If you are caring for an elderly individual, there are many things you have to stay on top of. In this post titled “8 Things Caregivers Should Know about Bedsores”, we discuss one of the most common and easily preventable injuries that many caregivers come across. Read on to learn more about bedsores and how you can help prevent them, and respond to them when they occur.
8 Things Caregivers Should Know about Bedsores
What Exactly are Bedsores?
Bedsores – also called pressure ulcers, pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers – begin as inflammation on the skin. When circulation is restricted, the pressure and friction causes inflammation. With prolonged pressure, the skin dies and begins to slough off. This inflammation initially appears as a reddened area, which, if not properly treated, will grow and move into deeper tissues.
Bedsores primarily occur on areas of the body that act as pressure points, such as the back, shoulders, buttocks, hips, knees, heels, and elbows. Caregivers should pay careful attention to these areas when turning, moving, or assisting and elderly patient or resident.
How to Prevent Bedsores
Anyone who has limited mobility is vulnerable to bedsore development. Individuals who are immobile may be unable to detect pressure points or turn themselves to relieve pressure. This is where the role of the caregiver comes in. Caregivers can help prevent bedsores in the following ways:
- Routinely turn or reposition the individual to relieve pressure
- Use preventative methods like foam pads for beds or chairs
- Ensure the individual maintains a healthy diet with an adequate balance of protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins.
- Ensure the individual maintains healthy hygiene and cleanliness
The Danger of Bedsores
Bedsores are dangerous because they cause pain, discomfort, and complications that can be severe or even fatal. Estimates suggest that as many as 60,000 people die every year due to bedsores that are not properly prevented, recognized, or treated. To make matters worse, the occurrence of bedsores has increased dramatically in recent years. Over the past decade, there has been a 63 percent increase in the number of bedsore cases reported.
Aside from the bedsore wound itself, bedsores often produce complications like infections, which can result in deformity or necessary amputation. Bedsores are classified in four stages of severity, and once they reach higher stages, the greater the chance of complications and long-term health implications.
How Bedsores are Treated
How bedsores are treated largely depends on how serious the wound is. Clean, uninfected wounds may be treated simply with daily cleaning and routine dressing changes. More serious wounds, such as those infected or necrotic (tissue death), require medical attention and often surgical debridement. Surgical debridement is a method of using chemicals and/or surgical procedures to completely clean the wound and remove dead tissue. The wound is then sterilized and kept cool, dry, and clean.
How Caregivers can be Vigilant
One of the best ways that caregivers can help prevent bedsores is by being vigilant from the very first day they interact with a patient or resident. Such vigilance may include:
- Full assessment of back and buttocks of patients every shift.
- Document skin integrity, signs of redness, or other skin irritation or inflammation.
- When necessary/appropriate, photos of the area should be taken for comparison, especially if you suspect that a bedsore is forming.
- Speak with a healthcare provider if you suspect that a patient is at-risk for developing a bedsore, or you notice signs that a bedsore is developing.
Recommendations for Skin Care Regimens
For patients with limited or no mobility, caregivers can help prevent bedsores by implementing a stable skin care regimen. It is often recommended to limit baths to no more than three per week. Bath time should be limited to around five minutes, unless otherwise advised by a doctor. To help improve overall skin quality and health, avoid using extremely hot water, and add bath oils to the water.
After a bath, patients should be dried carefully using a patting motion, rather than rubbing, which can irritate the skin. Immediately after a bath, moisturizer should be applied, especially to areas at-risk for irritation or bedsore development. Many doctors recommend to reapply moisturizer several times a day to ensure skin stays healthy and supple.
Proper Response to Bedsores
One of the most common mistakes that caregivers make is cleaning a bedsore wound improperly. Products like hydrogen peroxide actually kill healthy tissue and make healing more difficult. It is recommended to use only saline to clean the wound, then ensure that the surrounding area is clean and dry. Wounds should be measured on a weekly basis to track changes and healing or deterioration. During the tracking process, caregivers should be careful to continue regular turning, ensure the patient is eating properly and is hydrated, and help ensure that the wound, clothing, and bedding stay clean and dry.
When is it Time to Seek Medical Attention?
Most bedsores can be managed in an outpatient setting. When a bedsore is noticed, the caregiver should contact the facility or appropriate healthcare provider or nurse to document the wound. Regular checkups will be performed to ensure proper treatment and healing. If at any time the patient develops a fever, or you notice a foul odor coming from the wound area, it is time to seek medical attention. The patient may have developed an infection, or tissue around the wound may have become necrotic. In either situation, medical intervention is required as soon as possible.
Learn More about Bedsore Prevention, Treatment, and Legal Matters
To learn more about bedsore prevention and treatment, browse the topics on our website. If you have questions about legal matters related to bedsores, such as medical malpractice or negligence related to bedsore development or treatment, contact Brown & Brothers. Fill out our online form to speak with one of our attorneys.