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Night-time positioning equipment, which is designed to ensure older people with complex health problems sleep in better positions, can make huge differences to individuals’ health and quality of life, new research discovers.

In the first study of its kind, Melanie Stephens, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing, and Carol Bartley, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy from the University of Salford, conducted the research. They worked with residents of a care home to see what difference was made by using night-time positioning equipment from Simple Stuff Works.

People with complex health needs such as Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and dementia often lie in one position for long periods. This can lead to serious problems with breathing, digestion and blood circulation. In extreme cases it can even lead to death.

Positioning equipment, such as specially adapted cushions and supports, is often used to make sure people remain in a comfortable and safe position while they sleep rather than rolling into postures that could be harmful.

But while studies have been carried out examining how effective the equipment is on children, this is the first time researchers have looked into the effect it has on adults.

For the research, Melanie and Carol recruited residents and members of staff at a Four Seasons Healthcare Nursing and Residential home and introduced pieces of equipment made by Simple Stuff Works. The pair then spent 12 weeks measuring a range of factors evaluating the effects this had on their health and well-being.

The residents were aged 51-89 and had suffered from a wide range of conditions including dementia, asthma and advanced Parkinson’s, while some were amputees and many experienced depression.

Melanie and Carol found there were improvements to how the participants slept, as well as how depressed they felt and how much pain they were experiencing, while their risk of choking decreased.

Many of the participants also had better food and fluid intake, while half of them put on weight throughout the programme – critical with people suffering a deteriorating condition – and, in some cases, the medication they were taking was reduced or even stopped.

Sarah Clayton, CEO of Simple Stuff Works, said: “Having worked for many years supporting people to use simple, effective night time positioning we have a great deal of anecdotal evidence about their benefits.

“This study however represents the first independent qualitative and quantitative research into the use of our equipment with older adults with complex needs and we are delighted with the significant, wide ranging benefits that were found.

“We hope that this study will be the first of many and that older adults with complex needs will have improved access to this simple, transformative support.”

Melanie and Carol are now calling for more research to be carried out into the effects of the equipment on a wider group, including younger adults.

Carol said: “Many health professionals use this equipment and have been calling for research into the effect it has on adults with complex needs, but this is the first time that any serious analysis has been carried out. We’ve found the effects have been considerable across a wide range of factors.”

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