What Are Pressure Sores and How Can They Be Prevented?
Pressure sores are painful and difficult to get rid of. By being proactive, you can help alleviate much of the suffering your loved one or patient could unnecessarily be subjected to. Here are a few tips that can help you to make sure that you can prevent pressure sores from forming.
What is a Pressure Sore?
A pressure sore (sometimes called a bedsore) is an ulcer common to people who are bedridden or who spend extended periods of time sitting or lying in one spot with little to no movement. There are four stages of pressure sores.
Stage 1 is redness of the area, but the skin has not broken. Stage 2 is broken skin that begins to ulcerate due to constant pressure. Stage 3 goes beyond the upper layer of the skin and makes a “crater” in the tissue. Stage 4 is deep enough to reach the muscle and sometimes tendons and bone. The bony areas of a person’s body (usually the tailbone, hips, heels, and ankles) rub against bedding or other material until the skin is raw. Since the person is not moving very much, the area is not exposed to air, preventing it from healing.
Ninety-five percent of pressure sores are preventable with multiple methods available to help do so based on an individual’s needs and capabilities. If possible, you can help your patient get out of bed or a wheelchair and walk short distances a few times a day. If walking is not possible, changing someone’s position in his or her bed or wheelchair can reduce pressure on delicate areas.
For a patient in bed, change is recommended every two hours. For an individual in a wheelchair, four times an hour is the recommendation. If your loved one is not able to change position at all — for instance, a person with a spinal cord injury—you can put small pillows under parts of his or her body that will lift the sensitive areas. You can move these pillows periodically to mimic more changing of position.
Good Skin Care
Keeping your patient’s skin lubricated goes a long way in keeping his or her skin supple and free from ulceration. A person might not experience serious pain until stage 3 or 4 of a pressure sore. It is in his or her best interest to get it under control well before it gets to that point.
Good skin care allows the affected area to heal more quickly. If the skin has not yet reached stage 2, where it has split open, gentle washing and drying along with as much movement as possible will help keep it from worsening. If the wound has reached stage 2 or more, a dressing will probably be used to keep out germs and hold in moisture. It is important to wear gloves and use sterile dressings when treating bedsores, as they are particularly susceptible to infection.
Pressure sores are often unavoidable. It is possible, though, to lessen the harm they do to your patient by following a few guidelines. It is important that all caregivers are familiar with wound care. Special classes may be given in your area, and certification could be required under certain circumstances. By doing all you can to protect your loved one, you can help them to be safe and comfortable.