Buying Guide – How to Choose a Hospital Bed
Home hospital beds enable loved ones to recover from an injury, live with a disability, or age comfortably at home. Today’s hospital beds have taken the innovations discovered in care facilities and applied them to versions available for home use.
The type of hospital bed you’ll need will depend on the individual circumstances of your loved one. Review the following features to understand more about what you can expect with hospital beds.
Types of Hospital Beds
All hospital beds are adjustable beds. The specific type of a hospital bed depends on how the adjustment is made and the number of adjustments that are available:
- Full-Electric Hospital Beds are powered electronically. The height of the frame, the head, and the feet area can all be adjusted by a remote control or buttons on the size of the bed. The remote control allows the patient to adjust the bed themselves. If caregivers are concerned the patient may maneuver themselves into an unsafe position, they can remove the remote control, and only the caregiver will be able to make adjustments using the buttons on the side. With a full-electric hospital bed, there is no manual effort required by either the patient or the caregiver to make adjustments, which explains the higher price tag of these beds.
- Semi-Electric Hospital Beds work similar to full-electric hospital beds, except that the height of the bed must be adjusted manually using a hand crank on the side. This requires more effort from the caregiver, which can make them a less expensive option. However, as there are still some electronic adjustments available, they are not the cheapest option.
- Manual Hospital Beds require all adjustments to be made manually—for the height, head, and foot of the bed. Because there is no electrical power at all, these beds are one of the most affordable hospital beds available. However, they do require the most physical effort from the caregiver.
- Low Hospital Beds allow for the same adjustments in the head and foot as other beds, but the overall profile of the bed is much lower. The bed frame is designed to sit within a foot off the floor. The height can still be adjusted, but within a smaller range. These beds are ideal for patients who may have a fall risk during sleeping, or who want to be able to get in and out of bed more often, as the lower frame height allows that to happen with less risk. Low hospital beds are fully electric.
- Bariatric Hospital Beds are full-electric beds that are built to support heavier patients. The weight capacity of these beds is substantially higher than other hospital beds. Because they’re designed for heavier patients, bariatric beds will also have a wider mattress area, as well. The highly durable construction and fully-electric functionality makes bariatric beds one of the more expensive options.
- Trendelenburg Hospital Beds offer the most flexibility in adjustment options, and are designed for individuals in recovery, therapy, or aging. Beyond adjusting the height and the foot, each area can adjust to more extreme heights, allowing for positions like a recliner chair or with a head lower than the feet. Because these beds are highly adjustable, patients normally don’t have to use special wedge pillows or pads to achieve ideal positioning. However, the extra adjustment options usually means these beds need more space to operate, so furniture may need to be removed from the room or they’ll need to be placed in a bigger room entirely. Because these beds are full-electric and provide the most functionality and positioning options without any manual effort, Trendelenburg beds are the most expensive type of hospital bed.
Hospital beds are designed to fit one person comfortably. Most hospital beds are 35 inches wide and 80 inches long, which is about the size of a Twin XL mattress (what you’d find in a college dorm). While wider and longer versions are available to accommodate larger or taller patients, the standard hospital bed mattress is normally around a twin size.
Because many patients who use a hospital bed may have a fall risk, the mattress height is also on the smaller side—around 6 inches versus the 9 or 10 you see with a traditional mattress.
The weight capacity of a hospital bed is extremely important, as it largely determines whether or not the bed can support your loved one safely. Review the weight capacity of any bed before you buy it, and don’t forget to factor in the additional weight of bedding, pillows, meal trays, and other items.
Most hospital beds are designed to accommodate the average person. If the patient is very overweight or obese, you may want to look into a Bariatric bed.
The height of the hospital bed refers to the distance between the bed frame and the floor. Hospital beds all allow for height adjustments, to enable easier ingress and egress for the patient, as well as easier caregiving by the caregiver.
If your loved one will be getting themselves into and out of bed often, a low hospital bed may be a better option. Otherwise, you’ll want to ensure the height range of the bed provides a good compromise where they can get into and out of bed safely, while allowing the caregiver to take care of them without straining their back.
Some hospital beds come with side rails to prevent falls and keep the patient safely within the bed. Half rails protect the patient’s torso, while full rails extend the length of the bed. These rails will be removable, so your loved one can get in and out of bed when needed.
