Caregivers often hate to see a loved one struggle - and often, patients feel like such a burden that they don't want to take more of the caregivers time BUT - as a caregiver you must not allow bed mobility to "hang" solely on you. When you do, you put yourself in prison by teaching your patient to depend on you. On a deeper level, some caregivers need that (it's called co-dependency) but it will kill you in the long run. You also take away any need for a patient to be motivated to follow a home exercise program. Caregivers - practice tough love! You'll thank me later.

Did your teachers do your homework and take your tests for you when you were in school? No. Why? So you could grow and become proficient at what you were doing.

I understand that limits, however, that some diseases such as stroke and paralysis carry on reality. Although we can not cover each and every disease and sickness here, we will cover the basics of safe and successful bed mobility.

What do caregivers need?

To help make bed mobility successful for both party's, caregivers need several things:

  • Leg strength
  • Back strength
  • Arm strength
  • Hip flexibility
  • Knowledge of back safety

When it comes to getting out of bed, patients have the bigger role and must have the motivation to follow a home exercise program every day to help them become independent with bed mobility. As mentioned, this can be hard for caregivers. It's faster and easier to just do it themselves. Caregivers, that is your choice but one guaranteed to cause resentment and co-dependency.

What do patients need to master this move?

Great question - one that requires thought, motivation, range of motion and strength.

Considering the above tips are heeded, patients will still need to put considerable effort into bed mobility to keep everyone safe.

Bed mobility for the patient can be broken down into some simple steps and for the most part each step needs to happen before the next except in some situations.

These steps accomplish moving from lying on ones back to sitting with legs over the side of the bed:

  • ROLL - Rolling right (for this example
  • PROP - Touching left arm to bed and pushing down
  • DROP - Drop feet over edge of bed
  • POP - pushing down with left arm

In a perfect world (no one would be bed bound) the above basic steps work very well. However, every situation is different. Sometimes, Rolling isn't an option. Hips and/or knees won't bend and there is no arm strength to push.

Other options include using a pull rope for a straight leg sit up, using a hoyer lift (if needed) or using multiple people to assist one in getting out of bed.

Typically patients spend most of their time lying on their backs in bed. Considering this, we'll talk about the basic steps needed to get from point A and point B.

Step One - ROLL Rolling to the left.

Whether you are rolling right or left, the same concept applies. You need to be on the left side of the bed so that when your roll to the left the edge of the bed is to your left. Patients need to:

  • be able to reach your right arm towards the left side of bed
  • draw your knees up towards your face by bending at the hip
  • be able to turn/roll your body towards the left
Step Two - PROP
  • while on your side now, place your right hand or fist firmly on the bed beside you. Your elbow may be pointing towards the ceiling at
  • this time.
Step Three - DROP
  • Now, draw your knees up towards your face while inching your feet out towards the edge of the bed
  • Slide your over the edge so that your feet and legs begin to drop off the edge of the bed
Step Four - POP
  • As soon as your legs begin to drop off the edge of the bed, use your right hand/fist to push your upper body up. If you are not
  • completely rolled over onto your side, you will likely only push yourself back onto your back.
  • Be sure to pop your upper body up as soon as your legs drop down
  • You will learn to get the timing right to use gravity to your advantage
  • Up you go!

Learn where to start to improve your bed mobility strength.

Find information to help you with various transfers

Back to from bed mobility

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