For seniors who are receiving home care or who are staying in a nursing home and find themselves incapacitated or bedridden, daily life can be a struggle. In addition to needing support and caregiver assistance for everyday activities, seniors who are bedridden are also subject to a number of other health concerns due to their sedentary lifestyle. One of the biggest of these concerns is bedsores.
Bedsores are increasingly common in elderly individuals who spend most of their day in bed. They are more than just cuts, scrapes or blisters. They are very serious sores that can cause a number of other health issues if not treated. They can also be extremely painful. These sores, often called pressure sores or pressure ulcers are skin wounds that form when there has been prolonged pressure on that specific area. They not only commonly occur in seniors who are bedridden but in those who spend the majority of their time in a wheelchair as well.
There is a major misconception about bedsores in seniors, with many assuming that the skin wounds are a sign of negligence. While negligence can make bedsores worse, even seniors with dedicated, diligent caretakers can form bedsores.
These bedsores are very painful and very hard to treat, which is why all caregivers need to be on the lookout for bedsores and act quickly to ensure they are treated correctly. The longer bedsores are left untreated, the worse they can become.
The Most Common Places for Bedsores
Bedsores can technically occur almost anywhere in the body. However, there are some areas that are much more common for bedsores than others. Typically, these sores occur in areas where seniors have the least amount of muscle and fat. Many times they will form a sore right over the bone.
However, this doesn't mean that bedsores can't form on other areas of the body. In fact, many seniors who spend most of their time in a bed or in a chair, end up getting bedsores on their buttocks. Many seniors who are immobile following a surgery, illness or injury, will not only form bedsores on their behind, hips and tailbone, but they may also form sores on their feet, toes and ankles or even their shoulders.
For seniors who spend most of their time in a wheelchair, similar areas are at risk for bedsores, as well as the backs of the arms and the legs. Ultimately, wherever the skin has the most consistent pressure is where the senior is at the most risk of developing bedsores. This is why caregivers looking after seniors should always check the entire body for evidence of bedsores. Even the most inconspicuous of areas can be at risk.
Most seniors in nursing homes, hospitals or those who are immobile are at risk for bedsores. This is why the first and most effective approach to preventing bedsores from forming is to know what the risk factors are for these serious injuries. Many times, seniors are completely unaware that a sore is forming on their body, so it is important that caretakers know the risks, and that they aren't just waiting for the senior to say they are in pain.
While most bedridden seniors are at risk for bedsores, those who have arthritis or an injury that makes it painful to move, have an even higher risk of developing these sores. Diabetics and those who have no or limited sensation in their legs or feet are also much more likely to develop bedsores.
The older the individual, the more vulnerable they are to bedsores. A 100-year-old senior is much more likely to get bedsores than a 65-year-old. As the body ages, the skin begins to wear and can no longer heal in the way it once did. This is why seniors are much more likely to have issues with bruising, cuts and skin tears.
Other risk factors include:
- Routine transfer between a bed and wheelchair
- Seniors who smoke
- Individuals with lack of pain sensation
- Seniors with challenges related to urinary incontinence
- Malnourished individuals
Caregivers need to pay close attention to seniors who experience some or all of these risk factors so they can be on the lookout for skin irritations and treat these irritations before they become full-blown bedsores.
Preventing and Treating Bedsores
Typically, these sores form in stages. It may begin with red, itchy or painful skin and eventually develop into a sore that looks like a blister. For most older adults, these sores would heal on their own. However, for seniors with delicate skin and compromised immune systems, they often don't heal in the way they should, causing the sore to get worse and worse over time.
The earlier someone notices these minor skin irritations and gets treatment for these irritations, the better off the sore will be. This is why one of the key elements of effective bedsore prevention is routine inspection.
There are other ways to prevent bedsores as well. This includes investing in special foam, gel, air or water mattresses, providing leg supporters for those who are bedridden and considering regular repositioning for any senior who typically stays in the same place every day. Ideally, the senior will be repositioned every 30 minutes when they are in a wheelchair and every two hours when they are in a bed.
There are also ways to treat bedsores once they do develop. One of the many things that experts recommend is a change in diet. Eating plenty of vitamin C, zinc and dark green vegetables can actually help in the healing and prevention of bedsores. Seniors also need to have their sores cleaned and dressed properly in order to allow the sores to heal without surgical intervention.
The quicker medical treatment can be applied to the sore, the better off the senior will be. Even when a sore simply looks red, irritated, squishy or crepe-like in texture, instant treatment can prevent that sore from developing into a much more serious issue.