As your loved ones get older, you might find yourself acting as their caregiver. But for many people who are unable to act as full-time caregivers, the reality is that their loved ones end up needing to live in a nursing home. A common issue that can occur in nursing homes is bedsores. Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue. They can be painful, difficult to heal, and can result in life-threatening complications including infection. What should a family member do if a loved one gets bedsores? Learning more about the causes, treatment, and prevention of pressure ulcers is the first step.
Bedsores are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. They most commonly occur on the buttocks, but they can also be found on any part of the body that experiences sustained pressure when someone is confined to a bed or a chair. Examples include the heels and elbows. Other factors including poor nutrition, nerve damage from diabetes, and incontinence-related moisture contribute to their formation.
Treating a bedsore requires identifying its causes. Pressure can be relieved by encouraging regular changes in position and by using pressure-reduction mattresses and chair cushions. Improving nutrition with vitamin supplements and by increasing dietary protein helps the body heal more effectively. And if a loved one is incontinent, minimizing moisture against the skin by using absorptive pads or briefs and applying barrier cream after each change is helpful. Keep in mind that bedsores are not a normal part of living in a nursing home or hospital, and when they appear in these settings, are often an indication of neglect. If your loved one develops a pressure ulcer in a facility, meet with the doctor and staff to determine the cause and ensure that interventions to encourage healing are in place. If the bedsore doesn’t improve quickly, request a consultation from a wound care specialist.
To prevent bedsores at home or in a facility, interventions should be initiated based on your loved one’s risk. If someone has known nerve damage from diabetes, for example, they may not feel pressure against their skin and will need reminders to change position often. Physical assistance should be provided when necessary. For seniors who don’t eat a balanced diet, a nutritionist can help identify foods or supplements that can improve the health of the skin. A common cause of bedsores is moisture on the skin. To prevent moisture-related irritation, talk to a doctor about measures to slow incontinence, and use products that wick moisture away from the skin.
When your loved one is bedridden, you want to make sure that they are comfortable and healthy. Seniors with impaired mobility are vulnerable to bedsores. If your loved one develops one, seek swift treatment, but prevention is always preferable.