Keeping a Bedfast Patient Comfortable

When patients must remain in bed for long periods of time, joints become stiff, skin becomes sore, and muscles ache. To prevent such occurrences and to keep the patient comfortable in bed, skill and frequent attention by the home nurse are necessary.

A frame at the foot of the bed (under the top sheet) can serve two purposes: (1) to keep the covers from pressing on the toes, and (2) to keep the feet in proper position. Feet that are allowed to slant downward for long periods of time develop a condition called “foot drop,” in which the flexor muscles of the leg are paralyzed. When the patient is on his side, a pillow against the back and one between the legs provide support and prevent pressure from knees resting against each other. Pads made from foam, cotton in soft covers, or other ready-made materials when placed under heels or elbows can prevent or reduce skin breakdown.

The patient needs to be encouraged to drink an adequate amount of fluids, unless medically restricted. Otherwise, skin may become dry and/or irritated. After baths, during the day, and especially when settling for the night, lotion with gentle massage of the back can help relax as well as lubricate the skin, reducing irritation and stimulating circulation.

When the patient is given a bath in bed, the bed linens should be changed immediately afterward; then the patient can be given a gentle back rub which will relax him, allowing him to rest without further disturbance.

Unless prohibited by the physician, the patient should be “dangled” two to three times during the day. Sit him up on the side of the bed, with assistance and support, and let the legs hang over the side of the bed for five to ten minutes. If such activity is not possible, the patient’s position in bed should be varied from flat to as near upright as possible to prevent dizziness and to improve circulation.

If the patient must eat in bed, sit him up as straight as possible, using a backrest and pillows. Serve the food on a bed table or a board or tray set on top of stacks of books or wooden blocks. If he can remain in a sitting position for some time, use a slanted foot support to brace his feet.

Home health agencies can often provide a visiting nurse to teach the family how to care for a patient who will be in bed for a prolonged period of time, so that family members can assume such responsibility in a knowledgeable and safe manner. Suzanne Dandoy, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Arizona Department of Health Services

The Eye of the Needle

The ugliest job in tying a quilt—coaxing that fuzzy yarn through skinny needle-eyes—becomes a pleasure with this simple trick: (1) Fold a piece of cellophane tape over the end of the thread. (2) Clip off at an angle. (3) Thread through needle. Karen F. Barnum, Merced, California

Soap Savers II

A method for melting down soap scraps was presented in the Random Sampler of March 1975, and since that time many readers have sent in alternative methods. These are a few of them:

I tried melting down small pieces of soap but wasn’t too happy with the results and the time consumed. So I took a piece of nylon netting large enough to fold into a bag four by five inches, sewed up two sides, and filled the bag with soap scraps. After stuffing it full of soap, I sewed up the end and had the best little hand scrubber ever. I keep one on the sink, in the bathroom, and wherever else one is needed. When the soap is gone, open the end and stuff it full again. The bag will last and last. Henrietta Janson, Phoenix, Arizona

I have a quicker and easier way to use soap scraps. Put them into the end of an old nylon stocking and tie a knot. I used a knee-high stocking and didn’t cut it at all. It makes an excellent device for scrubbing dirty elbows and knees. Linda French, Roberts, Idaho

In answer to your piece on “Soap Saver” in the March 1975 issue, I think you are wasting time and energy by melting down the scraps. Just press the soap slivers into a new bar when both are wet. Let them dry and they become one bar. Chris Pedersen, Oxnard, California

Soap Like Grandma Did It

Editor: We would like information and recipes for making soap, as part of our effort to become self-sufficient. Any information you could share on the subject would be appreciated. Mrs. Doran Higgins, Ekalaka, Montana

Hand (or laundry) soap

1 can lye (13 ounces)

3 pints cold water

5 1/2 pounds clean fat, free from salt, melted and strained

1 tablespoon citronella or other perfume (optional)

Add lye gradually to water in a stone or enamel container. Cool to 80° F. Melt the fat in an enamel kettle, then cool it to 120° F. Add the lye solution slowly to the fat, stirring with wooden spoon until combined and thick as honey. It will require 3 minutes or longer, depending on the fat used and the weather. If stirred too long, mixture will separate. Add perfume if desired. Pour into molds made of wood or pasteboard boxes lined with brown paper. Let stand in a warm place 24–48 hours or until firm. Remove from molds, cut into cakes with a string or wire. Makes 9 pounds of soap—15 pieces 3 x 2 1/2 x 2 inches. If the lye solution seeps through the bottom of the boxes, it may damage the surface of tables, etc.

Granular laundry soap (never-fail recipe)

11 cups cold water

1 cup borax

1 cup bleach

5 pounds fat, melted and strained

1 can lye (13 ounces)

1 tablespoon citronella (optional)

Put water into a granite kettle. Stir lye into the water with a wooden spoon. Mix bleach with borax, then add it to the melted fat. Stir well. Add this mixture to the water and lye. The lye solution and the fat should be the same temperature when mixing (75° F). Stir 10–12 strokes. Do not overstir; it will form a thick curd or settle to the bottom. Do not pour off the water that forms. Stir within an hour, then stir every hour all day. Continue to stir off and on each day until the soap is dry and powdered. When using soap for laundry purposes, a water softener should be used for best results.


Do not make soap inside your house or in closed quarters; the fumes are very caustic. It may be brought inside after it is mixed to keep it warm. Use care in mixing, because the solution may cause severe burns; if it gets on the skin, wash it off immediately with cold water. A little vinegar rubbed on burned areas may help neutralize the lye. Never use aluminum or metal pans to make soap. Use enamel or stone crocks only. LaVell Turner, Brigham Young University, Department of Food Science and Nutrition

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch