How to Help the Patient to Avoid the Dangers of the Environment


Healthy people are usually able to choose their environment. If anything makes it uncomfortable or dangerous, they are free to make adjustments or move away. The person confined to bed is dependent upon those nursing him to see that his surroundings are safe.

As a volunteer, one of your tasks may be to provide a safe environment for the person in your care. When people are ill their movement is usually restricted. They may be confined to bed in their own home or in hospital. Their physical surroundings matter greatly and the bedroom and furniture should be selected with care. The general atmosphere in the room is also crucial. Family, friends, doctors and nurses all help to create it and their attitude largely determines whether or not the patient feels a burden. Always try to create a pleasant and cheerful atmosphere. Let the patient feel you have time to meet his every need. Be conscious of the privilege you have in serving the sick. Your forethought will give comfort to the patient as well as support to his family and friends.

Planning the patient’s room

The room should be comfortably warm and well ventilated. If it is too hot, the patient may sweat and become uncomfort­able; if it is too cold, he may chill. Beware of draughts. In winter additional heating will probably be necessary. An open fire increases ventilation, but it should be well guarded so that when the patient is out of bed there is no danger of his dressing gown catching fire. Smoking in bed is also dangerous, particularly if the patient is elderly or drowsy. Always provide a large ashtray that will not spill easily and try to stay with the patient until he has finished smoking.

Most people prefer to stay in their own bedroom when they are ill. It may be more convenient for you to move a sick person downstairs or to a room nearer the bath­room, but do this only for his real well-being, not merely for your convenience. Whenever possible nurse the patient in a single bed with a firm but comfortable mattress. Try to leave plenty of space around the bed for ease of movement and the place­ment of any essential equipment.

If there is a pleasant garden or an interesting view, place the bed so that the patient can see out of the window. On the other hand, if the room can be overlooked there must be blinds or curtains that can be closed for privacy. These are also useful for controlling the light.

It is a good idea to leave everything the patient may need within easy reach of the bed, otherwise he may overbalance and fall when stretching for something or when getting out of bed to reach something. If a small hand bell is available, this is an added safety measure. A good bedside light is necessary for both patient and nurse, in addition to the main lighting.

With a confused patient, take care that nothing is left on his bedside table or within his reach that could cause him harm. Remove medicines, especially bottles of tablets, as he may repeat the dose forgetting what he has already taken.

Remove cigarettes and matches in case he sets the bed alight.

If the patient is able to use the bathroom you should ensure that the passageways are clear and light and that nothing has been left on the floor for him to trip over. Check that the bath water is not too hot and that there is a chair or stool in the bathroom.

Be sensitive to noise: to an ill person every sound seems magnified. Noise can cause headache and make the patient irritable. Carpeting on the floor and tablecloths on the bedside table and work surfaces will help to reduce noise and at the same time protect the furniture. You may need to turn down the radio and television or remove a ticking clock if it is disturbing him. Warn visitors to talk in a normal voice and not to shout: people often seem to think that because someone is ill he cannot hear.

Visitors, however welcome, can be exceedingly tiring for the sick or the old. If it seems necessary, try to restrict the number of visitors and the length of time they stay. This needs great tact and may tax your ingenuity if you are not to give offence.

Selecting furniture

If you are re-organizing a bedroom to make nursing easier, try to preserve the patient’s feeling that it is still his room and his home. Individual needs will vary, but certain minimum requirements usually apply to all sickrooms:

You should have:

  • a firm table or locker for the patient within easy reach of the bed
  • an armchair for the patient to sit in when he is allowed out of bed
  • two chairs for bedmaking and for the use of visitors
  • a commode if one is necessary and available
  • a working surface for you: this should be protected by newspaper or plastic sheeting and covered with a clean paper towel
  • cupboard space, useful if there are any dressings or equipment that the community nursing sister or midwife might use
  • a clear pathway between the bed and the door so that neither you nor the patient stumbles into the furniture in the dark.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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