Preventing Pressure Sores for Seniors

Pressure sores, also known as bed sores or pressure ulcers, are often painful and can potentially lead to more serious health conditions.

What are pressure sores?

Pressure ulcers are typically caused by soft tissue, like skin, being pressed against a hard surface for an elongated period of time. Pressure sores are more prevalent in older adults with diminished strength and mobility. The need to sit or lie down for extended periods can often result in the onset of pressure ulcers. Pressure sores impede blood flow, and significantly reduce circulation in affected areas.

How do pressure ulcers develop?

Pressure ulcers are can occur on any part of the body, but the areas where the skin is thinner and closer to the bone are more susceptible. This includes elbows, ankles, heels, knees, shoulder blades, and base of the spine.

Pressure sores tend to develop in stages, and get worse over time without proper treatment.

Stages of Pressure Sore Development

Untreated pressure ulcers are fairly easy to manage if attended to in the early stages. If left too long, serious health complications can arise, and the result can even be fatal.

Pressure sores generally develop in the following stages:

  1. Red or rashy skin
  2. Appearance of sores or blisters
  3. Open sores and tissue damage
  4. Severe skin damage and infection

Red or Rashy Skin

When pressure sores first begin to develop, the affected area typically becomes red and may feel warm the touch. Skin may start to feel itchy and uncomfortable.

Sores and Blisters

The next stage is when visible sores or blisters begin to emerge. These blisters will likely be painful, and the skin around them may become discolored.

Open Sores and Tissue Damage

If visible ulcers are left untreated, crater-like open sores begin to form which can result in damage to the surrounding tissue.

Severe Skin Damage

By this time, open sores should have been treated to minimize permanent damage. However, if sores continue to be neglected, severe and possibly irreversible damage can be done to the skin, tissue, tendons, and bones.

Once a sore becomes infected, it can spread throughout the body and be extremely difficult to manage.

How to Prevent Pressure Sores

The best way to deal with pressure ulcers is to prevent them before they even have a chance to start. Prevention is definitely preferable to treatment when it comes to pressure sores. Although prevention is not always that straightforward, especially for seniors with extreme mobility issues.

Some caregiver tips for assisting a loved one or a patient to avoid bedsores, include:

  • Regular position changes
  • Daily examinations
  • Good skin care practices
  • Nutritious diet
  • Consistent exercise

Changing Position

Depending on the situation, people at risk for pressure sores should shift position regularly to avoid the development of an ulcer.

People in wheelchairs should be shifted a couple times every hour to prevent continual pressure on any one spot. Seniors that are bed ridden should be moved around every couple hours, getting out of bed and walking around if possible with the proper assistance and supervision.

Daily Examinations

Daily checks should be done by a professional or family caregiver to inspect the skin for any developing rashes or sores. Any potentially problematic areas should be addressed immediately by a health care professional.

Regular Skin Care

Keeping the skin clean and dry is extremely important. This helps keep the skin healthy and prevents infection. Caregivers from a professional home care agency can assist with skin care tips and practices.

Nutritious Diet

It is no surprise that diet plays a huge role in overall health. If your body is not getting the required nutrients, the immune system is compromised, making it much more difficult to fight off illness and disease. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet can lead to better skin and bone health.

Skin health can be enhanced by targeting foods that are rich in:

  • Vitamin C – helps with collagen production for healthy skin
    • Sources of vitamin C – citrus fruit, broccoli, spinach
    • Vitamin D – helps create healthy skin cells
  • Sources of vitamin D – sunlight, fatty fish, eggs
    • Vitamin E – helps protect skin against UV damage
  • Sources of vitamin E – nuts, seeds, leafy greens
    • Vitamin K – helps with blood clotting and wound healing
  • Sources of vitamin K – leafy greens, cabbage, fish

Consistent Exercise

Regular exercise is another effective way to help prevent pressure sores. This doesn’t have to involve intense aerobic exercise; it can be as simple as getting up and walking around as often as possible.

Seniors at risk for pressure ulcers should attempt to do as much exercise as they can manage without too much strain.

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