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What Steps Can Be Taken to Minimize the Risk of Developing Bed Sores?
Bed sores are some of the most preventable types of skin injuries. They develop as a direct result of prolonged pressure on part of the body. Preventing pressure buildup or excess friction can reduce the risk of bed sores. Caregivers for the elderly have a duty to understand the causes of bed sores, as well as to actively try to prevent them with proper patient or nursing home resident care. The following steps can be highly effective at minimizing the risk of a senior developing bed sores.
Pressure cannot build in one area to the point of damaging skin tissues and creating a bed sore if the elderly person is moving enough throughout the day. For many senior citizens, mobility is not possible. It then becomes up to the caregiver or nursing home employee to periodically turn or move the senior to prevent the development of bed sores, especially for someone who is bed- or wheelchair-ridden.
In a nursing home setting, facility staff members should be aware of the risk of bed sores. The facility should have procedures in place to help prevent pressure ulcers in its residents, such as a schedule that includes turning immobile residents every one to two hours. Keeping a resident as mobile as possible, through exercises or ambulation, can prevent pressure sores and keep blood moving freely through the body.
Investing in Soft Surfaces
Bony, prominent parts of the body are most prone to developing bed sores. These include the hips, tailbone, shoulder blades, ankles, heels, and back of the head. When these body parts press against hard surfaces for hours at a time, the pressure gravity creates can be enough to cause lesions. Softer surfaces, such as cushioned wheelchairs or specialty senior mattress toppers can help prevent bed sores by reducing the amount of pressure on sensitive areas of the body. Heel protectors and other such devices can keep a senior citizen comfortable between position shifts.
In addition to prolonged pressure, friction can also cause bed sores. Friction between the skin and rough bedding or clothing can lead to skin lesions. Weak, fragile skin is more susceptible to friction-related ulcers, especially if the skin is damp. Replacing bedding or clothes that could cause undue friction on an elderly person’s skin could help prevent related bed sores and other common skin injuries.
Keeping Skin Clean and Dry
Pressure ulcers are more likely to form on skin that is moist. Skin that remains wet for a long period of time, such as within a neglected adult diaper or unchanged bandage, can become soft and brittle. Combined with pressure or friction, wet skin can suffer lesions and bed sores. If the affected skin is also unclean, and ulcers break, the victim could develop an infection. Caretakers should always keep an elderly nursing home resident clean and dry, especially if that person suffers incontinence.
Checking Skin Regularly
The earliest signs of a pressure ulcer are skin redness, swelling, and soreness. A patch of skin that is red and sore has developed a Stage I bed sore. A Stage I sore has not broken the skin, and does not pose a risk of serious infection. Without regular skin checks, however, a caregiver may miss the signs of a developing ulcer, causing it to worsen, deepen, and crack.
Addressing Underlying Issues
Internal processes can also contribute to bed sore development. Low blood pressure, for example, could increase the risk of tissue necrosis due to lack of proper blood flow. Senior citizens with diabetes or heart problems could be more likely to develop pressure ulcers. The same is true for seniors with poor nutrition or dehydration. Malnourishment can sap the skin of the fluids and nutrients it needs to thrive. This can lead to a breakdown of skin tissues, and an increased risk of bed sores. Addressing a senior’s underlying risk factors could prevent an ulcer.