If your loved one has a risk of falling out of bed or of leaving the bed when they shouldn’t, as is the case with certain sleeping disorders or Alzheimer’s, you’ll want to keep an eye out for this feature.
Construction and Design
Hospital beds are designed using a variety of materials to enable optimal functionality while ensuring long-term durability. Hospital beds made of steel or aluminum indicate high-quality construction.
While hospital beds are designed with functionality top of mind, many manufacturers are aware that caregivers purchase them for home use. As such, they’ll create them with wood finishes on the head and footboards so they appear less clinical and fit in better in a home environment. This may also help the patient feel more at ease in the bed, too.
As you may imagine, hospital beds have a sophisticated design and functionality that requires some assembly. While you may be able to install the bed yourself, you might feel more comfortable if you hire a professional to assemble it for you.
Find out from the manufacturer if assembly is included in the price, or if it can be purchased for an additional cost. You may also be able to purchase a bed that comes fully assembled and just needs to be moved into the room.
Important Shopping Considerations for Home Hospital Beds
Home hospital beds provide caregivers with the ability to care for patients and loved ones at home. However, these beds are an expensive purchase. As such, you’ll want reassurance that you’re buying the best one for your needs.
Review the following FAQ so you can make an informed purchase.
What are the benefits of a hospital bed?
When a person is recovering from an illness or injury, or if they’re living with a chronic long-term condition, a hospital bed is better suited to serve their needs than a traditional bed. A person using a hospital bed will be spending significantly more time in the bed, both during the day at night.
The adjustments available with a hospital bed support various physical conditions, and at different times of day. During the day, the head can be elevated to allow the person to sit up comfortably, while the knee or foot area can also be elevated to aid therapeutic goals.
Hospital beds also make it easier for caregivers to take care of the patient, since the height is adjustable as well. The bed can be lowered to help the person get out of bed, or highered so the caregiver doesn’t have to bend down to take care of them.
What are the top hospital bed manufacturers?
Many manufacturers who historically provided hospital beds primarily to hospitals and care facilities are now creating versions designed specifically for consumers and home use. These manufacturers include many of the ones we listed in our ratings above, such as Invacare, Drive Medical, Hill-Rom, Graham-Field, and Joerns.
How much does it cost to buy a hospital bed?
Hospital beds are sophisticated devices that support individuals with varying medical needs. Depending on the brand and the type of bed, as well as whether it’s sold as a package (with mattress and rails included), a hospital bed may range from $500 to a few thousand dollars.
Are hospital beds covered by Medicare?
Yes, hospital beds are covered under Medicare Part B as “durable medical equipment.” For the bed to be covered, both the bed supplier and your prescribing doctor must be enrolled in Medicare. You can learn more at Medicare.gov.
What size is a hospital bed mattress?
Most hospital beds are 35 inches wide and 80 inches long, although you will find wider and longer versions available for heavier and taller patients. Some beds are designed to work with expansion kits, to make the bed even wider or longer.
Beyond the surface size of the mattress, it’s also important to check the weight capacity of the bed, to ensure it can adequately support the patient. To be safe, subtract 100 pounds from the bed’s advertised weight capacity. If the number is still more than your patient’s body weight, it should support them. For example, a hospital bed with a 450-lb weight capacity will safely support patients up to 350 pounds.
How do I maintain my hospital bed?
Over time, your hospital bed may experience wear and tear, depending on how long it is used. Each manufacturer will provide care instructions with the bed. Review these and follow them to keep your hospital bed in good shape. You may also be able to buy replacement parts as needed from the manufacturer’s website or on Amazon.
How else can I protect my loved one?
In addition to getting rails for your hospital beds, there are additional sleep products you can buy to make your loved one more comfortable and better protect the lifetime value of your purchase.
You can place floor pads on the floor around the bed, to provide a soft protective surface in the event your loved one falls. You can also purchase nightlights to illuminate their way if they’ll be getting up to use the bathroom alone at night. There are also pads you buy to fit over the rails themselves, so your loved one won’t hurt themselves if they roll onto the rail while they sleep.
For the bed itself, you can invest in waterproof bedding and sheets. These are designed to be easily cleaned and not develop an odor, even with regular incontinence.