Bed Wars

hospitalbedNo one wants one.

No one likes them.

Some have cranks and levers, wobbly wheels, and are cumbersome to move or adjust.

Newer ones are more complex, have silent electric motors, links for computer cables, and (though pricey) lightweight metal alloy frames.

But who wants to lie in a hospital bed of any kind? Not for overnight, and certainly not for the rest of your life.

I view the hospital bed as one of the intimidating symbols of hospice care. Of course, it’s more than a symbol once it arrives at your home.

Whenever the hospice clinical staff discusses current patients, it’s nearly inevitable that at least one patient has balked at shifting to a hospital bed.

Wouldn’t you refuse?

We like love our bed. It’s a sanctuary. Don’t all the health care experts expound on the value of a good night’s sleep? Whether retired, working part-time, or with an overloaded scheduled, doesn’t everyone desire to sleep every day? Do the personal math: we’re horizontal on a mattress more than we eat, work, play, exercise, procrastinate, do yard work, or take a vacation. Hey, for some, a little sleep is as close as they’ll get to a vacation for long stretches of time. Jobs are demanding. Families are demanding. At least let me escape into my cozy bed . . . please!

We make love on the bed.

We snack on the bed.

We shoo away or invite pets onto the bed.

600-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets cover our king-size bed, and by gosh, we deserve ‘em!

The quilt great-grandma made stretches across our bed, a reminder of family history. (And it’s toasty warm!)

So don’t tell me to get a hospital bed. Don’t steal away my freedom with a cranky, squeaky, too soft or too hard mattress, narrow and confined, metal-bars-like-a-jail-on-the-side rental bed.

Not me. No way. Not now. Not ever.

Only a paid model would smile in a hospital bed!

Only a paid model would smile in a hospital bed!

But the hospice nurse suggests it. The doctor advises it. The social worker encourages it. The chaplain, bless her warm-hearted soul, is willing to pray with you about accepting the wheeled beast into your living room.

But all those medical experts are idiots. How can you abandon the bed where you’ve slept for decades? Where your children were conceived? Where you watched Jay Leno or Johnny Carson for years? Where the stack of mystery novels is conveniently positioned?

The rented bed is not just an irritant; it’s a death knell in the form of a lousy, lumpy mattress.

The hospice nurse, who you actually like and respect, will tell you the hospital bed may be better for you. He or she will mention there’s more support for your whole body. Different sleeping or resting positions can be easily achieved. And those metal bars on the side . . . let’s be honest, on some nights, you’re so restless you might fall onto the floor. Don’t let gravity and your home’s concrete slab become your enemies. The same nurse, friendly and honest, will gently inform you that a hospital bed makes it safer for caregivers. They don’t have to lean down and risk hurt backs to bathe or feed you. They can access you from either side. It’s important to make sure you lie in different positions and shifting a person—whether they’re ninety or three hundred and ninety pounds—is easier on a hospital bed.

The rational reasons for using a hospital bed make a long, persuasive list.

But you don’t care.

You’re not going to give up your bed, recliner, or sofa. You will sleep where you want regardless of whether or not it’s good for you.

You are stubborn.

You have your pride.

Square peg

You are a smart square in a world of insensitive round holes.

You are a smart square in a world of insensitive round holes.

Let’s strike a deal. (And remember . . . as a hospice patient with certain medical equipment covered by Medicare, the bed will be cheap or free.)

The deal? Try the bed for one night. Okay, maybe even two or three days and nights.

Give it the old test drive. And why not add items to and around the stupid bed so that it’s a worthwhile experiment? How about pleasant lighting, access to your favorite reading, a secure spot for the TV’s remote, a nice candle, a favorite pillow, options for playing your choice of music. Be creative! Let your caregiver help you build a nice “nest” for resting.

Okay, fine, don’t. Be stubborn. After all, you plan to have “I Did It My Way” carved on your gravestone.

Is a hospital bed a symbol of the end? Sure . . . it can be viewed that way. It may be one of the last things you can say “no” to in order to claim a little personal control. And, since we’re being so darn honest, one of the reasons for suggesting a hospital bed is that it might make the caregiver’s job easier. See! It’s about them, not you!

But how much of a bed debate is avoiding other issues? Is it safer to scorn a bed than talk about your dread of dying? Is it safer to belittle a bed’s value because you’re frustrated by your unfair illness? Is it easier to rage at the bed than at God? It is easier to revile a bed than reconcile with a family member?

What is important right now? What is truly, truly important?

Do you want to battle about a bed, or do you want to spend the best possible time with your loved ones?

(Hospice vigorously protects a patient’s privacy. I’ll take care with how I share my experiences. Any names used are fictitious. Events are combined and/or summarized.)

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  1. In the two times I battled with this difficult choice for a family member the reason they gave for not wanting that bed was that the bed had to be placed in the middle of the living room. The bed was too wide to fit through a traditional bedroom doorway to be put in a more private setting. It was upsetting to lose what little privacy they had left. That meant the entire household had to live around that bed and all of the other equipment that comes with that bed. If those beds were able to be dismantled and reassembled in a more traditional bedroom I think some people would not mind so much. A dear friend had her bedroom doorway widened to double doors to accommodate her ‘new ride’ and after that she was happy as a clam for the time she had left. She told me she just wanted to snore in private.

    • Thanks for your thoughts!

      The loss of privacy is a real factor. There are good/bad reasons on both sides of the “argument” about where the bed is located. In some cases, it’s probably better to have the loved one where they are “easy” access. But that can mean a lot of disruption for everyone.

      I’m glad you mentioned the problem with where the bed can literally fit. Several of the rented hospital-style beds I’ve seen brought into homes arrived in “pieces.” The worker who handled the equipment could easily bring the parts into the house, place it “anywhere,” and then construct it. But that’s obviously not the case with every bed and/or every company that would provide a bed. And if someone requires or wants a “fancier” bed, those are less likely to be conveniently taken apart.

      Always issues! Always challenges!

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