Bed sores or pressure ulcers are a skin condition that is typically caused due to extended periods of pressure placed directly on the skin that are so lengthy and severe so as to disrupt the blood flow to the affected area.
For the elderly this can be an ongoing and uncomfortable problem because this demographic of sufferers are more likely to spend significant time lying in a bed or confined to a wheelchair. In some cases, a senior’s poor health can be worsened by the presence of this painful skin condition.
Since bed sores can impact an elderly person’s well-being, it’s important for caretakers who have been tasked with providing Reliable In Home Senior Care to know how to prevent bed sores and treat them should they start to develop.
The Threat of Bed Sores
This skin condition can be painful and dangerous for just about anyone, but pressure ulcers are especially harmful to the elderly because of the threat of infection. Bed sores that are neglected and allowed to get worse without any treatment are more likely to get infected over time.
We’re talking about infections such as cellulitis, meningitis, and endocarditis, among others, all of which can present seniors with serious health challenges on top of the illness or disease that has put them in a position to develop the pressure ulcers.
Causes and Locations
Prolonged contact with a bed or wheelchair can be the main reason why a senior develops bed sores. It’s very important to keep an eye out for any indications that a senior is starting to suffer the pain and discomfort of pressure ulcers by checking the parts of the body that are most likely to have them.
These include areas like the back, particularly the coccyx and the shoulder blade, the hips, elbows, even the heels of the feet. You are more likely to find evidence of bed sores in these areas because they have less fat or muscle than most other parts of the body.
So what causes these ugly and painful sores? A lack of blood flow is the major culprit. When the body remains in constant contact with a surface that is placing undue pressure against the skin, the blood flow can start to be constricted. As a result, there is a significant deprivation of oxygen and other assorted nutrients that are meant to support healthy, smooth skin.
Prevention and Treatment
The best thing to do about bed sores is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Taking the necessary precautions ahead of time can help your senior avoid going through the pain of this skin condition and reduce the risk of infection.
So if your elderly loved one has been diagnosed with a medical problem that will leave him or her in a bed or a wheelchair for longer than a week, here are some actions you can take to prevent bed sores from starting to emerge.
Remember, bed sores occur all because of prolonged pressure against thin and fragile skin. You want to target that pressure and reduce the extent of it as much as possible. That means getting your senior to change his or her position in their bed or wheelchair every one or two hours when lying down or every half hour for anyone confined to a wheelchair.
Moving helps to keep blood flow normal so that every inch of your skin receives the oxygen and nutrients that it needs the most.
Clean the Skin Often
Skin that is sweaty and dirty is also more likely to develop bed sores. When we sit or lie down in the same place for any length of time, the body starts sweat. The skin starts to become dirty after that happens and this is a bad combination for developing particularly deep and painful sores.
Taking this into consideration, you are going to want to keep the elderly adult’s skin clean and dry, particularly on those parts of the body that are more prone to developing these uncomfortable pressure ulcers.
Treating Bed Sores
With infection such a prominent threat, it’s critical that you treat bed sores as quickly as you can. How you go about doing that depends on the stage of the wound and the visible depth of it.
Stage one sores are typically very mild and they can be treated by simply cleaning them with warm water and soap. Afterward, apply a moisture-barring lotion to the area so you can keep the wound clean and dry to prevent it from getting much worse.
Stage two or worse you will need to use saline to clean out the wound and then cover it with a loose, clean dressing. If infection has set in already, it’s likely your senior adult will need to start taking antibiotics to fight and eradicate it.