Bed sores and pressure ulcers are very serious risks for seniors and when left untreated can result in some very debilitating injuries!
I hope I caught your attention!
Recently in an article about Burlington Home Care I mentioned that bed sores and pressure ulcers can happen in just a matter of hours when a loved one with delicate skin (as most seniors have) is left in the same position without any movement or relief.
So one of the things we talk about with families as we visit them is that everyone needs to be an expert in spotting risk areas for bed sores and ulcers. That’s because if they are caught early, they are very treatable and nothing more than a nuisance. But if left untreated, the results can be crippling.
Alright, enough scare tactics! Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the person you’re caring for (or if you like the medical term, these are “risk factors”)
How old is the person?
This seems like an obvious question but with every passing year our skin becomes more fragile and less elastic making it more vulnerable to damage. Also, with the passing of time skin loses the ability to regenerate meaning injuries last longer and are more severe. Generally speaking if you are noticing that your family member is bruising more easily it is a sign that their skin is becoming more fragile and a good warning sign that you should be on the watchout for sores and ulcers.
Are there any mobility issues I should think about?
If your family member has any type of mobility issue such as a spinal cord injury, chronic joint pain, fractures, multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinsons or anything else that affects mobility you need to pay special attention to signs of sores and ulcers.
Do they have any medical conditions that affecting blood flow?
Poor blood flow increases your risk of tissue damage. So conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, and peripheral vascular disease are conditions that can cause you to develop pressure ulcers, if your family member suffers from any of those, pay special attention!
Alright, now that you’re an expert in the risk factors, here is the simple three step process to follow to be an expert in preventing sores and ulcers.
- KNOW THE DIAGRAM
Take a look at this handy picture and get to know every one of those 15 little circles. These are the hot spots. If you make efforts to check each of these spots regularly you are most of the way there. Then if you see any redness or swelling, you’ve done it! You’ve successfully noticed the start of a sore and now all you have to do is prevent it! (more on that later).
- WATCH OUT FOR MOISTURE AND FRICTION
Moisture accelerates the breakdown of skin and speeds up infection. In all honesty, most often when we see this it’s caused by urine and other bodily fluids that aren’t cleaned properly during a person’s daily routine. This is why one of the most important services we offer is to help seniors with their daily routines in order to ensure that this part of hygiene is maintained.
Friction is most often caused by moving in and out of bed. Oftentimes seniors with mobility issues need help getting in and out of bed and when that help is given improperly it can result in them being ‘slid’ along the bedsheets rather than being lifted and raised straight upwards. This causes friction that accelerates skin irritation. This is another reason why it’s important to have professional help when assisting a senior. This is also important for the caregiver since this lifting can be very strenuous and puts the caregiver at risk of injury themselves. Luckily there are lots of supportive medical devices to help with this – if you’re interested in more info give us a call and we’ll talk with you about some options.
- TAKE ACTION!
Sores result from pressure without relief, so you as the caregiver need to provide relief. That means turning or repositioning every 1-2 hours. This may seem like a lot but skin can be very fragile and it’s the only way to take the pressure off the irritation.
Another action is to look at any of the supportive surface options available such as pressure relief mattresses or seat cushions. Call us if you’d like more info!
Barrier cream is another option that can be applied directly to the problem area and provides protection from moisture on fragile skin.
Lastly, nutrition is a very important part of keeping your skin healthy and thereby avoiding sores. A balanced diet full of protein, minerals, vitamins, and calories are all very important to maintain healthy skin. Making sure to drink enough water and fluids to keep yourself and your skin hydrated is another great strategy.
This may all seem very complicated but remember, it’s just 15 red circles and 3 simple steps to avoiding this chronic issue that we see too often with the clients and families that we visit.
If you have questions about any of this or if you’d like some help setting up a plan to make sure that you’re loved one is cared for properly we’d love to chat! Call to speak to one of our RN care managers today!