CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application claims the benefit of Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/667,274, filed Apr. 4, 2005.
TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to bed extension systems, and in particular a system for increasing the width of a treatment mattress, such as a low air loss mattress or the like, by providing a base board situated under the treatment mattress having an increased width, the increased width supporting first and second mattress pads formed to engage the first and second sides of the treatment mattress, respectively. The base board may be an hinged along its width to allow adjustment for patient support.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Treatment mattresses such as low air loss mattresses are provided to patients to provide increased circulation, as well as to prevent decubitus ulcers (also known as pressure ulcers or bed sores) on susceptible patients. These types of mattresses have been found to be effective, but patients often refuse to utilize them in a home care environment because Medicare will only cover the costs for a 35'' wide mattress for patients up 250 pounds.
 Such a mattress is rated for up to 300 pound capacity, and, in larger patients, the relatively narrow width makes it uncomfortable to remain upon for an extended period of time. As a result, larger patients, in a home care environment, often quit the relatively narrow mattress in favor of their own mattress. To qualify for a larger width treatment mattress, a patient must exceed 450 pounds, whereby the patient then qualifies for a wider, bariatric mattress.
 Also, in a home care environment, a hospital bed is required to be brought into the home as the support surface, there being no viable support for a low air loss mattress otherwise, an expensive proposition.
 Further, in such a configuration, the patient is no longer able to share the bed with another. Also, for disabled patients who are relatively immobile, such as paralyzed individuals, their bed becomes a place where many items are kept such as medicine, dressings, etc, but with the relatively narrow low air loss mattress, this is not a convenient option.
 The prior art has contemplated various mattress extenders to extend the length of beds to accommodate taller individuals, as well as side panels for water beds or the like, and side rails for no-air loss mattresses. However, none would appear to teach, contemplate, or suggest a system for extending the width of a treatment mattress in the manner contemplated in the present invention.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,064,278 issued 1962 teaches a longitudinal bed extension for extending the width of a bed.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,735,432 teaches a "bottom wall" having side panels to form a collapsible water mattress frame.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,271,547 teaches a "Mattress and boxspring extender" including a side pad formed to engage the length of the mattress held in place by a "tongue" 16 placed under the mattress.
 U.S. Pat. No. 4,879,775 teaches a frame of side and end cushions to define the outer walls of a waterbed (in this case, a waterbed). See also U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,325,551, 4,991,244, 4,998,310, 5,068,933, and 5,794,289, which teach variations on this concept.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,557,813 teaches the use of foamblocks about the periphery of a knock down mattress system, the blocks secured via straps under the air mattress.
 U.S. Pat. No. 5,987,666 teaches a "gap filling pad disposable between a mattress and a bed rail" which is held in place via straps.
 U.S. Pat. No. 6,243,894 teaches a system for bolstering the width of an air mattress utilizing first and second side blocks secured via couplings under the mattress.
 While the above patents may contemplate various systems for extending the length of the mattress or the, none would appear to suggest, teach, or otherwise contemplate a system for extending the width of a treatment mattress as in the present invention.
GENERAL SUMMARY DISCUSSION OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention provides a system provides a system to effectively extend the width of a treatment mattress in a safe, reliable, easily implemented, and cost effective manner, and allows the patients own bed to be used as the support surface for the treatment mattress, dispensing with the expensive requirement of a hospital bed being brought to the home.
 Unlike the prior art, the invention comprises a width extension system configured to integrate with an desired mattress (preferably a treatment mattress such as a low air loss patient support mattress or the like), in order to increase the width of the overall bed surface, so that the mattress may be provide an extended support surface from one or both sides of the mattress.
 This is particularly desirable when using the system in a home health care environment, wherein the patient's box springs or bed can being used as the platform for the treatment mattress (as opposed to a hospital bed), as the present system can be implemented to provide a combined treatment mattress/extension support surface having about the width of the patient's bed.
 In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the system has a relatively inflexible base formed of plywood or the like, which may be hinged along its width to form first and second (or more) hinged base portions (for storage or positioning), the base having and upper face with first and second side edges.
 One or both side edges on the upper face may have situated thereon side mattress cushions, the mattress cushions having a thickness and dimensions so as to form a space, gap or compartment therebetween for the insertion of the low air loss mattress or the like.
 The present invention provides a means of extending the bed surface integrated with the low air loss mattress so as to enable the spouse or partner of the patient to likewise continue utilizing the family bed, thereby minimizing disruption.
 Further, patients which would otherwise be too large for the relatively narrow (35'') treatment mattress may, when said mattress is integrated with the present invention, place the affected portion of their body on the treatment mattress, while utilizing the mattress extension portion to support other portions of their body.
