Updated: Jul 23
Sometimes just a little bit of information will help make a complicated task into an easy one.
When caring for a loved one with mobility issues or a serious illness, you’ll find yourself faced with all kinds of practical challenges that you’ve never thought about before. One of these challenges is how to change a bed with someone in it.
If your loved one is receiving hospice care, aides will help change their clothes and linens, but you may also need to change the bed linens between visits from the aide. Your hospice aide will be happy to teach you how to do it. You can also follow the steps below.
How to Change Sheets on an Occupied Bed
It seems like the easy first step would be to move your loved one from the bed, but this is often not practical or even possible. Instead, you get ready to change the sheets while the bed is occupied by making sure your loved one is safe and secure throughout the process. Have all your supplies ready to go to make the process as quick and easy as possible. If your loved one is in pain, plan to change the bed 30-60 minutes after receiving their prescribed analgesic.
If at all possible, you should try to change an occupied bed with a partner. While it is possible to do alone, it’s faster and easier with a partner.
Next, make sure the doors are closed and curtains are drawn to protect your loved one’s privacy and dignity throughout the process. Tell your loved one you are going to change the bedsheets even if they don’t seem to hear or understand you. Then check the bedding for any loose items like glasses, hearing aids, dentures, or jewelry.
Now, it’s time to really begin. Follow these nine steps:
Put on a pair of gloves. This protects your loved one from any germs you may have on your hands and protects you from bed linens that may be soiled.
Securely position your loved one. Carefully roll your loved one on to their side. If their bed has rails, ask them to hold on to the bed rail if they can. If the bed does not have rails, your partner will need to keep your loved one secure so they don’t roll off the bed. Keep your loved one covered with a top sheet during this process.
Remove the bottom sheet. Beginning at the side furthest from your loved one, untuck the bottom sheet and tightly roll it up in the direction of their body. If they are soiled, immediately place them in a laundry bag or hamper. Throw away any disposable pads.
Place a new clean bottom sheet on the exposed side of the bed. Pull the sheet over the corners of the bed and then roll it to your loved one’s body and tuck it under them.
Tuck a waterproof pad or slide sheet under your loved one. A slide sheet (also called a draw sheet) is a sheet folded into thirds and placed under your loved one where their hips are.
Roll your loved one back onto the slide sheet. Now you and your partner can use the slide sheet to help move your loved one back to the side of the bed where the bottom sheet is already tucked in.
Change the remaining linens. Remove the used top sheets from the bed and place in the hamper. Then tuck the new bottom sheet into the final corners of the bed and add a new top sheet over your loved one.
Change the pillowcases. Let your loved one know that you will be lifting their head to change the pillowcase. Keep your loved one’s head and neck supported when changing the pillowcase.
You’re done! Remove your gloves and wash your hands. Check in with your loved one and make sure they are comfortable. Adjust pillows and blankets as needed.
The first time you change the bed with someone in it, it will be a challenge. But it gets easier with practice. Regularly changing your loved one’s bed sheets is important for good sanitation and your loved one’s comfort.