pressure care mattresses guide

What Are Pressure Air Mattresses?

Dementia sufferers are often in need of pressure air mattresses, and so we thought it would be appropriate to have a look at some of the best mattresses available in the marketplace today. Pressure air mattresses, also known as alternating pressure air overlays (APAOs) or alternating pressure air replacements (APARs) are a type of mattress intended to enhance comfort for people with pressure sores/ ulcers. Pressure sore/ ulcers usually affect individuals limited to a bed for long periods of time, use a wheelchair, have moist skin as a result of perspiration or fever, those who occasionally suffer from skin breakdown because they are dehydrated or are suffering from renal failure, as well as those who have incontinence issues or diminished nutritional intake.

pressure mattress

The pressure air mattress offers the head and the body some significant amount of support to facilitate the reduction of stress on any of the mounting points.  Unlike the regular mattresses, pressure relief mattresses are usually cautiously designed with air pockets that are specifically intended to put minimal pressure on the key pressure points of the human body. Pressure air mattresses are typically available in two different forms which are distinguished by the systems that they have. The two forms are;

  • Full replacements systems; which refers to the pressure air mattresses that have a more sophisticated construction and are utilized as a single unit. The construction of the full replacement systems is such that they have deep air cells that are six inches or more, thus facilitating high relief levels for the people with pressure sores.
  • Overlay system; refers to pressure air mattresses that have a shallow depth typically under five inches and can be used in conjunction with other kinds of mattresses

Further to the form of the mattresses, there are three types of pressure air mattresses as discussed below.


Foam/ Static Mattresses

This kind of mattress usually consists of one or several foams whose intention is to relieve pressure over a period of time by equally distributing a person’s weight over a huge surface at incessantly low pressure. The key thing about this type of pressure air mattress is that the surface remains stationary and unmoved regardless of the pressure being placed on it. The mattress, however, adapts to the person’s body movements, shape, and heat.

The pressure on this mattress can be attributed to the shaped surfaces, castellations, and the air pockets that can be found within the layer/s of the foam. Usually, static air pressure mattresses are intended as a preventative measure rather than a curative one. The static air pressure mattresses can only do so much when it comes to the individuals suffering from pressure ulcers which is why they are recommended for prevention of the said ulcers especially grade one and grade two ulcers. They are great for persons who have some level of mobility as persons who are immobile usually require repositioning; otherwise, they would still suffer from the ulcers.


Combination Pressure Air Mattresses

This is a kind of pressure air mattress that combines two different systems, namely the airflow mattress and the static mattress into one mattress. The combination pressure air mattress usually has a soft foam topper and interspersed air cells insert in a foam mattress. Of all pressure air mattresses, the combination mattress offers the best pressure relief all while maintaining the mattress’ optimal comfort levels.

They are the kind of mattress that would be best suited for individuals who can ideally still move about but have a high likelihood of developing pressure sores. The only downside of this hybrid pressure air mattress is that it requires a mains-powered air pump I order for the interspersed air cells to be operated.


Air-Flow Pressure Air Mattresses

Otherwise referred to as alternating pressure air mattresses, the air-flow mattresses functions by redistributing pressure via its active lying surface to eventually relieve pressure. The mattress is created using interspersing rows of adjacent air cells. The mattress is operated using a connected pump unit that is usually linked to both the mattress and the bed’s footboard and inflates the deflated cells and vice versa. This pump is responsible for ensuring that a user’s skin experiences continuous movement and that there are no instances where there is no pressure.

The cells work such that the deflated cells give relief to the individuals skin while the inflated cells offer pressure that is enough to support the person using the mattress. The airflow pressure air mattress is ideally recommended for treating pressure sores that have already developed and avoided pressure ulcers in immobile individuals. Individuals who are immobile will appreciate the relief provided by this mattress and the fact that this mattress takes away the need for a caregiver repositioning them manually. The mattress is recommended for individuals suffering from grade four and three ulcers.  The only downside associated with the airflow mattress would be the compressor’s noise and the fact that comfort may occasionally be compromised on while the lying surface is moving.


Features of Good Pressure Air Mattresses

The market is saturated with several brands of pressure air mattress, all of which may claim to be the best in the market. There are a few features that characterize a good pressure air mattress which can help individuals determine which pressure air mattress they should opt for. Some of those features include:

  • Low air loss; mattresses with this feature can be considered to be good because part of the pressure relief process is managing heat and moisture on an individual’s skin. Air mattresses should have a breathable cover or one that has tiny micro-holes on the surface and can be used to blow air out of the mattress. Mattresses that have the low air loss feature will either have On-Demand low air loss capabilities where the air loss process can be turned on and off depending on preference and True low air loss where the feature is always on.
  • Lateral rotation: this is a feature that is great but is particularly important for immobile individuals who cannot move/ shift their positioning themselves. Pressure air mattresses with the lateral rotation feature turn the individuals over the scheduled time intervals, and caregivers can choose between having a quarter, half, three- quarters, or full turn is done on the patient.
  • Bottoming out: this is another feature that a good pressure air mattress should possess. The mattress should not bottom out at the centre when a patient’s bed is adjusted at the top or bottom of the bed. The pressure air mattress should inject the air needed to the centre of the mattress as soon as it senses that the mattress has been tilted.


