Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores or decubitus ulcers, are injuries that occur when skin and underlying tissues are subjected to prolonged pressure. These injuries usually develop on bony areas of the body, including the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone.
The elderly are more prone to developing bed sores due to prolonged pressure on the skin because of different reasons, including resting a lot. This post covers the causes of bedsores, risk factors, and prevention methods with a focus on the elderly.
Causes of Bed Sores
A bedsore is likely to develop when the skin’s blood flow is interrupted for longer than two to three hours, which may be less for the elderly. Bedsores begin as painful red patches that gradually turn purple. If a bedsore is not dealt with in a timely manner, it may crack open, allowing an infection to spread, and transforming into deep bedsore. It may even penetrate the bone and muscle.
Bedsores usually heal very slowly once they start to form. The healing process may take several days, weeks, or even years, depending on the severity of the bedsore, the patient’s age and health, and the existence of underlying conditions (such as diabetes). The following are the top three causes of bedsores:
Pressure is one of the leading causes of bed sores. Any area of the body can be affected by reduced blood flow, which can lead to permanent tissue damage. This happens most often in areas that are over a bone and don’t have enough cushioning from muscle or fat, including the hips, shoulders, tailbone, and spine.
As skin brushes against clothes or bedding for too long, friction is created. It may increase the risk of harm in those with delicate skin, particularly if the skin is wet.
Moisture is another factor that contributes, or even leads to, bedsores. It weakens or damages the skin’s outer protective layer, making the skin more susceptible to bedsores.
It occurs whenever two surfaces move in opposite directions. You can slip down in bed, for instance, if a bed is raised at the head. The skin covering the tailbone may not move as the bone descends, effectively tugging oppositely.
Risk Factors Of Bedsores in Elderly Parents
Dealing with bedsores requires understanding and resolving the numerous risk factors that may lead to their development in older parents. For instance, if you find it challenging to move and can’t quickly shift positions when seated or in bed, your chance of getting bed sores increases. The following are some major risk factors that may increase the likelihood of developing bedsores.
Bed sores are more likely to develop in elderly people who are hospitalized, wheelchair-bound, or have restricted mobility because of an illness or accident. This is because they cannot alter their postures regularly, which can lead to persistent strain on some body parts.
Older people who consume insufficient amounts of nutrients may have reduced skin integrity and a slower rate of wound healing.
Dry skin is more likely to get harmed and is less able to recover than normal skin. Dehydration is one of the causes of a dry skin. Moreover, it may result in decreased blood flow and oxygen to tissues, which may increase the chance of getting bedsores.
Due to extended contact with wetness and skin irritation, elderly people who experience urinary or fecal incontinence are more susceptible to developing bed sores. Thus, using incontinence products like paper pads for mattresses can help prevent itchiness and irritation.
As people age, their skin thins, dries up, and loses some of its elasticity, which can make it more brittle and slower to recover. This also means the skin becomes more likely to develop bedsores without proper care.
The immune systems of elderly people with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart problems, or cancer may be weakened, which can harm the integrity of their skin and raise their risk of getting bed sores.
Several drugs, including sedatives, antidepressants, and corticosteroids, can damage skin health and raise the possibility of getting bedsores. It is essential to tackle these risk factors to avoid bedsores in elderly parents.
Preventive Strategies For Bed Sores
Preventing bedsores in elderly parents requires a multi-pronged strategy that targets the health risks and makes use of certain tactics to lower the likelihood of bedsore formation. The following factors play an important role in such a strategy:
Moving Positions Often
To ease pressure on bony regions like the hip, heels, and tailbone, nudge elderly parents to switch positions frequently—at least every two hours. Ask a caregiver to aid with repositioning if they are incapable of doing it themselves or you are not around all the time.
Make sure your older parents are eating a balanced diet with enough protein, minerals, and vitamins to maintain their skin’s health and encourage healing. To ensure your loved one’s proper nutritional intake, speak with a healthcare professional or a certified dietitian.
Pressure-relieving devices are designed to prevent bedsores in the elderly by reducing or relieving pressure on the skin and underlying tissues. These devices include specialized mattresses, cushions, and supports that can help to redistribute the pressure on the body. Mattresses made from foam, air, gel, or water can be particularly effective, as they can be readjusted on a regular schedule to change the pressure on the body.
Dehydration can result in dry skin and reduced blood flow, so make sure your elderly parents are properly hydrated. Urge them to consume water and other liquids all day long, and offer assistance as required.
Management of Incontinence
If an elderly parent has incontinence, make sure their clothing is regularly changed and that their skin remains dry and clean. Protective lotions and ointments can also be used to assist in healing and avoiding irritability.
Urge your older parents to exercise regularly to improve blood flow and mobility. Some recommended exercises include simple bending, walking, or chair exercises. Contact a healthcare professional to decide on your loved one’s ideal fitness routine.
To lower the risk of skin deterioration and the emergence of bedsores, make sure that the skin is kept clean and moisturized. Avoid using strong soaps and lotions that might irritate the skin, and opt for mild cleansers and moisturizers instead.
You may help in keeping your loved one comfortable, healthy, and away from bed sores by keeping these important points in mind and collaborating with caregivers and medical professionals. Preventing bedsores is crucial for the elderly to live a long and healthy life, which could increase their chances of reaching the age of 100. Learn more about the odds of living to 100 here.
Monitoring Bedsores In Elderly Parents
An important component of preventative care for aging parents is regularly checking for bedsores. Frequent observation can assist in spotting early indications of skin deterioration. The following tips can be help monitor bedsores in elderly parents.
Routine Skin Examinations
Check the skin frequently for any indications of redness, itchiness, or skin deterioration, especially in bony regions like the hip, heels, and tailbone. Examine the skin under a strong light and feel the region for any symptoms of soreness or discomfort.
Physical changes in the skin should be noted, particularly any indications of burning, swelling, or sores, as well as any modifications to the skin’s texture or appearance.
Keep an eye on how your elderly parents are positioned and make sure pressure relief techniques, such as repositioning and special cushions, are being used properly. Make sure a carer is helping with moving them every two hours if your beloved one cannot do so on their own.
Frequent communication is the key to detecting risks of bedsores early and managing them promptly, before they turn into a bigger problem. Make sure you communicate frequently with your elderly parents and ask about irritation or numbness in parts of the body that are more likely to develop bedsores.
Preventing bedsores in elderly parents is crucial for their health and happiness. Limited mobility and weaker skin make them more susceptible to these sores. To prevent bed sores, repositioning to reduce pressure on bony areas, specialized pillows and mattresses, routine skin examinations, and incontinence control are important measures. Nutrition and hydration also play a key role in supporting skin health.
Caregivers also play an important role in helping to prevent bedsores by addressing risk factors such as immobility and poor nutrition. Furthermore, monitoring elderly parents for bedsores and seeking prompt medical care in case of suspected complications is just as important as preventive measures.