If you’re already bedridden due to injury, illness, or disability, you might not think it’s possible to get another injury while lying down. But bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, are a serious condition unique to people who spend most of their time in bed. Bedsores form when your skin and soft tissue press against a harder surface, such as a mattress, for a prolonged period. The pressure reduces blood supply to the area, which damages the skin tissue and results in an ulcer.
The most common areas that are vulnerable to bedsores include the knees, hips, spine, tailbone, elbows, ears, heels, shoulders, and shoulder blades. Signs to look for include warm areas, skin redness, spongy or hard skin, a breakdown of the top layers of the skin, or a visible sore.
Bedsores can be prevented with diligent care. If you or a loved one is recovering in bed, here are 6 tips for how to avoid bedsores:
1. Frequently change positions
The most important thing you can do to prevent bedsores is frequently changing position in bed. Movement alternates the area of pressure, especially on bony areas, and ensures proper blood flow. In general, bed-bound patients should be turned every two hours, alternating between the left side, right side, and flat on the back. However, while two-hour durations are ideal, there is no need to disturb the patient sleeping at night. If you’re having trouble keeping track of which side comes next, you can use a soft cotton wristband or other moveable marker as a reminder.
2. Use pillows
Pillows are an ideal way to add comfort and relieve pressure between body parts, such as between the knees and ankles, under the tailbone, behind the shoulders, and under the heels and elbows. You can use soft standard pillows, or specialized medical pillows that are filled with dense foam and usually feature a removable cover that can be washed. Another way to relieve overall pressure in bed is to use an egg crate mattress topper, an inexpensive item that helps distribute pressure more evenly and minimizes the amount of pressure in any single area.
3. Maintain clean, dry skin
Bedsores develop more easily when the skin isn’t kept clean and dry. Moisture from sweat, urine, or feces can damage the skin, so it’s important to change sheets and clothing frequently. If the patient is incontinent, adult diapers will need to be checked every two hours and changed as soon as they are soiled. Skin barrier creams can also protect the skin from moisture and acidity. However, if the patient is not incontinent, it’s a good idea to use bedpans. Depending on the patient’s level of mobility, they can use either a pontoon-style bedpan—ideal if they can sit up—or a fracture bedpan, which slips underneath the patient while lying in bed.
4. Reduce friction and shear
Bedsores are primarily caused by pressure, but friction and shear can also injure the skin. Friction is when the skin rubs against an external surface, such as bed sheets. Using a draw sheet to reposition the patient in bed is the best way to avoid friction. Shear is damage to the fatty tissues and blood vessels caused by a combination of friction and gravity, such as when the patient slides down in bed. The best way to avoid shear is to limit the amount of time the patient is sitting upright by more than 30 degrees, or when the head is raised less than 30 degrees. You can also prevent sliding by raising the foot of the bed and propping the knees up with pillows.
5. Maintain proper nutrition
Studies have found a strong correlation between poor nutrition and high risk of bedsores, so if the patient is able to eat normally, it’s important to offer nutrient-rich foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. If the patient has issues with their appetite, you can offer liquid meal substitutes to boost nutritional intake.
6. Try to exercise
Exercising while bed-bound might seem impossible, but any movement beyond frequent turning will help to avoid bedsores. Even something as simple as arm lifts—lifting the arm and holding it up for 10 seconds before repeating with the other arm—can go a long way to keeping a patient’s skin, tissue, and muscles in good health.
Bedsore prevention products at Avondale HME
Bedsore prevention takes diligence and commitment, but some key home medical products can help. Avondale HME offers a range of products for bedsore prevention, such as bedpans, incontinence products, and medical cushions and pillows. We also offer a wide selection of other home medical equipment for purchase or rental. If you have any questions about our products, fill out our contact form or give us a call today.