Given that I spend most of the last 10 months in my bed, I thought it would be a great time to talk about the essential items every bedbound person needs and what we must have if we’re going to be left alone for any chunk of time. Of course, I want my readers to not only survive, but thrive. So, I’ll be sharing some ways I’ve learned to be bedbound and still feel fulfilled.
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If you’d prefer a video presentation on getting your or your loved one’s room set up, I have mostly the same information in the video below. You can also skip it and move on to the text below.
Essential Items for the Bedbound
If you or your loved one is bedbound, it’s essential to stock the items listed in the graphic above around them in an easy to reach place, like a nightstand or cart with plenty of space, or a tray with storage. This should be placed as close to the bed as feasible, so it’s in easy reach. The more we can do on our own, the more we feel in control. The more we have within reach, the less we have to depend on someone else or get out of bed, which can be detrimental with conditions like severe ME/CFS, major injury, recovery from surgery, etc.
If you or your loved one spends part of their day alone, it is absolutely essential that you have an emergency plan in place and that they have an easy to reach, working phone. A panic/emergency device may also be a benefit. If you’re their only caretaker, it’s also essential that they can reach you when you’re away.
Other things that fall under the realm of essential includes ample fresh water, fresh snacks or even a meal (depending on length of time), necessary mobility devices and any medical equipment needed, such as an emesis basin or bedpan. They should also have access to all their medications, whether taken at regular intervals, used as needed or a rescue medication. If pill cases are used, these should be checked and restocked regularly.
Straws may be an essential item, so make sure they have plenty within easy reach, along with utensils, napkins and/or bibs. Even someone with great motor skills can have a hard time eating in bed and there’s actually quite the variety of bibs these days to suit almost every personality.
If incontinence is an issue, be sure to leave some extra clean clothes in reach and use a disposable underpad. This saves a lot of time and energy needing to change sheets for every cough, sneeze and accident and will help your loved one feel more clean and comfortable if an accident does occur.
You or your loved one should also have a variety of covers to choose from to account for temperature changes throughout the day and lots of pillows in different shapes or sizes to properly support them in any position.
A change of clothes, body care and grooming items should also be within reach and a tray should be provided, either to keep things within easy reach and/or to use for hobbies, writing, etc. In some cases, two trays may be needed.
If your loved one is bedbound full-time and/or often in the same position, an alternating air pressure mattress can be very helpful in the prevention of bed sores.
Here are a few items that may help:
Of course there are a variety of tray and table options. The rolling table with adjustable tilt below is perfect if your loved one needs more space and a place to work on arts and crafts.
I’ll also be including options for computer stands in my upcoming post about working from bed.
Finally, dry shampoo is also a great option for temporary grooming needs, but there’s a vast variety. Because of my MCAS, the only one I can tolerate is the Perfect Hair Day brand, but there’s actually a wide variety of options on Amazon. Here’s a list of options in dry shampoo.
Items which Brighten a Bedbound Life
It isn’t always easy to find satisfaction or a sense of purpose in a bedbound life. No matter if you’re there for weeks or months, life can get pretty lonely and boring and we can all only play so much sudoku or watch so much TV. Here are a few ideas for enriching a bedbound life. Here are a few ideas to help keep bedbound people in touch with the world and engaged in life.
Sometimes we have to develop new hobbies that we can do laying down. I know I have. Here are a few things that work well in bed
- Textile arts such as knitting, crochet, cross stitch, rug hook, small loom knitting, hand sewing or macrame. I’ve picked up knitting and I’m enjoying it a lot.
- Paper arts such as collage, origami, caligraphy, sketching or drawing, making your own greeting cards and scrapbooking
- Graphic art and design (with the right set up)
- Reading (paperbacks or audiobooks may be best) fiction, non-fiction, magazines
- writing, poetry, blogging, vlogging, pinterest collections, Instagram or TikTok.
- playing or creating puzzles, games or apps
- Makeup (artistic or otherwise)
- Jewelry making
- Here’s a offerings on Amazon which are bestsellers in Arts, Crafts and Sewing.
If you’re trying out a new hobby, just buy some basic supplies or a kit or two to test it out and see if it’s the right fit for you and really works for a bedbound life. I ran through a few things before I found what works for me. Be sure when you’re working that you’re able to do so in a comfortable position. Add pillows or towels to support your arms and body comfortably to avoid unnecessary fatigue or injury.
It’s important that we have a variety of things to do. Televisions should be provided and mounted where ever it’s most comfortable for the bedbound person to view. My TV is mounted high on the wall and tilted somewhat downward, so I can see it even if I’m laying flat.
