More than 1 in 10 nursing home residents suffer from pressure ulcers, also called bedsores, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bedsores are “injuries to skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. Bedsores most often develop on skin that covers bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips and tailbone,” according to Mayo Clinic.
People at risk of bedsores include those with medical conditions that limit mobility, such as people required to use a wheelchair or people confined to a bed for long periods of time. Bedsores can develop quickly and are difficult to treat, according to Mayo Clinic.
Is your senior parent confined to a wheel chair or bed? Or, is your loved one currently living in a nursing home? Diseases that affect blood flow – such as diabetes or vascular disease – along with Alzheimer’s disease, malnourishment, fragile skin and incontinence, can also cause this painful injury. Mayo Clinic provides a detailed list of risk factors:
- Age. The skin of older adults is generally more fragile, thinner, less elastic and drier than the skin of younger adults. Also, older adults usually produce new skin cells more slowly. These factors make skin vulnerable to damage.
- Lack of sensory perception. Spinal cord injuries, neurological disorders and other conditions can result in a loss of sensation. An inability to feel pain or discomfort can result in not being aware of bedsores or the need to change position.
- Weight loss. Weight loss is common during prolonged illnesses, and muscle atrophy and wasting are common in people with paralysis. The loss of fat and muscle results in less cushioning between bones and a bed or a wheelchair.
- Poor nutrition and hydration. People need enough fluids, calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in their daily diet to maintain healthy skin and prevent the breakdown of tissues.
- Excess moisture or dryness. Skin that is moist from sweat or lack of bladder control is more likely to be injured and increases the friction between the skin and clothing or bedding. Very dry skin increases friction as well.
- Bowel incontinence. Bacteria from fecal matter can cause serious local infections and lead to life-threatening infections affecting the whole body.
- Medical conditions affecting blood flow. Health problems that can affect blood flow, such as diabetes and vascular disease, increase the risk of tissue damage.
- Smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow and limits the amount of oxygen in the blood. Smokers tend to develop more-severe wounds, and their wounds heal more slowly.
- Limited alertness. People whose mental awareness is lessened by disease, trauma or medications may be unable to take the actions needed to prevent or care for pressure sores.
- Muscle spasms. People who have frequent muscle spasms or other involuntary muscle movement may be at increased risk of pressure sores from frequent friction and shearing.
Bedsores can cause serve complications, including sepsis (which occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream through broken skin and causes organ failure), bone and joint infections, and cancer, according to Mayo Clinic.
Bedsores are easier to prevent than treat. If your loved one is at risk of developing bedsores, encourage them to frequently change positions, take good care of their skin, eat healthy and exercise often. Mayo Clinic provides in-depth tips to help your parent avoid contracting bedsores:
- Shift your weight frequently. If you use a wheelchair, try shifting your weight about every 15 minutes. Ask for help with repositioning about once an hour.
- Lift yourself, if possible. If you have enough upper body strength, do wheelchair pushups – raising your body off the seat by pushing on the arms of the chair.
- Look into a specialty wheelchair. Some wheelchairs allow you to tilt them, which can relieve pressure.
- Select a cushion that relieves pressure. Use cushions to relieve pressure and help ensure your body is well-positioned in the chair. Various cushions are available, such as foam, gel, water filled and air filled. A physical therapist can advise you on how to place them and their role in regular repositioning.
- Try a specialized mattress. Use special cushions, a foam mattress pad, an air-filled mattress or a water-filled mattress to help with positioning, relieving pressure and protecting vulnerable areas. Your doctor or other care team members can recommend an appropriate mattress or surface.
- Adjust the elevation of your bed. If your hospital bed can be elevated at the head, raise it no more than 30 degrees. This helps prevent shearing.
- Use cushions to protect bony areas. Protect bony areas with proper positioning and cushioning. Rather than lying directly on a hip, lie at an angle with cushions supporting the back or front. You can also use cushions to relieve pressure against and between the knees and ankles. You can cushion or “float” your heels with cushions below the calves.
- Clean the affected skin. Clean the skin with mild soap and warm water or a no-rinse cleanser. Gently pat dry.
- Protect the skin. Use talcum powder to protect skin vulnerable to excess moisture. Apply lotion to dry skin. Change bedding and clothing frequently. Watch for buttons on the clothing and wrinkles in the bedding that irritate the skin.
- Inspect the skin daily. Inspect the skin daily to identify vulnerable areas or early signs of pressure sores. You will probably need the help of a care provider to do a thorough skin inspection. If you have enough mobility, you may be able to do this with the help of a mirror.
- Manage incontinence to keep the skin dry. If you have urinary or bowel incontinence, take steps to prevent exposing the skin to moisture and bacteria. Your care may include frequently scheduled help with urinating, frequent diaper changes, protective lotions on healthy skin, or urinary catheters or rectal tubes.
- Choose a healthy diet. You may need to increase the amount of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in your diet. You may be advised to take dietary supplements, such as vitamin C and zinc.
- Drink enough to keep the skin hydrated. Good hydration is important for maintaining healthy skin. Your care team can advise you on how much to drink and signs of poor hydration. These include decreased urine output, darker urine, dry or sticky mouth, thirst, dry skin and constipation.
- Ask for help if eating is difficult. If you have limited mobility or significant weakness, you may need help with eating in order to get adequate nutrition.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, quit. Talk to your doctor if you need help.
- Stay active. Limited mobility is a key factor in causing pressure sores. Daily exercise matched to your abilities can help maintain healthy skin. A physical therapist can recommend an appropriate exercise program that improves blood flow, builds up vital muscle tissue, stimulates appetite and strengthens the body.
These tips are easier said than done, especially if your senior parent lives alone and if you are unable to monitor their daily tasks. If you feel that your loved one is at risk and is unable to follow these prevention tips, consider hiring a SYNERGY HomeCare Corona/Riverside caregiver to assist your loved one with the following tasks and ensure that they are leading a healthy, happy lifestyle.
About SYNERGY HomeCare of Corona/ Riverside
Synergy HomeCare of Corona/ Riverside is the name you can trust in Corona, Norco, Riverside, Chino, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar for personal home care. Synergy HomeCare of Corona/ Riverside is part of a national franchise of non-medical home care offices dedicated to providing exceptional and affordable service to anyone of any age. Synergy HomeCare caregivers are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, to those in need - including seniors, expectant moms, those suffering from sports injuries and debilitating illnesses, and more. Synergy HomeCare of Corona & Riverside can be found online at /agencies/ca/corona/ca18/. The location also hosts active social media pages on Facebook and Twitter. Ken and Anna can be reached at 951-280-9808 and [email protected] .