A high-low bed—sometimes called a height-adjustable bed— is an adjustable hospital-style bed with a lot of adjustability at the head, foot, and height. The bed moves at the touch of a button on its remote control, although older manual models adjust with cranks.
These are great beds for people being cared for at home or assisted living. High-low beds can be raised and lowered so that home users can, for example, set the height for safe and easy wheelchair transfers. They also make patient care easier for the caregiver.
Modern models of height-adjustable beds for home use offer the benefits of a high-profile bed and a low-profile adjustable bed. This mixture of features allows wheelchair users and people with disabilities to get in and out of their beds safely. They help patients in the same ways that a standard hospital bed can.
When You Should Use a High-Low Hospital Bed
- Alzheimer’s disease – lowering the bed fully to the floor helps prevent serious falls through nighttime efforts of patients suffering stress and attempting to get out of bed
- COPD and other respiratory problems – elevating the head of the bed helps breathing while elevating the foot of the bed allows the related edema
- Severe work, military, or accident injuries – keeping the bed fully lowered prevents further injuries from falls and attempts to get out of bed
- Post-Polio – sleeping in a sitting position with the breathing problems often associated with PPS
- Paralysis – ability to shift patient position frequently can prevent bedsores and similar problems
- Amputations – allow for more effortless movement from wheelchair to bed and bed to a wheelchair
- Edema – ability to elevate legs for sleeping helps in preventing and alleviating edema
High-low beds are suitable for these and other conditions because of the ways their adjustments work. Height-adjustable beds are designed to provide comfort for people with various health conditions and mobility issues. On most high-low beds, one end of the bed can be elevated to allow gravity to assist with getting out of bed, or the entire bed can be lowered to facilitate getting in and out of a wheelchair. In addition, hi-low beds adjustable at the head or foot sections can elevate parts of the body to improve blood circulation and flow.
Many high-low hospital beds intended for use in the home setting are designed to look like home furniture yet maintain the functions of a clinical bed. Typical home care beds are designed for nurses; modern high-low beds improve on this by helping to meet the needs of the caregiving professional and the family members caring for the patient.
Advantages of a High-Low Hospital Bed
A high-low hospital bed can be a good solution for patients who have trouble getting into or out of bed without slipping and falling, causing further injury. An adjustable high-low hospital bed can also assist patients with sitting up and lying down and even elevating their feet. Many models also bend at the waist and knees, providing maximum movability. Caregivers will appreciate this flexibility. This same flexibility and ease of use are also valuable to the bed’s occupant, allowing for independent adjustment not possible in a standard bed.
The high-low bed can be lowered or raised to match the patient’s height and reach. There can be bedrails on both sides that can be reduced or raised or removed if you prefer. Further, the head of the bed can be raised to assist the patient in sitting up and getting out of the bed to stand up. You can lower the head of the bed when the patient is ready to rest. You can also raise the foot of the bed to assist with the treatment and prevention of edema. Finally, the bed can be equipped with wheels so it can be positioned and moved easily. Those wheels will also lock to prevent unwanted movement.
Disadvantages of a High-Low Hospital Bed
Aesthetics is one clear disadvantage. Despite the design efforts of manufacturers, a hospital bed still pretty much looks like a hospital bed. There is a continuing effort, however, to address this issue.
Further, although usually approximately the size of a twin bed, the technology and access needs for a high-low hospital bed mean that it will generally need more space than a standard twin bed. Most electric high-low beds need a dedicated and grounded electrical circuit which may have to be specially installed.
Finally, of course, electric high-low hospital beds are expensive. You can expect to spend at least $1,000 on a semi-electric model. However, if the mattress is “medically necessary,” it may be covered by Medicare or other health insurance.
Cost of High-Low Hospital Beds
High-low hospital beds with various bells and whistles sell for prices in the range of just under $2,000 to nearly $5,000. A fully electric bariatric high-low hospital bed can cost $7,000 to $8,000. A very popular range by Sonderkare ranges from $6,000 to $10,000.
Paying for Your High-Low Hospital Bed
Medicare often accepts and pays for a hospital bed as “durable medical equipment” (DME) that a physician ordered for a patient’s extended use.
Medicare will only authorize an adjustable bed as DME if the bed adjusts either from the head or foot or both, allowing a person to elevate different body parts as necessary. The bed should also have rails that you can lower or raise.
Medicare may also cover some of the costs for modifications required to your adjustable bed, again if ordered by your physician. Some Medicare-covered adjustments include electric-powered adjustments and an extra-wide bed.
You must have a doctor’s prescription stating that the bed is medically necessary to qualify for Medicare reimbursement. According to Medicare, a high-low bed is medically necessary if it assists in:
- relieving chronic pain or promoting circulation or body alignment
- improving a patient’s respiratory function
- providing special attachments, such as traction devices, that cannot be attached to a traditional bed
The prescription must describe precisely the condition and diagnosis and then explain why the bed is medically necessary to treat that condition.
In the end, a high-low bed can bring real improvement to a home health care patient. Relieving or easing many conditions that lead to becoming housebound, the high-low bed helps to present further injury and makes the patient more comfortable.