If you are bedbound or in a wheelchair for much of your day, you are at risk of developing painful and bothersome pressure sores. These sores form when the blood supply to areas constantly pressing against a surface is compromised. The reduced blood supply may cause necrosis of the skin tissues in these areas, resulting in a pressure sore or ulcer.
Those most at risk from pressure sores are people who spend much of their day sitting in a chair or lying in bed; have reduced sensation in certain areas of their body, are incontinent or are over or underweight. Luckily, pressure sores are preventable through careful management.
Areas most susceptible to ulceration are; the back of the head, heels, ankles, hips, knees, elbows, shoulders and spine. Make sure you check these areas daily; ask your care assistant to do this for you if you can't reach everywhere yourself, and keep a close look out for early signs of trouble. You could be at risk of a sore developing if you find warm spots where the skin appears reddened, spongy or hard or if the top layers of skin appear eroded or scaly. If you discover any of these signs, alert your doctor or nurse.
How to Prevent Bedsores
1.) Easy on the Washing:
Be gentle when washing. Don't scrub your skin and always use something soft, not abrasive. Use a good moisturiser on vulnerable areas and avoid talcum powder as this dries the skin too much. Always make sure you are completely dry after you've bathed or showered paying particular attention to skin folds in areas like your groin, underarms etc. Keep yourself hydrated from the inside out by drinking plenty of fluids during the day and making sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet.
2.) Don't Wear it Out:
Avoid wearing clothes which are tight or which ruck up forming creases in areas where your body is liable to pressure. Buttons and zip fasteners are best avoided as they can form pressure points on your skin.
3. Just The Right Size:
If you are a wheelchair user, it's vital that your chair is the correct size and fit for you. Your healthcare professional should check the fit at least once every year, preferably twice. If you are at all uncomfortable, can feel pressure anywhere or have gained weight, get the fit of your chair checked out right away. It's also very important to make sure that you have a good quality, well-fitting foam or gel seat cushion. Donut-shaped cushions are not good as they can cause pressure sores to develop.
4.) Move It:
Make sure you move you weight every 20 minutes or so by leaning forward to from side to side. If you can't manage to do this by yourself, it's important that your care giver helps you to do so - or that you get an alternating pressure mattress that can do it automatically. Moving keeps the blood flowing properly and prevents pressure building up on certain areas. When transferring to or from your chair, never drag yourself and make sure that your carer knows how to move you properly. Dragging damages the skin and may predispose it to the formation of ulcers. Learn more about the best mattresses for preventing bedsores.
5.) Go for Quality:
In bed, a gel mattress or good quality foam mattress is best. Utilize pillows or pieces of soft foam to relieve pressure on areas of your body that are in contact with each other or which press on the mattress. Make sure you or your carer changes your position every hour or two to make sure pressure areas don't form.
If you do notice any soreness, reddening of the skin or other changes that linger for more than a few days, you should consult your doctor.
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