Med Therapeutics & Service Med

Pressure air mattresses have been available in the market for a while now, but one company that has been able to provide excellent quality of therapeutic support systems such as pressure air mattresses would be Med Therapeutics and Service Med who work together in to ensure that all individuals needs are met accordingly. The companies provide the said pressure air mattresses for the different applications, i.e., high risk, medium risk, and a low risk to hospices, acute hospitals, nursing, and care homes as well as for home use. Their pressure air mattresses are usually available in three ranges including the Service Med range products which are recommended for high to very high risk applications and are of superior quality,  the airwave range whose quality is touted as affordable and is recommended for medium, high and very high risk systems and finally, the easy-care range which is touted as a budget range recommended for low to medium risk systems.

Some of the pressure air mattresses they have available in their range of products include:

  • AirWave 2040 Digital Auto-Weigh 8′ Replacement Air Mattress System: This mattress is intuitive and can be used in either static or dynamic therapy modes and brags deep 8-inch air cells to ensure users experience low pressure that has minimal friction. This mattress is ideal for very high risk and high systems, and it even has a sensor to detect power failure and low pressure. This mattress contains a stretchy cover with great anti-shear and frictional characteristics as well as a white backing that shows any fluid entry.
  • AirWave 2020 Digital Auto-Weigh Air Mattress Overlay: Like the AirWave 2040, the AirWave 2020 is equally just as intuitive and has replaceable 5-inch low friction air cells that ensure infection control. It is equipped with a pressure sensing technology and can manage weights up to 180 kilograms. Just like the AirWave 2040, the 2020 can function in either dynamic or static mode and is ideal for medium to high-risk applications.
  • AirWave Air Cushion: an airflow/ alternating cushion designed for pain relief on the go and has the ability to give the optimal bed to chair pressure relief therapy. The cushion which has interspersing air cells integrated to a 2-inch memory foam mattress works together with a power unit that can be used to pump the cushion and adjust it to support the weight that it is carrying. This cushion can manage weights of up to 100 kilograms, and it has great qualities that enable it to be used and last for long periods of time.



As previously mentioned, Med Therapeutics has constantly been at the forefront of innovation as far as pressure relief products such as pressure air mattresses are concerned. TheraCloud is one such innovation from Med therapeutics, and it is a pressure care system designed to work in conjunction with pressure air mattresses and other pressure relief products. TherCloud is Wi-Fi enabled and eliminates the need for manual turning as individuals can be monitored remotely, and the pressure air mattresses are similarly controlled remotely. Remote monitoring and control using TheraCloud provide full access to all functionalities of the pressure air mattresses, immediate information, and accurate control an option that was previously unavailable in the market. In more than 40 years, TheraCloud has probably been the biggest progress as far as pressure relief, and bedside pressure treatment is concerned. The system which is customizable offers a lot of benefits such as;

  • It assures safety for individuals since caregivers receive alerts through their mobile devices along with an additional email that is sent out to further facilitate peace of mind.
  • TheraCloud is completely customizable to a patient and their needs and as such, enables them to receive optimum pain relief therapy.
  • The system does not emit any vibrations, and it is equipped with internal noise mufflers that reduce noise by 25%. Unlike previously when manually repositioning patients on the pressure air mattresses would cause disturbances to them, patients can now enjoy their rest undisturbed and not have to compromise on their comfort because it is time to be repositioned.
  • While pressure air mattresses were already therapeutic, the introduction of TheraCloud has made it even more therapeutic as air is instantly released into the mattresses, unlike previously where it had to be pumped.
  • Since the system can report on a patient’s vital stats, it is possible to calculate the risk scores accurately and give the ideal pressure relief therapy by applying or removing pressure on the pressure air mattresses.


Final Thoughts

Many books have been written about dementia care, and many recommend the use of these mattresses as part of the overall care plan for a dementia sufferer. Pressure air mattresses are therapeutic support systems that provide a level of comfort and ensure pressure relief from pressure ulcers or pressure sores. Pressure ulcers and sores occur on different parts of a person’s body that constantly experiences large amounts of sustained pressure, which gradually develops to become the sores/ ulcers. Pressure sores are usually graded from one to four, depending on the severity.

The first grade is typically characterized by reddened skin, the second is characterized by a superficial wound resembling a blister, grade three is characterized by damaged skin and tissue while the fourth grade is characterized by damaged joints, bone, tendons, muscle, skin and underlying tissue which could ultimately result in the decay of the part with the sores/ ulcers.  Pressure relief is extremely crucial because as previously mentioned, it can get to a point where it is no longer salvageable, and a person has to lose a limb or body part. Pressure air mattresses provided much-needed relief by facilitating air circulation, which aids in managing stiffness of surfaces and prevent intense pressure being placed on a specific body part.


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