 As indicated, the base board may be hinged along its length in one or more places to facilitate use in positionable hospital beds or the like, allowing the patient to be propped up, etc. The base board may also include support members to support the base in the desired position. The support members may include a hand crank or the like to allow positioning of the base board, or a air bladder or other means may be utilized to lift the pivoted portion.
 The low air loss treatment mattress effectively prevents bed sores and enhances circulation in a patient by varying the support surface via change in air pressure or the like. This is an alternative to manually repositioning the patient, which is required when the patient is unable to do so on their own.
 In the past, the patient or other user, especially in a home health care environment, was often required to make a choice between a narrow (35'') treatment mattress on an expensive hospital bed or being non-compliant and utilizing their own bed. Foregoing treatment, in the case of a non-compliant patient, can cause further health problems and could result in the patient having to be sent to the hospital, which greatly increases the cost of patient treatment. Larger width treatment mattresses such as low air loss, bariatric mattresses or the like are more expensive and patients do not qualify under Medicare unless they are over 450 pounds.
 The present system provides a hybrid solution to the problem of narrow treatment mattresses, by allowing the patient to utilize the treatment mattress to support the treatment area of the patient, while providing an effective width extension with a (non-treatment) mattress support surface for supporting other parts of the patient, the patient's spouse, as well as items which the patient desires to keep nearby.
 The present system thereby fulfills the long felt but unresolved need for a mattress width extension system for use in conjunction with a treatment mattress, providing the patient with an viable alternative to the prior art.
 The present system further provides an alternative to requiring the use of an expensive hospital bed as the support surface, by providing a mattress extension unit formed to accommodate the treatment mattress, while utilizing the patients own box spring and frame as the support surface.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
 For a further understanding of the nature and objects of the present invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like parts are given like reference numerals, and wherein:
 FIG. 1 is an perspective view of the mattress extension unit of the present invention situated upon the box springs and frame of a bed in an exemplary home health installation.
 FIG. 2 is an perspective view of the underside of the mattress extension unit of the present invention.
 FIG. 2A is an end view of a hinge of the invention of FIG. 2, wherein the base board is shown in a flat orientation..
 FIG. 2B is an end view of the hinge of the invention of FIG. 2A, in a pivoted orientation.
 FIG. 3 is an perspective view of the top side of the mattress extension unit of FIG. 2, illustrating in phantom the position and configuration of the mattress pads.
 FIG. 4 is a view of the underside of the mattress extension unit of FIG. 1, illustrating the position of the hinges and the lifting members.
 FIG. 5 is an perspective view of the mattress extension unit of FIG. 1, illustrating a treatment mattress installed in the area between the mattress pads, and a mattress cover lifted to reveal the air bladders of a low air loss treatment mattress or the like.
 FIG. 6 is an end, frontal, perspective view of the invention of FIG. 1 in a flat orientation upon the support, with a patient partially situated upon the treatment mattress.
 FIG. 7 is a side view of the invention of FIG. 1, illustrating the base board in pivoted, hinged orientation at the head and foot of the bed, with the lifting members supporting same.
 FIG. 8 is a side, close-up view of the invention of FIG. 7, illustrating the base board pivoted at the foot of the bed, with the lifting members supporting same.
 FIG. 9 is a side, close-up view of the invention of FIG. 8, illustrating the base board pivoted at the head of the bed, with the lifting members supporting same.
 FIG. 10 is a side view of an exemplary hand crank mechanism for selectively raising or lowering a hinged portion of the base board/mattress extension unit while the patient remains upon the unit.
DETAILED DISCUSSION OF THE INVENTION
 Referring to FIGS. 1-3, the preferred embodiment of the extension unit 1 of the present invention comprises a base 2 formed of relatively rigid material, for example, one half inch plywood or the like, the base having a length L and width W sized to the underlying support, in this case, the box spring 16 of the user's bed in a home health application, such that the first end 7 is situated at the head of the bed, and the second end 7' situated at the foot of the bed.
 As shown, the base has an underside 5 and a top side 6, and may be hinged 3, 3' (shown on its underside) 3T, 3T' (shown on its topside) along its width to form pivotally adjustable base sections 4, 4', 4'', 4''' which may be pivoted P for patient comfort, treatment, or for folding for transport or storage.
 The base board has first 8 and second 8' opposing side edges situated generally above the side edges of the underlying support (in this case, the box springs). Situated along said opposing side edges, on the top side of the base sections are first 10, 10', 10'' and second 11, 11', 11'' sets of mattress cushions, each mattress cushion having a length 13 and width 14, 14' to form a cushioned area over the top side of the base sections (forming base board), as well as forming an gap 15 or open area for insertion of a mattress (for example, a treatment mattress as heretofore described) therebetween.
 The exposed top side and mattress cushions areas are covered preferably with a cover 9 which is water resistant, anti-microbial, and fire resistant which could comprise, for example, a nylon based material.
