For some seniors, maintaining independence might not seem like a possibility, especially if they are bed-bound or in a wheelchair.
The goal is to provide seniors with the most independence possible while still giving them a safe environment and care they need.
In an assisted living community, seniors might have their own living quarters or apartment but live in a neighborhood with other residents their age. They may also have access to caretakers or medical professionals.
While it is possible even for seniors who are bed-bound to live at home, there are some important things that caretakers should be aware of. One particular risk is developing bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers.
In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about bedsores and how to prevent them to help seniors stay safe and healthy, as well as to continue to be appropriate for assisted living. In the state of Florida, you in order to qualify for assisted living, you must not have staged two or more wounds. If you have a stage one wound, you must show signs of healing.
What are Bedsores?
Bedsores or pressure ulcers are wounds that affect skin and tissue, usually in the legs, hips, and tailbone. They may also occur around the shoulders, buttocks, spine, arms, and even the head.
These painful sores can become infected, causing a fever, pussy discharge, putrid smell, and other complications.
How do Bedsores Occur?
As the name implies, bedsores usually affect those who are bedridden, such as disabled persons or seniors. However, they can also affect those who are confined to a wheelchair.
Pressure ulcers occur because of extended pressure on tissue. They most commonly occur on bony areas of the body. They usually develop in a few days but can happen in mere hours.
Bedsores develop due to a combination of pressure, friction, and skin rubbing against sheets. When these things happen, blood flow is restricted, increasing the risk of bedsores developing.
Other risk factors include:
- Dampness or incontinence
- Malnutrition or dehydration
- Poor circulation
- Lowered sensory perception (i.e., the patient cannot feel the pressure sore)
They vary in severity. If they are caught quickly, bedsores are mild and go away with treatment. Severe bedsores can penetrate through tissue, causing discoloration and damage to muscle and bone.
What Complications Can a Bedsore Elderly Cause?
Bedsores can cause short-term pain and discomfort, but depending on their severity, they can also lead to much more serious complications. This is more likely if a bedsore becomes infected.
Bedsores become infected as pressure mounts on the spot. They will eventually become severely discolored and warm to the touch, then break open. This is how infection occurs, leading to putrid discharge, fever, and other issues.
Complications of severe bedsores may include:
- Cellulitis — Cellulitis is a bacterial infection in soft tissue. It can cause extreme redness and swelling, leading to other serious health problems if left untreated.
- Bone infections — In extreme cases, bedsores can spread infection to the bones or joints, causing long-term damage. This can reduce patients’ mobility even further.
- Sepsis — If bedsores become severe, they can cause sepsis. Sepsis is a medical emergency and can cause extensive organ damage and even death.
- Squamous cell carcinoma — Some types of pressure ulcers can develop into skin cancer.
How to Prevent Bed Sores on a Bedridden Patient
The best way to treat bedsores is through prevention. Caretakers should know to move their patients regularly and monitor for signs of bedsores. Every person responsible for caring for a bed bound or wheelchair-bound patient should know how to prevent bedsores naturally.
Keep Patients Moving
Helping bed bound patients exercise and move regularly is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of developing bedsores. The goal is to relieve the constant pressure and promote better circulation throughout the body.
Seniors who can move independently should be encouraged to exercise daily. Those who cannot move on their own may need help to perform exercises in bed or in a chair.
Check Their Skin Regularly
As mentioned above, bedsores can develop in a matter of days or even hours. Caretakers should be checking their patients’ skin daily (or even more often) to ensure that it is clean, dry, and free of red sores.
Early detection can spell the difference between a serious sore that causes other health complications and one that is treated quickly and easily.
Use Proper Bedding
Using the right kind of bedding can also play a vital role in protecting patients from bedsores. There are special pillows that aid in repositioning patients, rotating pressure points on the body. Caretakers should also make sure that they change these items multiple times a day to avoid extended pressure on one spot.
Practice Good Hygiene
Bedsores tend to develop on moist skin, and additional bacteria can cause them to become infected. Caretakers should help their patients stay clean and dry by using clean, breathable bedding. If patients are bed bound or incontinent, clean them promptly and thoroughly to avoid the growth of bacteria.
Help Patients Eat Right
Many seniors struggle to eat a nutritious diet and stay hydrated. Unfortunately, poor nutrition and dehydration drastically increase their risk of developing pressure ulcers. They may need help remembering to eat and drink, with caretakers providing reminders or meals.
What do you Put on Skin to Prevent Bed Sores?
Prevention is the best route, but what happens if it doesn’t work and a patient develops a pressure ulcer?
As a first line of defense, the wound should be washed with water and gentle soap. This reduces the risk of infection. Then, apply a gentle lotion and apply a bandage. Change these regularly and continue to monitor for infection.
For more severe bedsores, saline might be needed to flush out the wound. Infected bedsores should be treated with antibiotics.
Is Zinc Oxide Good for Bed Sores?
Zinc oxide is a common treatment for bedsores and has very good results. Topical application helps accelerate wound healing while reducing the risk of infection.
If you are looking for a place to help your loved one live independently, you don’t have to be limited by their health needs or lack of mobility. Our senior advisors are ready to help you find a community that is perfect for your loved one’s needs.