Whether your senior loved one has recently experienced a trip and fall injury, is recovering from a lingering illness or has become more sedentary, it’s important to keep on the lookout for bedsores.
When seniors live on their own, without access to a caregiver or home healthcare provider, they are more at risk of developing bedsores that go unnoticed. Once established, these seemingly harmless sores can become quite serious and can lead to death.
Understanding what bedsores are and learning now to prevent and treat them is one of the best things you can do to keep your senior healthy and comfortable.
Bedsores: Know What to Look For and How to Prevent and Treat Them
Many people are under the false assumption that bed sores, also called pressure ulcers or pressure sores, are only a threat for those who are bedridden. This is not the case. Anyone spending the majority of their time in a seated, reclined or prone position is at risk for developing bedsores.
Lack of mobility, depression, malnourishment, dehydration – all are common side effects of growing old, and all can lead to the sedentary lifestyle that eventually causes bedsores.
These pressure sores are caused when hidden pressure points – the base of the tailbone, spinal column, “sitting bones”, hips, ankles and shoulders – make contact with a chair or bed. A caregiver can be oblivious to these ulcerations, even when they visit everyday, because bedsores are often covered by clothing, robes or dressing gowns.
Here are some facts you may not know about bedsores:
- They are not a side effect of a hospital or nursing home stay. Bedsores can happen just as easily at home.
- You don’t have to be completely bed- or chair-ridden to develop bedsores. Occasional mobility, even multiple trips to go to the bathroom or shower, is not enough to prevent their development.
- Bedsores develop quickly. Regular checks are imperative to catch potential offenders as soon as possible.
- In most cases, bedsores are NOT an indicator of negligent or abusive caregiving. If you notice bedsores on your watch, it’s a sign that you are doing your job.
A complaint about physical discomfort is often the first sign of bedsores. However, once bedsores are established, they damage nerve tissue and will no longer be felt.
To prevent the development of bedsores make sure:
- Seating and resting areas are well-padded.
- If a senior is bedridden, use pressure relief mattresses or pads that protect pressure points from the continuous pressure that leads to bedsores.
- Seniors change position on a regular basis and assist them if necessary.
- Reduce the friction created during position changes.
- They are wearing soft clothing and soft bedding
- Seniors are eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water
There are four stages to bedsore development:
Stage 1. The area will feel sore and may appear pink or red. When you press the area, it will not lighten or blanch. Skin is still intact. At this stage, it’s important to relieve pressure entirely and keep a close watch. If it doesn’t improve in 24 to 48 hours, call a doctor.
Stage 2. The area may look blistered or skin may be missing or broken. Seek medical attention immediately.
Stage 3: By now, an ulcer has formed. It may look like a crater. You may notice yellow skin at the bottom and fatty tissue may be exposed. Seek medical attention immediately!
Stage 4. Dark tissue may be visible and sometimes bone and connective tissues are exposed. Seek medical attention immediately!
The cure for uninfected bedsores is as simple as position changes every 15-minutes while they heal. In more serious cases, you may need to clean them, provide fresh dressings and administer antibiotics. Of course, your senior loved one’s comfort and well-being is the top priority. If you are able to keep bedsores under control, you may want to work with a home healthcare provider and their doctor for further pain prevention and tips for keeping your loved one comfortable.