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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Visions of a better bed design

July 14. 2013 5:08PM

LAST WEEK'S column about our needing to develop a better bed (Case #1307) caused a minor sensation among readers. Before 5 p.m. Monday, July 8, I had received 10 email comments and three phone calls — the highest number of immediate same-day response for all the cases we discussed.

The topic hit the real and very large problem we face in the issues of home-care for the ill and aged.

The reason I listed the problems was to clearly understand the issues involved. Many inventors, including myself, often start "inventing" before fully understanding and defining the problems we face. We often lack ability to quietly listen to people who have lived through the problems, and carefully analyze the issues. In fact one of the most important attributes for becoming successful inventor is the ability to listen carefully and ask questions.

Instead, many inventors proudly talk about their solutions with their ears closed. If you compare the last week's column with this one, you will find that we have missed new and serious problems. These people below have brought new sets of problems.

Dorothy Harrises of Manchester told me that she nursed her bedridden husband for 12 years until his death last year. I was touched by her devotion. She and her three kids worked hard to maintain her husband's daily life. Two difficult tasks were to change sheets, and get him to shower. They developed a very narrow bed supported by two foldable legs, and they placed her husband on the narrow bed to change sheets on his bed. See FIG 1. They modified the shower booth to accept the wheel chair with her husband on it so he could enjoy showers.

Diane Lavigne of Manchester wrote: "I saw your article regarding someone finding a solution for the age-old problem of turning a patient in bed … and this is exactly what I experienced when I took care of my Mom. I faced the challenge of being able to turn her from side to side." Her poignant note states further that she expects she would follow her mother's step soon, and she would like to see an appropriate solution found. What she conceives as the solution to moving the patient from left to right while changing the sheets is shown in FIG 2.

Katherine Kane of Portsmouth emailed her idea of assisting a patient who can walk but has a hard time getting out of bed to stand up. She wants the bed to tilt up to the almost vertical position so that the patient can start walking immediately. She said she has a hard time getting up from the bed to standing up position for walking. (This issue has been verified by an expert in bed maintenance.) The system Katherine proposes is in FIG 3.

Justine Pallatroni, a nurse anesthetist from North Hampton, wants to deal with the insidious bed sore problem. Bed sore or decubitus ulcer is a very serious problem for people who tend to stay in bed for a long time. Pressure points of the human body when lying down in bed receive poor blood circulation, which causes the sore. The solution is to change the pressure points physically and continuously by moving the pressure points. That is not an easy task if the patient is bedridden and cannot move around on bed easily.

Pallatroni suggests developing some sort of bed surface that undulates in time so the pressure points will alternate and move around. She states, "what the medical field needs for geriatric population is a bed that can positively effect a person's circulation that is economical to own/rent." I am afraid I cannot draw this system as I don't know what it would look like.

Overall, thanks for the valid contributions. We have ended up knowing much more of the scope and issues of the problems the bed design must tackle.

Shintaro (Sam) Asano of New Castle, who speaks and writes English as a second language, was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century who improved our life. He is a businessman and an inventor in the field of electronics and mechanical systems, who is credited as the original inventor of today's portable fax machine. He also developed a data tablet used in the retail point of sale to capture customer signatures when credit cards are used. Write to him at

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