Sunshine, pure fresh air, and freedom from noise and odors are the principal things to be considered in choosing the sick-room. When possible it is advisable to have a room with a southern exposure. If there is a fireplace or grate in the room so much the better, a chimney is an excellent medium for ventilation.
Despite the fact that the sick-room at the top of the house gives many stairs to climb, it is better to have it there. It is further removed from the noises of the street and house and the air is generally purer.
Only necessary articles of furniture should be retained ; all heavy hangings, draperies, and upholstered furniture must be removed. Care must be taken, however, that the room is not made too bare and unattractive. Short, washable curtains; clean, white linen covers for the tables; a few fresh flowers will help to make the sick-room bright and cheerful. Flowers should be removed at night, the water they are in changed daily, and they should never be tolerated after they begin to fade.
The ideal bed is iron or brass; single or three-quarter width. The double bed is unadvisable, for owing to its width, the mattress is apt to sink in the middle and it is then almost impossible to keep the under sheets drawn tightly enough to prevent wrinkles. The bed should be at least twenty-five inches in height, but if it is not, can easily be made so by placing heavy blocks of wood under each leg. Hollows about two inches in depth should be made in the blocks to fit the ends of the legs. Especially if the patient is liable to be ill long, the trouble of doing this is well repaid by the added convenience in lifting and working over the patient.
A hair mattress is by far the best kind to have; the feather one the worst. Not only is the latter too heating, but when occupied it is almost impossible to make the bed properly.
The bed should be placed far enough from the walls to give access on all sides, care being taken to avoid having the light in the patient's eyes.
The best plan is to have the window behind the bed; then more sun and light can be admitted without disturbing the patient. Except in certain cases, it is a mistake to keep the sick-room darkened.
Besides the bed, there should be two or three chairs in the room; one a comfortable arm chair with high back. If upholstered, it should be encased in a pretty, light, washable cover. Rocking chairs should never be permitted in the sick-room; when sitting in them one is almost sure to rock, and the motion is very apt to irritate the patient.
Two tables are necessary; on one should be kept writing material, where the doctor can write his orders and the nurse keep the record of the patient's condition. The second table can be near the bedside to hold the patient's bell; also her food-tray; the latter must always be removed as soon as the meal is finished. Never leave empty or half empty glasses of milk, cups of broth, etc., standing by the patient.
There is a bedside table-made on purpose for use in the sick-room-which is very convenient. The top extends over the bed in front of the patient; it is adjustable and has a foot piece which goes under the bed and keeps the table from upsetting. (See page 30.)
Medicine bottles and all necessary utensils should be kept in an adjoining room, if possible.
The floor should be swept with a soft broom covered with cheese cloth, or other soft material which is free from lint. Carpets are very objectionable; small rugs which can be removed and shaken daily, being preferable. If the carpet must remain, see that it is kept well dusted, and that no dust is raised while doing so. The best way to do this to to sweep with a damp broom, going over it afterwards with a damp cloth pinned over the broom. Do not have this too wet or it will injure the carpet.
When it is necessary for the nurse to sleep in the room, the cot is the most convenient arrangement, as it is comfortable, inexpensive and can be easily removed in the day time.
Never use a feather duster but clean, soft dust cloths which may be washed out every day. Except for the varnished furniture, it is better to have the cluster slightly damp, as this will prevent scattering of the dust.
The air in the sick-room must be as pure as the air outside. The value of fresh air as an aid to recovery is sadly underrated. The open fireplace is one of the best methods of ventilation. A current of air can be created in summer by placing a lamp or a candle in the chimney place, and in winter a wood or a coal fire. Next to a fireplace, an open stove gives the best means of ventilation.
Window ventilation is best obtained by double windows with double sashes. The lower sash of the outer window is raised about two feet; the upper sash of the inner window lowered about the same distance. The passage of air being thus directed upward, a direct draught upon the patient will not be produced, if windows and doors on the opposite side of the room are kept closed. Where there are single windows, the same effect can be obtained by tacking the lower end of a piece of cotton, about twelve inches in depth, to the frame of the upper sash and to the top of the window frame; then lower the sash about ten inches. When less air is desired the lower sash can be raised and a board fitted to the opening; the air then passes upward between the sashes.
In addition to this slight continuous ventilation, the window must be opened and the entire air of the sickroom changed at least twice a day. In doing this, be careful that there is no draught and that the patient has extra blankets. If there is no screen at hand, a large umbrella will prove quite effective in protecting the patient's head from the direct current of air. If it is necessary to warm the air before it enters the patient's room, the window in an adjoining, well-heated room may be opened, the door between the rooms being left slightly ajar. The corridor or bath room (especially the bath room) should not be used for this purpose.
Hard coal should be used if the room is heated by. a stove on account of its freedom from dust.
In removing the ashes, they should be sprinkled with water first to prevent flying, then quietly shoveled up. The coal can be added in paper bags filled outside, thus avoiding all noise likely to disturb the patient.
The temperature of the sick-room should be 68 degrees F at night and 70 degrees F during the day.