This section is from the book "Feeling Better? Amusements and Occupations for Convalescents", by Cornelia R. Trowbridge. Also available from Amazon: Feeling Better.
WHEN one is ready to sit up in bed, many simple and inexpensive devices can make for added comfort. It is not necessary to have the equipment of a hospital to draw upon. An ingenious nurse or a resourceful family can anticipate needs and relieve muscular or nervous strain in ways to call forth admiration as well as gratitude. The suggestions offered here may not be new to your nurse and you, but both you and she may be glad to be reminded of them.
The position of the bed is of the first importance. It is usually possible to adjust it so that one does not lie facing the light or exposed to a draft from a window. If the nurse can get to the bed from both sides, it is easier for both her and the patient. If it is not possible to move the bed, a light screen can help to temper the light and shut off drafts and also give desired privacy when a door stands open.
Nothing is so restful as simplicity in a sick room. It is better to have unnecessary furniture removed for the time being, and also photographs and knick-knacks that fill up space needed for other things, collect dust and complicate the care of the room. It is well to banish rocking-chairs. But take thought for the nurse, especially if she has to be in attendance at night, and make sure that there is a comfortable chair for her to sit in.
For support for one sitting up in bed a variety of back-rests are to be had wherever hospital equipment is rented or sold. For extemporized use any light, straight-backed chair, turned upside down and tied in place, makes a firm and comfortable support. Two or three pillows or folded blankets laid on it will give a soft back to lean on. It will seem to take up a good deal of the bed but that may be an advantage, for it will bring one's feet against the footboard and so brace him in position. If the head of the bedstead is low, the seat of the chair can rest on it to give a straighter back. A washboard slipped inside a pillow case and propped against the head of the bed will hold a pillow firmly in place. The beach back-rests sold for use at the seashore are light, inexpensive, adjustable and take up little room. They will serve in most cases quite as well as the more expensive hospital back-rests.
Stuffed back-rests can now be bought at department stores. They are shaped like the back and arms of an over-stuffed armchair but are made like sections of a mattress, upholstered in satin. They are light, easily adjusted, wonderfully comfortable-and rather expensive.
If only pillows are used for support, at least one of them should be substantial. To place the upper one at right angles to the lower supports the head better. Two pillows in one pillowslip will give firmer support than two separate ones. The triangular pillows with sides of different heights which department stores are now selling are a great comfort to anyone lying in bed. They cost but little and can be put to many uses.
There is much comfort to be had also from keeping at hand three or four very soft pillows, not more than fifteen inches square. They can be tucked under the head or used at either side to keep cold air from getting under the bedclothes or adjusted under the elbow if one's arm tires or between the knees when one turns over to rest. Often there is great relief in having a pillow under the knees to raise them. A triangular pillow is useful for this. An ordinary pillow gives firmer support if it is doubled over and tied with a cord. Some-
A Triangular Pillow times it is still more helpful to have a triangular block of wood or one or two books under the mattress to lift the knees. If the weight of the bedclothes grows heavy on the feet, a pillow at the foot of the bed between the sheets will raise the pressure or a leaf from a dinner table on its edge can be tied in place across the bed between the sheets.
Indispensable for comfort is a small bedside table at the head of the bed, to hold a shaded lamp, a pitcher or caraffe of water, a small clock. If it has a drawer, small toilet articles can be kept at hand.
But no stand beside the bed can take the place of a bed-table across one's knees. Chapter XXVI (How To Make Bed-Tables) is devoted entirely to the different forms of bed-tables, those on the market and home-made ones. A little study of its pages will decide the kind of table most available and practical in any individual case.
To keep the light from shining in one's eyes unpleasantly at night there are inexpensive hooded lamps, eye screens which can be clamped on electric bulbs, reading lamps to be fastened to the head of a bed. So simple a contrivance as dark paper pinned around an electric fixture may rest tired eyes.
A very good substitute for a bookrest is a small pillow laid across the knees, and equally practical whether one is in bed or promoted to an armchair. A triangular pillow makes an especially good bookrest. Snap clothespins or wire paper-clips on the corners of the pages will keep a book open.
A bed-jacket is much more convenient than a long bathrobe or dressing-gown. If getting into even a jacket is an exertion, it can be slipped on hindside before. This is a good way also to protect the chest.
It is a convenience to have within reach a supply of paper towels or handkerchiefs and a scrap basket to drop them into.
The more comfortable you can be made or can make yourself, the happier it will be for all concerned in your recovery. You can do much to help yourself along the way back to that normal self-dependence which is the privilege of health.
In conclusion ponder this good counsel from Frances Campbell's Book of Home Nursing:
"Not everyone knows how to relax. Do not lie on your back with your eyes closed tightly, your teeth gripped together and your face worried but begin with your head and tell it to rest. Let go all your muscles, one at a time. Don't laugh at this; try it.-Let your arms lie at your sides, not rigid, but let them lie heavy on the bed and all your body the same, and no matter how unpleasant you feel, look pleasant. Smile to yourself; try it." *
* Used by Courtesy of E. P. Dutton & Co.