How to Help Your Bed-Bound Loved One Prevent Bedsores

How to Help Your Bed-Bound Loved One Prevent Bedsores

Bedsores are a common problem for individuals who spend most of their time in bed or a wheelchair. You can, however, help prevent the discomfort and health risks associated with these painful skin ulcers.

Board-certified vascular surgeon Dr. Farouk Marzouk at Frontier Medical Center in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn, New York, is a wound care specialist in addition to providing specialty care for conditions related to your circulatory health.

Here, he shares information about recognizing the initial stages of pressure ulcers (bedsores) and how to prevent them. 

Understanding bedsores

Bedsores occur when prolonged pressure against the skin impedes circulation to the affected area. This robs the skin and underlying tissue structures of much-needed oxygen and other nutrients supplied via the bloodstream.

The reduced blood flow compromises the skin’s protective barrier and eventually results in open sores. Individuals confined to bed or who use a wheelchair for extended periods are especially vulnerable to bedsores.

Pressure ulcers typically develop in areas of the body with less padding than others, such as:

Areas of friction where fabric, a prosthetic limb, or other material repeatedly rubs against the skin can also create open ulcerations.

Symptoms of a developing bedsore

The skin damage that causes bedsores can develop quickly, sometimes with an hour or less of prolonged pressure.

Bedsores are generally classified according to the depth of the wound:

Stage one

During the initial stage of a bedsore, the skin isn’t visibly broken or torn but the area can be mild to moderately tender. It may appear red, purple, blue, or just differently colored than surrounding skin. The skin doesn’t blanch (turn white) and then return to normal color when you press on it.

The area is often warm to the touch and may feel softer or harder than normal.

Stage two

During stage two, skin breaks open or wears away and forms an open sore, which may become quite painful as the damage expands into deeper tissue layers.

You may also notice increasing redness or other discoloration around the wound edges, which may look like a scrape or shallow crater but can also present as a fluid-filled blister.

Stage three

The ulcer continues to enlarge and deepen during stage three. You may notice fatty tissue within the sore but not visible muscle, tendon, or bone at this point.

Stage four

By stage four, the wound is causing extensive damage to underlying muscle and may involve tendons, bone, and joints. Infection risk is quite high and you may notice discolored and foul-smelling drainage from the bedsore.

Even with expert wound care, it can take weeks to months and sometimes years of treatment to effectively heal an advanced pressure ulcer.

How can you prevent bedsores?

You can’t always prevent them, but you can help decrease the risk of your loved one developing bedsores.

If they’re able, ensure your loved one turns or shifts in bed hourly to relieve pressure on vulnerable areas. Consider working with an occupational therapist or other health care professional to learn how to correctly reposition your loved one if mobility is an issue.

Use a special mattress pad or wheelchair cushion that’s designed to prevent pressure points. Avoid doughnut cushions, however, since they increase pressure on surrounding areas.

If your loved one has the strength, encourage them to try raising their body off a wheelchair seat periodically (about once an hour) by pushing off against the arms of the chair. Some chairs tilt in a way that relieves pressure points.

Keeping skin clean and dry also helps prevent bedsores. Skin care routines should include:

Also inspect the bed or wheelchair daily for worn areas or wrinkles in the bedding or cushions that can irritate skin. Check too for loose buttons, pens, or other foreign objects.

Most importantly, monitor skin daily for early signs or symptoms of a bedsore and take steps to relieve pressure in the area as soon as possible. If you don’t notice improvement within a day or your loved one develops accompanying fever or other signs of infection, seek medical care.

For more information about the care and prevention of bedsores, schedule an evaluation at Frontier Medical Care today.

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