As a caregiver, you do everything you can to make sure your loved one feels comfortable. Whether it’s keeping the skin clean and dry with regular bathing, assisting with late-night trips to the restroom, or ensuring he or she eats enough healthy, nutritious meals, the daily to-dos associated with caring for an ill person can quickly become overwhelming.
If your loved one has restricted mobility, wheelchairs and in-home hospital beds can make these tasks much easier and more comfortable. However, even with the right medical equipment, further health problems can arise if patients and caretakers aren’t vigilant. Pressure sores, also known as bedsores, result from sustained pressure on certain parts of the body when the position isn’t changed regularly — and they’re much easier to prevent than treat.
While repositioning is key to avoiding injuries to the skin and underlying tissue, there are several other strategies you can implement to keep pressure sores at bay.
Make sure the wheelchair has been measured specifically for your loved one and is compatible with his or her level of mobility and capability. Healthcare providers can perform a seating evaluation with a pressure map that will identify pressure-sensitive areas and help determine if your loved one needs a different cushion or chair.
When moving in and out of a wheelchair, be sure your loved one avoids dragging his or her bottom, which can irritate the skin. If help is needed during transfers, the patient’s caretaker should be well trained to assist. Patient lifts are also helpful in the safe transfer between wheelchair and hospital bed.
Perform Pressure Reliefs
Every 15 to 30 minutes, remind your loved one to shift his or her weight for a minute or two, and reposition entirely about once per hour. If the patient has enough upper body strength, a few wheelchair push-ups (raising the body off the seat by pushing against the arm rests) throughout the day will help provide relief to pressure-sensitive areas.
If your loved one is using an in-home hospital bed, try using a specialized mattress, such as memory foam, to protect vulnerable areas. Customized cushions also work well on regular mattresses, but avoid using towels or blankets for extra padding.
Help your loved one adjust his or her body position every two hours during the day. At night, he or she will still need change positions. However, depending on the patient’s weight and skin tolerance, the turning schedule can extend up to every six hours. When repositioning, remember to lift rather than slide. Friction against even the softest sheets can lead to pressure sores. There are a number of devices on the market, such as trapeze bars and patient lifts, that can help.
Protect Bony Areas
Joints and other areas where bones are close to the skin (such as hips and shoulder blades) are particularly vulnerable to pressure sores, so you might need to add extra cushion between your loved one’s body and the mattress in these spots. You can also use cushions between the knees and ankles to prevent friction.
Change Linens Regularly
It’s important to change your loved one’s bedding frequently, but watch out for wrinkles in the linens that can irritate the skin.
- The skin is the first defense against pressure sores, so be sure to keep it clean and dry from incontinence or perspiration. Avoid harsh soaps or any product with alcohol or antibacterial/antimicrobial ingredients.
- Check your loved one’s skin frequently for problems or changes like redness or darkening color, blisters, bruises, hardness, cracks or dryness, and swelling or warmth, which can signal skin breakdown.
- High-risk areas include the lower back, tailbone, heels, base of the buttocks, hips, elbows, knees, ankles, and the back of the head. Pay attention to fingernails and toenails as well. An ingrown nail can lead to sores that may become infected if not treated immediately.
- Avoid sunburn, which can increase the risk of pressure sores.
- The health of your loved one’s skin depends heavily on his or her diet, so make sure he or she eats healthy meals and takes dietary supplements such as vitamin C and zinc. The patient’s doctor or dietician might recommend an increase in calories, protein, other vitamins and minerals.
- Encourage your loved one to hydrate frequently, but keep in mind that water intake might vary according to his or her bladder management routine.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda. Not only are they dehydrating, but they can also trigger bladder spasms.
- Be sure your loved one wears properly fitted clothing free of possible irritants such as buttons, zipper pulls, thick seams, rivets, and bulky pockets.
- Choose shoes with stiff toe protection. If your loved one has issues with swelling, suggest that he or she wear shoes that are 1-2 sizes larger than usual to accommodate.
- When using a wheelchair, never allow your loved one to carry anything in his or her back pockets, like a wallet or comb.
Do you need a new assistive device?
PA Healthcare offers a wide range of assistive devices to make in-home care as smooth and worry-free as possible. We rent and sell wheelchairs, hospital beds, patient lifts, scooters, rollators, and more. Plus, we offer delivery throughout San Diego County and Imperial County.
If you have any questions about our at-home medical equipment rentals, please give us a call at 619-568-2360. Our consultants have the knowledge and experience to help you choose the right products.