Buying Guide

Selecting the Best Mattresses for Seniors

MATTRESSES | Last Updated on December 03, 2020

Direct Supply Mattress

A comfortable mattress is absolutely essential for providing quality sleep. When choosing the proper healthcare mattresses for your seniors, there are many factors to consider, including mattress firmness, resident body type and skin integrity. Direct Supply ® is proud to offer the best mattresses for elderly people to match the needs of any resident.

With more than 35 years dedicated to serving Senior Living, we have the knowledge to help you choose the best mattresses for older adults. That way, you don’t spend money on the wrong mattress.

What is the Skin Integrity of Your Resident?

Assessing the Situation

Before making your mattress selection, it’s essential you assess your residents’ skin integrity and determine which stage of pressure ulcer needs to be addressed. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel provides the following stage definitions for pressure ulcers in Long Term Care facilities:

  • Low Risk/Wound Prevention : Residents with 12+ Braden risk scores
  • Stage I : Intact skin with non-blanchable redness of a localized area usually over a bony prominence. Darkly pigmented skin may not have visible blanching; its color may differ from the surrounding area.
  • Stage II : Partial thickness or loss of dermis presenting as a shallow open ulcer with a red-pink wound bed, without slough. Also may present as an intact or open/ruptured, serum-filled blister.
  • Stage III : Full-thickness tissue loss. Subcutaneous fat may be visible but bone, tendon or muscle are not exposed. Slough may be present but does not obscure the depth of tissue loss. May include undermining and tunneling.
  • Stage IV : Full-thickness tissue loss with exposed bone, tendon or muscle. Slough or eschar may be present on some parts of the wound bed. Often include undermining and tunneling.

Foam or Air Mattress?

When selecting the best type of mattress for elderly people, consider whether a foam or dynamic mattress better fits your residents' needs.

Foam Mattresses

Foam Mattresses

Foam mattresses are best for preventing pressure ulcers in Long Term Care facilities and may be considered for up to Stage III wounds.

  • Provide varying levels of static pressure redistribution for prevention and treatment
  • Often feature enhanced scapular, sacral and heel sections to further reduce pressure in these vulnerable areas
Dynamic Mattresses

Dynamic Mattresses

Dynamic mattresses are best for wound treatment and may be considered for use on Stage III and IV wounds.

  • Utilize air to change load distribution, moving areas of pressure and often achieving greater levels of pressure redistribution
  • Often utilize airflow – called low air loss – to prevent and treat maceration by reducing moisture

These pressure redistribution support surfaces may be appropriate for use as part of an overall care plan to prevent and treat decubitus ulcers. Resident-specific assessment could alter your particular usage of these nursing home mattresses.

Types of Foam Mattresses

Standard Urethane

Standard Urethane

The more common of the three, standard urethane can be constructed of varying density and softness levels to answer the diverse support needs of your resident population.



Also known as memory foam, viscoelastic conforms to a resident’s body shape. It is often used with ambulatory residents and rehabilitation residents. However, to some residents, viscoelastic may feel uncomfortably warm, and turning may be difficult for some because of the cradling effect.

Foam With Gel

Foam With Gel

Gel infused into any kind of foam can improve heat dissipation for greater comfort and a cooler sleep surface, while also helping reduce shear.

Types of Dynamic Air Mattresses

Nonpowered Convertible Mattresses

Relying on foam and air sectors and valve release technology, covertible mattresses provide pressure management by automatically directing air to different sectors as a resident moves. These mattresses are ideal for residents who do not require moisture control.

They can be operated as nonpowered dynamic mattresses or converted to a powered surface with the addition of an alternating pressure pump. The alternating pressure pump will automatically inflate over a timed period to load and offload pressure across a resident’s body.

Nonpowered Convertible Mattresses

Alternating Pressure Mattresses

Alternating pressure mattresses provide pressure redistribution by loading and unloading through inflation and deflation – alternating pressure – of air sectors. Residents with multiple wounds, full thickness skin loss or even Stage I wounds may benefit from alternating pressure, which is often combined with low air loss.

Alternating Pressure Mattresses

Low Air Loss Mattresses

The air sectors in these mattresses allow air to flow toward the resident to control temperature and moisture. Residents who sweat or have maceration may benefit from low air loss mattresses. Low air loss is often combined with alternating pressure or lateral rotation.

Low Air Loss Mattresses

Lateral Rotation Mattresses

With an ability to laterally rotate a resident up to 40 degrees, lateral rotation mattresses may be appropriate for residents with pulmonary or circulatory ailments. Others can be used as an adjunct to turning – each manufacturer may have a different indication for use. Lateral rotation is often combined with low air loss or alternating pressure.

Lateral Rotation Mattresses


Raised Side Perimeter

Raised Side Perimeter

Raised side perimeters provide extra protection against falls, while also reducing the need for bedrails. For the most effective fall protection, look for one-piece raised perimeters rather than glued-on extensions.

Heel Section

When looking for mattresses for senior citizens, it’s important to consider the weight load on residents’ heels. The bony prominences of the heels are particularly vulnerable to pressure ulcers.

Standard Heel Surface

Standard Heel Surface : Look for heel sections with super-soft or memory foam, which provide better pressure reduction for vulnerable heels than the standard foam in the rest of the mattress.

Heel Slope

Heel Slope : A sloped heel section redirects pressure to residents’ calves, where there is more fatty tissue and muscle to absorb pressure. Heel slopes may be an ideal feature for residents who require a higher level of pressure management.

Other Considerations

Side Perimeters

Deciding what type of perimeter is needed on a Long Term Care mattress may be important to resident safety.

Mattresses without firm side perimeters

Mattresses without firm side perimeters may compress under a resident’s weight and may result in falls during ingress/egress or sleep. They may put residents at increased risk of entrapment.

Mattresses with firm side perimeters

Mattresses with firm side perimeters provide improved safe transfer support, remind the resident he or she is near the mattress edge, and may help reduce the risk of entrapment.

Weight Capacities

Foam mattresses are available in multiple levels of weight capacities – from 250 to 1,000 lbs. – to meet the needs of your diverse resident population. Mattresses that don’t support a resident’s body weight won’t provide optimum redistribution, and put the resident at risk of bottoming out. And if a mattress has a weight capacity that is too high for a resident, it may be less effective, too.


Most mattresses have a nonstretch, 2-way or 4-way cover.

  • Nonstretch : These covers generally offer the most moisture resistance and may be a good option for incontinent residents. In addition, they may help protect against shear. However, such covers may create warmer sleeping environments.
  • 2- or 4-Way Stretch : Generally, the more stretch a cover has the less moisture-resistant it is. However, it may feel cooler and more comfortable for the resident, and allow better immersion and envelopment.


Reliable warranties are essential in extending the life and quality of your mattresses. Look for non-prorated warranties because they’ll ensure you get the most for your money.

Need help finding the best mattresses for your residents? Try the Panacea Mattress Selection Tool or contact our team of Senior Living experts for assistance.

Find more helpful tips on selecting the best beds for seniors .

Take a Look at The Best Mattresses for Seniors

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