Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers and bed sores, occur when there is a prolonged pressure on parts of the body, particularly parts which have very little padding or protection around them. Pressure sores can be painful, uncomfortable and can lead to infections at the site of the wound. Treating pressure sores can be very difficult depending on what medical conditions are present in the patient. However, as with everything, prevention is better than a cure. It is important to remember that you must do a full check of the skin on a daily basis, making sure you pay particular attention to bony areas such as the tailbone, heals, shoulder blades and spine. The following 5 points are not a fail-safe plan to protect against pressure sores, but combined with high levels of care, input from a medical team and adhering to any therapy protocols put in place, it can go a long way to help prevent them.
Nutrition and Hydration
Caring for an elderly person who may have one or more complex illnesses and spends prolonged periods of time sitting or in bed, can be difficult. Ensuring that they are eating properly can be soul destroying. I know that that might sound a bit extreme, but we have all had the experience of cooking meal after meal and none of it being eaten. We understand the difficulties of finding something appealing and healthy to ensure they are getting the nutrients and sustenance and that meal is left untouched.
Ensuring that an elderly person with several illnesses and is possibly bed bound eats properly is difficult – at best. A lack of moment reduces the calories that we require, there may be symptoms of depression or anxiety due to their current condition, which can reduce the appetite and it can just be a case thst have just lost their appetite. Whatever the reason behind the poor appetite, I understand how frustrating the situation can be. Ordinarily, I advise families to encourage their loved ones to eat whatever they fancy as it is easier for someone to eat what they like than what they don’t. Unfortunately, we cannot apply this logic (in full) to wound care. In order for the wound to heal, your body needs to rebuild layers of muscle, fat and tissue. It may need to fight off infections and it will need to do all of this whilst dealing with anything else that is going on in your body. Our body needs increased amounts of calories, protein and vitamins to help restore and rebuild the tissue and muscle that has been destroyed.
Pressure sores occur when prolonged pressure is placed on the skin and underlying muscle. The areas that are most prone to this happening, are boney areas such as the hips, spine, shoulder blades and tailbone, although any part of the body can develop a pressure sore if it has pressure put on it for too long. Guidelines recommend that we turn people every two hours. Depending on where the sore is, and the potential for other sores to develop, side to side is a common position to help alleviate sores on the bum, shoulders and spine. Using pillows is generally the best way to help keep your loved one in a position that is comfortable without putting too much strain on their body.
Keeping Skin Clean and Dry
This may sound really basic, but sometimes, it can be the basics that we forget when we have 20 other things in our head. Ensuring the skin is washed and dried regularly
Using Pressure Relieving Aids
Pressure sore care (and prevention) usually takes a multifaceted approach. No one thing is going to prevent a pressure sore occurring. Pressure relieving aids can make a big difference in the way the weight is distributed and maintained when your loved one is sitting or lying in one position. From air mattresses to memory foam wedges to gel cushions there are many options which will help, but make sure that you find the one that suits (and is most comfortable) for your loved one. When looking for the equipment which would best suit your current situation it can be overwhelming when you are faced with so many choices. Some companies may allow rentals for you to test out the equipment beforehand. It may also be beneficial to speak with a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist who can complete an assessment and advise you of which aids would be most beneficial to help prevent pressure sores develop.
When you are feeling unwell and confined to bed, the last thing you want to be thinking about is exercise. However, small movements like range of movement exercises. Pressure sores develop when pressure is placed on bony areas of the body for prolonged periods of time. Simple movements such as raising your arm off the bed and holding it in position for 10 seconds and repeating can significantly relieve pressure. Speaking with a physiotherapist can be the best course of action as they can assess the patient and put a plan in place according to their needs and abilities. Just remember to tell them that you are trying to prevent pressure sores so that they can incorporate this into the plan they are devising.