 Continuing with FIGS. 1 and 5, a mattress 25 such as a low air loss mattress having a length 26 and width 26' about that of the gap 15 formed between the first and second sets of mattress cushions is inserted 28 into the gap. The mattress 25 has a thickness 27, which ideally the mattress cushions emulate by having about the same thickness 12, so as to provide a relatively contiguous and smooth support surface. A mattress pad 30 or cover may be provided over the mattress, or over both the mattress and mattress cushions, as desired.
 In the present example, the mattress comprises a low air loss mattress including a air bladders 31 therein, which are selectively filled or vented via compressor (which may be controlled via controller 32) to vary the support of the patient over time, enhancing circulation and preventing bed sores or the like.
 Continuing with FIG. 6, with the present invention, a patient 40 in a home care environment is able to utilize the full surface of their bed. Ideally, the patient can maintain any potential problem areas 41 of their body on the mattress 25 for treatment (such as by the low air loss mattress as described), while utilizing the mattress cushions adjoining one or both sides of the mattress for additional support.
 The present invention therefore, in conjunction with a treatment mattress, thereby facilitates the treatment benefits of a low air loss mattress or the like, with the larger support area of a standard bed.
 Continuing with FIGS. 4 and 7-9, the present invention may include hinges as previously described to facilitate pivoting of the base boards along their length for adjusting the unit to various angles for patient comfort, thereby emulating an adjustable hospital bed for a fraction of the cost.
 As shown, support members 18, 18' may be pivotally affixed along the width of the base board at pre-determined points on the underside, which support members are pivotally affixed 19, 19' at their respective ends to adjustably support the base upon the underlying support surface at various pitches, allowing the user to pivot 23 the member to the desired position, effectively raising 20 or lowering 20' those portions of the base boards supported by the support members, which could comprise, for example, the head portion 21 and/or the knee portion 22 of the bed.
 The pivotal engagement of the support members may be racheted or otherwise adjustable as to position to facilitate various positions. When pivoted 24 to their storage position adjacent to the underside of the base board, the base board may lie in a relatively flat manner.
 In addition, a hand crank or other mechanical, electromechanical, or pneumatic device could be used to position the support members 18, 18', allowing one to vary the adjustment of the pitch or angle of a select hinged portion of the base board without the user having to leave the bed.
 Further, other means, such as a pneumatic bladder or the like, could be used to vary the position of the hinged base sections by filling or emptying the underlying bladder with fluid, such as via air compressor or the like.
 Mattress: standard sized low air loss mattress 35'' wide and 80 long, between 7-9'' thick. The mattress typically includes a control unit and air compressor which varies the air of bladders therein to adjust the support of the patient over time.
Mattress Extension Unit
 To accommodate a full sized bed, the unit would be 53'' wide and 80'' long, and a queen bed would be 72'' wide and 80'' long, each unit having a with a 35'' wide by 80'' longitudinal gap for receiving the mattress.
 The base of the unit could be formed of 1/2 plywood, for example, although other materials and thickness could be utilized satisfactorily, depending upon the application.
 The cushions are ideally about the thickness of the mattress they are to be used in conjunction with, and may be formed of medium or high density foam, or some other material. In the queen working embodiment of the present, there is further provided a layer of 1'' memory foam for comfort, although this is not required.
 Both the cushions and the mattress inserted into the gap may be covered with a mattress cover which may be padded or not, depending upon the preference of the provider or user.
 It is noted that the mattress need not be medially situated between the first and second mattress cushions, and in some embodiments, the mattress may be situated along a side of the unit, with the mattress cushions engaging one side of the unit to the opposing edge of the box springs or other support surface. TABLE-US-00001 Listing of Elements Element Description 1 Extension unit 2 Base L length W width 3, ` hinged 4, `, " base sections 5 underside 6 top side 7, ` first end (head), second end) foot 8 first and second edges 9 fabric nylon, water resistant, anti-microbial, fire resistant cover 10, `, " first set of mattress cushions 11, `, " second set of mattress cushions 12 thickness 13 length 14, ` width 15 gap or compartment forming insert area for insertion of treatment mattress 16 situated upon a bedspring of a patients bed 18, ` support members 19. ` pivotally affixed 20, ` raise, lower 21 head portion 22 knee area 23 pivoted 24 pivoted 25 low air loss mattress 26, ` length, width 27 thickness 28 inserted 29 support surface 30 mattress cover 31 bladders 32 control box 40 patient 41 treatment area
 The invention embodiments herein described are done so in detail for exemplary purposes only, and may be subject to many different variations in design, structure, application and operation methodology. Thus, the detailed disclosures therein should be interpreted in an illustrative, exemplary manner, and not in a limited sense. What is claimed is: