A Safe and Comfortable Mattress

Today I am blogging an answer to a common long-term care question about the mattresses in nursing homes.

Question:  While visiting my mom recently I noticed the mattress on her bed at the nursing home appeared to be in terrible shape.  Mom pointed out several cracks and tears in the mattress cover.  Is that sanitary? Doesn’t the facility have an obligation to replace old torn mattresses?

Answer:  Yes, you should notify the Facility Administrator or Director of Nursing that the mattress cover and/ or mattress appears worn.  You want to make sure to show the cracks and tears to an employee of the facility with authority to obtain or order a new cover and/or mattress.

During the past few years the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reported receiving hundreds of reports regarding medical mattress covers failing to prevent blood and bodily fluids from leaking into the mattress.  The report also mentioned concerns that fluid leaking into worn or damaged medical bed mattress covers may be widespread and largely under-recognized by health care facility staff, and caregivers. Some reports indicate that if bodily fluids from one resident penetrates a mattress, they can later leak out from the mattress when another resident is placed on the bed. Residents are at risk for infection if they come into contact with blood and bodily fluids from other residents. Medical literature shows that damaged and soiled mattresses can be a source of contamination during infection outbreaks.  You are justified in being concerned about your mother’s mattress condition for these reasons and for her comfort.

The FDA has recommended that facilities regularly check each mattress cover for signs of damage or wear such as cuts, tears, cracks, pinholes, snags or stains and immediately replace any medical bed mattress cover with visible signs of damage or wear to reduce the risk of infection to patients.  You may ask the Facility Administrator when staff regularly check for damage and wear.  You may want to make notes for yourself about the date when you noticed the mattress damage, the date that you reported the damage to the facility, the name of the person you spoke to about it, how they said they would fix the problem, when they said it would be fixed, and whether or not the mattress was replaced. A facility should promptly replace damaged mattresses and covers.  Nursing facilities must provide each resident with a clean, comfortable mattress with bedding, appropriate to the weather and climate.  If you and your mother are uncomfortable talking with facility staff about your mattress concerns we can work on the problem for you.  We are here to help you resolve concerns.  You can call the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency (NHOA) at 859-277-9215. Or email us at nhoa@ombuddy.org