Preventing Bed Sores – It Shouldn’t Hurt To Lie In Bed
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.
If not caught and treated quickly, pressure sores can quickly become infected and, sometimes, may even become life-threatening.
Pressure sores tend to affect the elderly since their skin can be much more fragile than that of a younger person. Additionally, elderly skin cells do not regenerate at the same rate as in a younger population – just ask my hanging jowls…among other things…
And, when adding in other medical conditions, such as diabetes where circulation is already compromised, some people are not only more prone to bedsores but they can suffer complications also.
My Mom, shown in the picture above with one of her best friends – my dog, Rita – is 94 and really doesn’t move around very much, but, I make sure she switches positions often, even when lying in her recliner in the living room. As her primary caregiver, I personally don’t have time to deal with pressure sores.
Updated 2017: This article was written in 2011. I’m proud to say that Mom didn’t suffer even one bed sore. I made sure of that! Mom died, surrounded by those who loved her best, in her bed, in my living room February 15, 2007.
Why Pressure Ulcers Form
Pressure ulcers 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.
Heel Protectors Protect Feet And Heels From Pressure Sores
Any bony part of the body is a likely spot for a bed sore to form. And, since an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure, being prepared before a bed sore forms is the name of the game.
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Be Careful When Moving An Elderly Loved One In Bed
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 Four Stages Of Bed 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.
Stage I Bed Sores: No wound has appeared yet and the skin is intact. BUT, there are symptoms of a bedsore forming. The symptoms are:
- 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.
- 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.
Stage II Pressure Sore: An open shallow wound is seen. 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.
At this point, you’ll need to start treating the sore in order for it to close up. Treatment is imperative. The best thing is to go to your doctor. Second best thing is to get a wound cleaner and some Terrasil which has fantastic reviews from those who have used it to clear up bed sores.
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Stage III Bed Sore: An open deep wound appears.
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.
Stage IV Bed Sore: 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!
Pressure Sores Can Form While Sitting Down
Those in wheelchairs are in danger of pressure sores because they’re sitting down most of the time. A good quality cushion is needed to help them avoid these painful ulcers.
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Alternating Pressure Mattresses Help Prevent Bed Sores
We had one of these mattresses for Mom (hospice usually can provide this). Once it was plugged in, the chambers filled with air. The mattress would reconfigure the chambers that were filled every two hours, thereby changing the pressure points on my bedridden Mom.
Literature shows that just slightly shifting positions approximately every two hours will help prevent pressure ulcers. These mattresses do just that.
Tcare Alternating Pressure Mattress- Inflatable Bed Pad for Pressure Ulcer and Pressure Sore Treatment – Fits Standard Hospital Beds – Includes Electric Air Pump & Mattress PadAlternating Pressure Mattress by Vive – Includes Electric Pump & Mattress Pad – Inflatable Bed Pad for Pressure Ulcer and Pressure Sore Treatment – Fits Standard Hospital BedsDrive Medical Med Aire Alternating Pressure Pump and Pad System, Variable Pressure, 78While DMI Alternating Pressure Replacement Mattess Pad for Twin Size Beds, Tan
Egg Crate Mattress Toppers
An egg crate mattress topper looks like the inside of an egg carton but is made of thick foam. These mattress toppers help improve circulation by distributing body weight.
Egg crate mattress toppers come in various thicknesses, from 1/2″ all the way up to 4″.
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