Always Say No to Bed Sores!

Bed sores, sometimes called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are a kind of skin breakdown caused by unrelieved pressure on certain parts of the body. Bed sores start as just reddish or darker discoloration of the skin. Without proper care, the discolored skin may break and expose the inner layers of the skin. If the degraded part is further neglected, the fatty tissues, muscles, and bones also become damaged.

Patients who have pressure ulcers are at risk for complications such as infections of nearby structures and sepsis, or the life-threatening, extreme reaction of the body to infection. They can also lead to tissue death, called gangrene, that could require amputation or surgery. In some cases, they lead to cancer of the skin and lymph nodes.

The most common cause of pressure ulcers is immobility, as in the case of bedridden patients or those who primarily use a wheelchair. There are also certain conditions that make it easier for bedsores to develop, such as incontinence, malnutrition, obesity, and other diseases that cause poor blood circulation.

Needless to say, caregivers must be fully aware of the common causes of pressure sores and do everything they can to prevent them from developing.

1. Check frequently.

If your patient has any of the above conditions that favor the development of skin breakdown, be extra vigilant. Inspect common places, especially bony structures such as the hips, buttocks, lower back or tailbone, ankle, heel, and foot areas.

Bony areas usually have poorer circulation than the rest of the body, and they exert more pressure on the tissues. If you find that any of these areas have become discolored, sore, or soggy, report your findings to the supervisor immediately.

2. Move patients regularly.

The idea is to relieve and evenly spread pressure on the skin. If a patient cannot move on their own, turn them at least every two hours if they are in bed.

If they are in a wheelchair, patients need to be repositioned every 15 minutes. Repositioning helps relieve pressure and restore blood flow to these parts.

3. Keep the skin clean and dry.

Use mild soap and warm water during the patient’s bath and rinse properly. Pay particular attention to bony areas and the spaces between skin folds.

Pat dry with a soft absorbent towel. Make sure not to rub the skin, as rubbing can cause tearing or breakage.

Avoid too much moisture because it can soak and excessively soften the skin, causing it to break more easily.

4. Address incontinence problems.

If the patient has no control of their bowel or bladder, make sure they are using absorbent incontinence pads and sheets that are changed as soon as they are soiled. Before replacing their pads and undergarments, make sure to clean and dry the private parts, including the buttocks.

5. Exercise.

Encourage the patient to move their arms, legs, and body, even if they are in bed or a wheelchair. If they have difficulty moving a joint, you can encourage them to tense their muscle by stiffening it on purpose and then relaxing again.

If the patient is unable to move due to weakness or paralysis, you may perform the exercise for them. Make sure to follow the exercise program as written in the care plan and to never move a joint beyond its limit.

6. Ensure proper nutrition and hydration.

Proper nutrition and hydration make the body healthy, including the skin. Also, the body needs proper nutrients to aid in healing and repair.

Never let bed sores develop. Caregivers provide most of the bedside care, such as bathing and changing clothes, so it is within their reach to ensure that patients are not injured this way.