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How to Reposition a Patient in Bed

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Published:  June 23, 2022

When a family member chooses to serve as a caregiver for a bed-bound loved one who is receiving hospice care, he or she must learn some vital skills. One of the most important skills that the caregiver needs to master is how to reposition a patient in bed. Although bed repositioning may not seem as if it would be one of the most critical aspects of caregiving, it actually is.

What Makes Bed Repositioning So Important?

An individual who remains in one position for too long frequently develops painful sores, which are referred to as pressure sores, bedsores, or pressure ulcers. These painful sores result from repeated rubbing and continuous pressure being placed on the same area of skin for a lengthy period of time.

Additional Benefits of Knowing How To Reposition a Patient in Bed

Besides preventing the development of pressure sores, knowing the proper way to reposition an adult in bed is useful when changing a bandage, applying fresh bedding, as well as while assisting with the placement and removal of a bedpan.

Changing positions in bed can be highly beneficial for those experiencing difficulty breathing, especially when this difficulty occurs due to a lung disease or from excess mucus production (e.g., cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD]).

Getting Started

Before beginning the repositioning process, to make sure that the patient’s privacy remains protected, the caregiver should close the curtains and shut the doors. This courtesy should be provided even if the individual does not appear to be conscious.

Next, the caregiver needs to ask if the individual would like to change positions. Even when the loved one appears to be asleep, the caregiver still has to ask this question.

After announcing the intention to reposition the patient, the area around the bed needs to be cleared.

Items that have to be moved include anything that could become damaged or interfere with the repositioning process.

Repositioning a Bed-bound Adult Who Has Some Mobility

An individual who has some mobility can be helpful during the repositioning process.

Ask the individual to roll towards a specific side of the bed (i.e., right or left), meanwhile, the caregiver should be moving to the side of the bed that the loved one is rolling towards.

Now, ask the loved one to lay on his or her back, with bent knees and arms folded across his or her body.

While keeping the knees bent, the individual needs to roll towards the caregiver. The caregiver can gently guide the loved one by placing his or her hands on the individual’s hips and shoulders.

Repositioning a Bed-bound Adult Who Has Limited Mobility

When an individual is unable to move at all, to prevent bedsores, he or she should be repositioned every two hours. Ideally, two people should work together to move a bed-bound adult with limited mobility. A draw sheet is a useful tool during the repositioning process of an individual with limited mobility.

What Is a Draw Sheet?

A draw sheet can be made of rubber, plastic, or even a traditional bedsheet that is folded in half. The draw sheet spans the width of the bed, lying across the part of the bed where the individual’s upper back and thighs will be. Although a traditional bed sheet works well, some people purchase draw sheets that consist of plastic and rubber because they offer an additional degree of incontinence protection.

The Two-person Process for Repositioning a Patient in Bed

One person stands on either side of the bed. Ensure the loved one’s hands and feet are positioned properly so that they will not slide underneath his or her body.

Each person gathers up his or her side of the previously placed draw sheet. After checking to make sure that the draw sheet will comfortably support the loved one, the caregivers work together, moving the individual over to one side of the bed. Once the loved one is moved over to one side of the bed, the draw sheet on the opposite side is then tucked in.

Now, the loved one lies on his or her back, with bent knees, or with one ankle crossed over the other (in the direction that he or she is being turned). In addition, the loved one’s arms should be gently positioned across his or her body.

The caregiver reaches over his or her loved one, grasps the draw sheet from the other side of the bed and slowly pulls it across the loved one. While one caregiver pulls on the draw sheet, the other should help the patient roll over by carefully pushing on his or her hips and shoulders.

Foam Wedges and Pillows Can Increase Comfort

To help an individual remain on his or her side, place a foam wedge or pillow underneath the draw sheet and against his or her back. Another pillow or foam wedge can be placed between the individual’s knees. This additional support helps the caregiver’s loved one feel more comfortable because it keeps his or her spine properly aligned and eases the amount of pressure that is placed on the bones of the ankles and knees.

Another pillow can be used to prop up the loved one’s arms. Most people prefer that the arm on the side they are lying on be propped up. Propping the arm up prevents it from becoming trapped between the individual’s body and the bed.

At Mission Healthcare, we create each hospice patient an individualized plan and work alongside family members to ensure their loved one receives the highest quality of care possible. To learn more about how our medical professionals can help your loved one, contact us today at 888-871-0766.