Bed sores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are a painful skin condition often experienced by seniors with mobility issues. Those who spend a long time in a single position are at risk due to unrelieved pressure on a single body part. Sores can form on any part of the body and can develop quite quickly. Pressure sores create a cone-like area of damage, so what appears on the surface of the skin does not reveal the full extent of the sore. By the time evidence appears on the outer layers of skin, usually the damage has already gone much deeper.
Pressure ulcers are a painful and potentially very serious medical condition. They are treatable but can lead to medical complications if not handled properly. Early signs of skin irritation can be treated at home, but more serious bed sores should receive professional medical attention. Seek a professional evaluation to assess the stage of the bed sore and to determine if signs of infection are present. Ensure you receive a proper diagnosis before attempting treatment at home.
Caregiver Tips on Caring for Bed Sores
- First and foremost, relieve pressure on the affected area. Rotate the position your loved one is in at least every two hours.
- Use foam pads, lambswool, pillows or seat doughnuts to prop body parts in ways that distribute pressure differently.
- Use a specialty mattress that cushions and protects vulnerable skin. Foam, air and gel mattresses have been developed specifically to treat pressure ulcers in seniors.
- Clean and dress wounds properly. Use mild soaps and warm water to clean broken skin to prevent infection. Dress wounds with wound care products specifically developed to create the moisture barrier necessary to protect oozing wounds. Excessive drainage may require frequent dressing changes.
- Keep skin lubricated. Broken skin is especially prone to ulceration. The feet and legs are especially prone to dryness. Gently and consistently moisturize the skin to reduce friction and stress. An added bonus of helping a senior moisturize regularly is the opportunity to frequently inspect the skin for hot spots where pressure ulcers may develop.
- Add a barrier cream to your loved one’s incontinence care routine. Moist skin increases the risk of pressure ulcers because it breaks down more rapidly. If there is no sign of broken skin, apply a barrier ointment to protect against moisture and irritation.
- Good nutrition boosts immunity and promotes wound healing. Many caregivers have noted the power of protein in repairing tissue. Adequate protein intake lends to successful wound recovery.
- Consider alternative therapies carefully. Many caregivers recommend colloidal silver, raw honey, bag balm, pure aloe vera gel and other at-home remedies, however, as with any non-medical treatment decision, proceed with caution. Don’t rely solely on these remedies.
- Seek medical care if pain persists. Pressure ulcers are at high risk for developing serious infection that can permanently damage muscles and nerves and may eventually become life threatening.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed-sores/symptoms-causes/syc-20355893