Dear hospital administrators: Why not try safe enclosure beds with a patient first in certain cases, instead of relying on more restrictive physical restraints?

You have a moral duty to inform your patients and their loved ones about enclosure beds when relevant to the patient, if you are not doing this already. In fact, I highly recommend that loved ones actively consider hospitals and care facilities that offer safe enclosure bed designs among top-level criteria in this context, after personally witnessing their benefits firsthand.

Shelley Roberts
artdesigncafé - design | 19 February 2012
Enclosure bed design, Soma Safe Enclosure by Vivax Medical Corporation, USA.
enclosure bed design

I’ll never forget the moment I first saw a Soma Safe Enclosure bed design. In fact, I don’t think anyone in my family will. It came when my father’s battle with cancer was attacking his brain, while he was in a specialist care facility in the U.S. We’d learn very soon that there was no use for any more treatment. The stage of disbelief that our hero couldn’t beat this, in other words denial, was just about to pass into a hard slap of very cold reality.

Among us, we had alternated sitting with him, being with him almost 24 hours/day, holding his hand, plumping his pillow, talking to him, a kiss on his cheek, a smile— anything— to provide him with a little comfort as he was physically and mentally disintegrating in front of us.

For the first time ever, he needed help, and we could do nothing. An entire army of talented family members and friends with different skills; contacts; businesses; corporate, SME, higher education and military experience; and various Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, were ready to marshal resources— and he was receiving care from some of the most thoughtful medical staff I have ever seen. All of this meant nothing in my father’s battle.

All we could soon do was to try to make him comfortable and let him know that we’d be alright, that we’d always remember him, so he could let go. And as he disintegrated, sometimes with uncontrollable arm movement, we had a choice: the threat of him having to be tied down at times, or an alternative, an experiment— something “pre-physical restraints”, something called an “enclosure bed”.

Enclosure bed as comforting "mosquito net"

At another hospital just two weeks earlier, my father— the man who had numerous people attend his wake with numerous stories of how he helped people from all walks of life in their time of need— either freaked out on medication or the cancer spread to his brain with force— or both. The result was him being physically restrained as he was violently moving around too much. At that time, no family member or friend even knew that an enclosure bed existed. My father had to be tied down and restrained like a wild animal—my father— in his time of desperate need.

Upon seeing the enclosure bed at the second hospital, some in my family were at first a little uncomfortable with it— what is this? I on the other hand immediately liked it and the design was familiar. You see, I’ve travelled a bit, and the enclosure bed reminded me of mosquito net bedding design that I had slept under in small hotels in tropical jungles. You quickly adjust to the personal space and it can be quite comforting, motherly even, protecting you from outside elements to get a good night’s sleep.

Search combinations of
"mosquito net", "poster beds",
"hotel", etc. in Google images
to see various designs.

But my father’s "mosquito net" had a different, and quite noble purpose: to keep him safe from falling out of his hospital bed, and thankfully, without the need for being tied down. At this time my father could barely communicate and sit up unassisted, but he seemed a lot more relaxed in his "mosquito net", even though he was fidgiting and extended his arms outward uncontrollably quite often. In fact, if there hasn’t been a medical study of the effect of enclosure beds on patients and their loved ones, there definitely should be. We’d open the side of the enclosure while we were in the room. He no longer needed a sitter which while well-intentioned, was always awkward. If we left his room for a short break, we’d simply inform the staff and "the mosquito net" would be zipped up for his protection and staff monitoring took over.

When new family members or friends would appear, the enclosure bed was quickly cast as a kind of mosquito net like in some hotels in the tropics. It seemed to transform any negative design images that they knew, immediately, to a new positive one. In fact, I suggest that medical staff consider showing photos of mosquito nets, easily available on the internet. It may accelerate easier acceptance like in my father’s case. To me, it’s simply a kind of design with a different, useful application.

When it was time for my father to be sent to a hospice in another location, we specifically asked the advising staff member about sites with enclosure beds because we wanted our father to be able to pass away with as much dignity as possible. We were actively seeking facilities that had enclosure beds, even over things like the number of patients in the room and other criteria. We put in a formal request, if necessary, to try somehow to borrow the enclosure bed from the hospital. And if that didn’t work, the family army was ready to contact the Vivax CEO to beg, borrow, or try to make some kind of deal to desperately get an enclosure bed for my father.

There was no denying a simple fact: throughout his days inside his "mosquito net", my father had no need to be tied down. But he did come close a couple of instances.

Informing loved ones about enclosure beds should be required, by law if necessary

Enclosure bed design, Soma Safe Enclosure by Vivax Medical Corporation, USA.
enclosure bed design

In fact, after witnessing my father and his struggle, I personally think it should be required that senior hospital staff inform loved ones about the ins and outs of physical restraints and enclosure beds when relevant to the patient, so that loved ones and/or the patient can make better, informed decisions. It should also be required that senior staff inform patients / loved ones in writing at which area facilities enclosure beds are located, if not their own. I feel so strongly about this, that if necessary, a suitable law should be passed.

It’s quite simple why. Because my father, or anyone else, does not deserve to be strapped down when under certain conditions this may possibly be avoided.