Tracy E. Bingaman, MSPAS, PA-C
Pressure Ulcers, also known as Bed Sores, can be prevented by relieving pressure, reducing friction, early identification, proper nutrition, regular exercise, and attentive skin care. Read on for six ways to prevent pressure ulcers.
- Relieve Pressure
Removing pressure eliminates the source of pressure ulcers. Watch for “pressure points” that may become red or white after extended periods in bed or sitting in a wheelchair. Note these areas and monitor them regularly to evaluate for signs of Stage 1 Pressure Ulcers, which are redness and persistent raw skin in this area. Relieve the pressure by:
- Changing positions frequently, moving every 2 hours in bed and every 1 hour in a wheelchair or other upright position
- Use pillows and cushions to elevate arms, legs, buttocks and hips
- Relieve pressure on the back with foam or special medical mattresses
- Obtain a medical bed with a medical-grade mattress to help eliminate pressure points
The biggest key to avoiding pressure ulcers is eliminating pressure to vulnerable areas. Your local medical supplier has a vast variety of products from cushions to pillows to mattresses that can help eliminate pressure, and can help identify the right products for you based on your individual needs and situation.
- Reduce Friction
Friction can irritate the skin and contribute to pressure-ulcer formation. Reduce friction and be keenly aware of friction and shear forces as the patient is moving or transferring within, into, or out-of bed. Use the aid of a trapeze attached to an in-home hospital bed to assist with transfers. You should also keep the patient’s bed free of dirt and crumbs that can irritate skin, being sure to change sheets regularly or vacuum up obvious dirt and particles. Any trauma to skin predisposes the impacted areas to breakdown and ulceration.
- Identify Early
Look at your patient’s skin! Look at your patient’s skin! Look at your patient’s skin! Check skin DAILY to evaluate for early signs of pressure ulcers (redness, tenderness, warmth, and swelling). The earlier an ulcer is identified and treated by a would care specialist, the earlier the healing process begins and the less likely a Stage 1 Ulcer is to progress to Stages 2–4. 4. Proper Nutrition While perhaps not obvious to the patient, a healthy, balanced diet can help combat this painful condition. Encourage at-risk patients to eat a balanced diet that contains adequate calories and a balance of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. If your patient is having difficulty consuming enough calories, seek out a local physician or dietician to discuss optimizing nutrition. You can also speak to them about available nutritional supplements.
- Exercise Regularly
Daily exercise and movement can help to relieve pressure, increase muscle mass, decrease swelling, increase blood flow, and improve healing. Even patients limited to bed or wheelchair can do regular stretches and movement exercises. Seek the expert opinion of a physical or occupational therapist in your area that can help develop an appropriate exercise program. Optimizing movement, physical therapy, and improving circulation can all help to prevent ulcers.
- Clean, Dry Skin
Lastly, keeping the skin clean and dry is imperative. Moisture makes skin “soggy,” which increases the chances of ulceration. Wash vulnerable areas, such as the buttocks, elbow, knees, hips, and ankles gently with a non-abrasive cloth and pat gently to dry. Additionally, should urine or bowel incontinence be a problem for your patient, address these concerns with your provider. Finding a local wound care specialist or physician who can help you address these issues can be a great resource as well. As caretakers, we play incredibly important roles in the lives of our patients. In following the steps outlined above, you can help avoid, or at least minimize, the presentation of painful Pressure Ulcers and keep your patients as healthy and function as possible. Please use our Provider Locator Search to find a Medical Equipment Supplier near you.