Under Pressure: Reducing Seniors’ Risk for Pressure Sores

Impacting as many as one in every ten seniors, and even more prevalent in those who smoke, in those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, or whose skin is more delicate, pressure sores (also known as bed sores or pressure injuries) are not just incredibly painful – they can swiftly advance to infections that can spread to the blood stream and even turn out to be life-threatening.

For those with restricted movement or who are confined to a bed or wheelchair, and those who care for them, the fight against pressure sores can seem continuous. Resulting from a deficiency of blood flow when remaining in one position for too long, it is vital for those caring for an older loved one to learn about pressure sore prevention. Try some of these guidelines to help protect your loved one’s vulnerable skin from these dangerous sores:

  • Numerous Position Modifications
    • Hourly if wheelchair-bound, every two hours if bedbound
    • Make use of lifting instruments whenever possible to prevent friction during repositioning
  • Support
    • Utilize specialized cushions and pads:
      • Between knees and ankles
      • Under calves to protect heels
      • To lie at an angle, protecting hips
  • Skin Care
    • Use mild bath soap and warm (not hot) water and apply lotion
    • For excessively moist skin, use talcum powder
    • Massage areas prone to pressure sores to enhance circulation
  • Healthy Nutritional and Activity Choices
    • Consult your loved one’s health care provider for dietary and supplement guidelines for optimum skin health
    • Ensure adequate hydration
    • Refrain from smoking
    • Daily exercise (as appropriate and per doctor’s recommendations)

If, despite taking these preventative steps, your loved one develops a pressure sore, it will progress through the following four stages:

  • Stage 1: A reddish, blue or purple bruise-like patch on the skin can be noticed, which may be warmer than the surrounding skin and cause feelings of itching or burning.
  • Stage 2: An open sore manifests on the bruise, resembling a blister or abrasion. Discoloration and soreness are often part of this stage.
  • Stage 3: As the sore worsens, the surrounding skin becomes darker and the area is deeper.
  • Stage 4: During this phase, damage occurs to the bone, muscle and/or joints, and osteomyelitis (a serious infection of the bone) or even sepsis (a potentially fatal infection of the blood) can occur.

Be sure to contact your loved one’s physician immediately if a pressure sore is observed. Home & Hearth Caregivers’ Chicago caregivers can also assist by inspecting skin daily to identify vulnerable areas of the skin and pick up on the early signs of pressure sores, as well as provide support with mobility, turning and transferring to reduce the risk of developing sores. We are only a phone call away. Contact us today at 800-349-0663 to learn more about our senior care services in Chicago and the surrounding area.

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