It’s also great if you can liven up the room with some pop culture things or art that you love and brightens your mood. For example, I have a fish tank, a number of collectibles and family photos that always remind me of some of my happiest memories. Books, audiobooks, movies and TV shows should be easily accessible and frequently renewed. Ideally, having 2-3 streaming services can provide access to a variety of shows and movies that most interest the bedbound person.
If you’re a big reader and can read ebooks or audiobooks, a great service that offers unlimited choices all month long is Scribd. They do cut down the selection if you read prolifically, so it’s not a bad idea to supplement through the library and other free sources, such as LibriVox (free) and Hoopla, where you only need your library card to access tons of great ebooks, audiobooks, movies, music and more.
Scribd offers unlimited books, ebooks, magazines, journals and sheet music from their available catalog, which is quite extensive. If you’d like to try Scribd, you can get 60 days free by following my link, and I’ll get 30 days free for referring you. Thanks!
Music can also be a great mood lifter and for some. If you’re like me, music lies somewhere between a hobby and pure obsession. We can get a lot of free music on our smartphones these days, but it’s nice if it’s not blaring in your face from a tiny speaker, so something like this little bluetooth speaker is a great thing to provide.
If you really enjoy music, learning an instrument can be a great hobby for the bedbound. It certainly doesn’t work for every instrument, but there are a few options that work well for bedbound individuals, such as a small keyboard, a recorder, or a small stringed instrument. I chose the Ukulele because it’s a small instrument that’s held against your chest as you play and it’s easy enough to do it in bed. They’re also relatively cheap, as intruments go. Check out these Ukulele options on Amazon.
For some, video games might be a great leisure activity they can participate in. Just make sure they have easy access to whatever they need to stay occupied and engaged in life. If it needs to be charged, be sure they have easy access to do so. A goosenecked holder for phones and/or personal gaming units could help them to do these things with greater comfort.
Pets can also bring a bedbound person a lot of joy, love and essential touch (so long as we don’t have to walk them, anyway). A small dog or a cat that is box-trained may be great options, while small pets who live in a cage may offer more flexibility around cuddle times. Rats, rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils make great little cuddlers, but there’s really a wide range of animals to choose from. Just remember, they will also need care to thrive and it may be up to the carer to ensure the health and safety of the pet chosen.
Other Ways to Bring More Joy
First and foremost, spend time with us! My husband lays in bed with me when he isn’t working or taking care of our home and I appreciate the time we have together. We watch TV, listen to music, play cards, talk about our latest reads, the news, or reminisce and spend time telling each other about our day. We also hold hands, give each other a mini-massage and cuddle whenever possible. Touch is essential to every human. Did you know there are even professional cuddlers who provide a safe, nurturing touch for clients?
Days with low symptoms are a great time to ask your loved one’s closest friends and family to come visit, as well. Just make it clear that they’ll be in bed for the visit and supply them with a chair to sit by the bed and chat so they’re comfortable for their stay. It may also be a good idea to let them know that they’ll need to be flexible about how long they visit, in case your loved one experiences a sudden change in symptoms.
Most people living a homebound or bedbound life have few friends and family, but that doesn’t mean socialization isn’t important. A smart phone and/or laptop is critical to maintain communications with the outside world. They can spend time emailing, catching up with friends on social media and generally staying in touch with news, hobbies and the things most important to them. There are also a variety of support groups online for the chronically ill that can be beneficial. Again, the key is to offer as much variety as possible in a way that’s easy to access.
Finally, if your bedbound loved one is unable to go outside, do what you can to bring nature in to them. Plants are a great option, but if allergies disallow this, consider silk instead. Nature videos and live streamed nature cams are also a great way for them to be able to observe wildlife in nature from the comfort of their bed. You’ll be amazed by how many options you can find around the world on YouTube.
My next post about the bedbound life will cover how I work in bed as a blogger, author and ‘influencer,’ along with the tools I use to make it easy to do in bed. Remember, we all need to contribute in some way, so don’t be surprised if your loved one wants to try their hand at a work at home job, start their own business or volunteer their time in some way. They may just set themselves on a mission to raise awareness for their condition and help others find practical solutions to their illnesses just like me!
Believe it or not, I did this post entirely without research! What am I thinking?! Actually, I was thinking I wanted to offer something as original as possible, but I’m sure I missed something. What makes your bedbound life a little sweeter? Tell us in the comments!
Looking for more tips on making bedbound life more bearable? You’ll find a variety of tips and advice from the folks in our Directory of Health Bloggers.