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Preventing Bedsores in The Elderly

Preventing bedsores - it shouldn't hurt to lie in be

One of the challenges as we age is that we may tend to stay in one position (such as a bed) for too long and, as a result bedsores may develop. Bed sores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, occur when the skin is under pressure from being in the same position too long and starts to break down. 

preventing bedsores

If not caught and treated quickly, pressure sores can quickly become infected and, in some cases, may even become life-threatening. Pressure sores tend to affect the elderly also since their skin can be much more fragile than a younger persons' and skin cells do not regenerate at the same rate as in a younger population - just ask my hanging jowls...among other things...

Besides just being elderly, some individuals are more prone to bedsores due to medical conditions such as diabetes where circulation is hampered.

Why pressure sores form

Pressure sores form when the affected area is pressed into a surface constantly. When this happens, the affected area does not get the proper supply of blood and thus, the cells start to suffer. There are no normal nutrients continuing to flow to feed the skin cells so they start to die. That's the beginning of a bed sore.

Affected areas of pressure sores tend to be areas that are bonier, such as the elbows, knees, ankles, spine, and the lower part of the hips.

Improper handling of an elderly person may also cause pressure sores. For example, when helping my Mom get up in the morning, I make sure that her nightgown is pulled down so that her skin is protected from the sheets when I help her sit up. Friction from moving the skin across a rough surface may start a pressure sore forming.

"Shear" is another cause of bed sores. "Shear" is when the skin goes one way but the person goes the other. This is most easily demonstrated by thinking about a hospital bed where the head is raised to aid breathing. The person in the bed will almost always slide down due to gravity but their skin may remain in the original position (ouch).

The 4 stages of pressure sores...

According to The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.

Pressure sores follow a predictable pattern which is good - at least you know what's coming if your loved one doesn't get the treatment needed and get it fast. By being aware of the 4 stages, you have a better shot of keeping an eye out for this painful ailment.

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Stage I: No wound has appeared yet and the skin is intact. BUT, there are symptoms of a bedsore forming. The symptoms are:

  • A. The skin may be a bit warmer and more firm or more tender than other parts of the body. Don't be fooled though: the skin may even feel cooler to the touch.
  • B. On lighter skinned people, there might be a bit of a red spot which doesn't change when touched. On darker skin people, no change in skin tone may be evident.
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Stage II: An open shallow wound is evident. Pressure sores in this stage sort of look like little indentations as the skin is sloughed off the top of the wound. Some bedsores may appear as a red blister which will open and weep shortly.

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Stage III: An open deep wound is evident. More skin loss has occurred if the pressure sore reaches this level so the wound will be much deeper and might even go into a fatty layer of the skin. Yellow tissue may appear in the bottom of the wound - this is sloughed off skin. At this stage, the wound may even extend deeper into healthy tissue.

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Stage IV: The open wound is deeper and larger than in Stage III. At this most extreme stage of pressure sores, the wound may even extend so deep that bone, muscle or underlying tissue is exposed. Ugh!

Ways to Prevent Bed Sores

Prevention of pressure sores is the key to keeping a mobility-challenged person healthy and happy. Once they get a sore, there's treatment that has to be done and, for most of the elderly, healing bedsores can take weeks. So, get on it and learn how to prevent the suckers from happening.

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Change positions every 2 hours. Literature shows that just slightly shifting positions approximately every two hours will help prevent pressure ulcers. If your elderly loved on tends to lie on their left side, help them shift to their right side or their back, whichever is more comfortable.

For those loved ones in wheelchairs, body position should be shifted about every 15 minutes. And, "shifting" can be a very small movement - it doesn't have to be extreme.

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Use an egg crate mattress topper An egg crate mattress topper looks like the inside of an egg carton but is made of thick foam. Egg crate mattress toppers come in various thicknesses, from 1/2" all the way up to 4". There's some good ones spotlighted down below so scroll down and see what Amazon has to offer for egg crate mattress toppers.

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Use an air mattress topper. This is what Mom had during her latest hospitalization but I prefer the egg crate mattress topper as I find them just to be more "squishy" and comfortable.

Treating pressure sores

For Stage I and II pressure sores, the area may be washed with a mild soap and water and dried thoroughly. Try to keep the affected area from touching a hard surface which may send it to Stage III or IV. If the pressure sore, for example, is on the buttocks of the elderly person, put a soft barrier between the area and the bed. This is where the egg crate mattress comes in handy.

Stage III and IV pressure sores are usually irrigated with a saline solution each time the bandage is changed. Open pressure sores should be kept bandaged. This provides relief by: 1) keeping the open wound moist and 2) by preventing bacteria from entering the wound and further inflaming the area.

There are also clinical trials that show that UV light, like that highlighted in this module, helps speed healing of pressure sores.

Final Notes

This article is written by inspired from my mom, who uses wheelchairs  and really doesn't move around very much, but, I make sure she switches positions frequently, even when lying in her recliner in the living room. Hope, you like this post about Preventing bedsores and it helps as well

Dennis P. Baughman
 

Dennis P. Baughman is the Editor of UnbeatenRolling. His disabilities couldn't stop him to be self driven person. He started this blog to share his personal knowledge about all kinds of wheelchairs and different tips and advice about chairs.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Patty - October 3, 2018

Thank you Dennis for those useful tips. In just a usual night’s sleep I can awaken in the night with a painful indentation on the inside of my knee or ankle after lying too long in the same position. I put pillows in the bed but roll off them. I will try the mattress topper you recommend. Thanks again and good luck with your mother.

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