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What Devices or Products Can Be Used to Prevent or Relieve Bed Sores?
Preventing bed sores is always better than treating them. Turning is the most widely accepted method for preventing bed sores. Turning is a manual task in which a nurse or caregiver physically repositions a patient, relieving pressure from areas prone to forming bed sores. However, other preventive methods exist that could strengthen the odds of an elderly resident avoiding bed sores. Hospital patients and nursing home residents alike can benefit from a range of bed sore prevention products on the market.
Many hospitals and long-term care facilities install special pressure-relieving mattresses for patients at high risk of developing pressure ulcers. This includes comatose, immobile, and elderly patients and residents. Pressure relief mattresses alleviate pressure on the skin and can increase the comfort of a patient. These mattresses alternate pressure points periodically to prevent prolonged pressure on one part of the body.
A pressure-relieving mattress may use a mechanical system such as a fixed pressure pump to inflate and deflate air cells in the mattress. The system will quietly alternate which cells receive air, reducing pressure to parts of the body throughout the day. They may also use special pads to soften the bed surface and lessen the pressure on the skin. Pressure relief mattresses disperse pressure away from vulnerable bone protrusions, such as the heels of the feet and the hips, to better prevent bed sores.
The heels of the feet are common areas for bed sores in the elderly. The weight of the feet pushes through the heels on bed rest, creating excessive pressure that can ultimately damage or destroy the skin tissue on the heels. Heel-elevating boots suspend the feet in midair, redistributing pressure to the calf to prevent heel pressure ulcers. The device gently cradles and cushions the lower leg, ankle, and foot to reduce the risk of skin friction and pressure points. Unlike a pillow-style boot, most devices permit plenty of ventilation for proper air circulation.
Sometimes, sitting or lying on a softer surface is all it takes to prevent bed sores. Placing special cushions or even regular pillows beneath a patient’s pressure points can relieve pressure and allow adequate blood supply to the region. Specially designed cushions are available that specifically aim to prevent bed sores. These cushions may fit in wheelchairs, seats, or on mattresses, with gel or memory foam to promote blood flow. Patient positioners are cushions in a variety of shapes and materials to help patients prevent bed sores.
Pressure is the main cause of bed sores, but many skin conditions can help contribute to the development of painful pressure ulcers. Skin that is too dry, moist, dirty, or brittle can be more prone to lesions and sores. Several skincare products can protect the skin and help prevent bed sores, such as:
- Cleansing body lotions. Incontinence is a common problem in the elderly that can lead to moist and unsanitary skin. No-rinse cleansing solutions and foaming cleansers exist to keep an individual clean and protected from incontinence.
- Antimicrobial skin cleansers. One of the most dangerous complications of a bed sore is infection. Special antimicrobial skincare products can help eliminate bacteria and fight infections near broken skin.
- Skin protectants. Protectants can provide a barrier for irritated or sensitive skin. They can protect against water loss, excess moisture, pain, discomfort, inflammation, and bacteria.
Many different creams, lotions, and powders can help an elderly patient or nursing home resident strengthen the skin’s protective barriers and prevent bed sores. Combined with pressure-relieving cushions, mattresses, and other devices, skin care products can be enough to help an individual permanently avoid pressure ulcers. It is up to caregivers to review each patient's case and recommend the best prevention methods.