Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are caused by pressure created from being in the same position for extended periods of time. They are therefore most common in people who are confined to bed, or who spend many hours a day in a wheelchair. Bedsores can range from a barely noticeable, slightly tender skin discoloration to a larger, more painful wound that extends into the tissue underneath. Like most things, bedsores are easier to prevent than they are to treat. The single best way to prevent bedsores is simply to change your positon as often as possible, so that you aren’t putting a lot of pressure on any one part of your body for very long.
If you spend a lot of time in a wheelchair, make sure the seat and back are comfortable. A medical professional can offer advice on adjustments and special cushions if needed. If you spend much of your time in bed, talk to your provider about which mattresses and pads will give you the cushioning you need. Try to develop a daily skin care routine that will remind you to check your skin for any issues. Perhaps you apply lotion regularly to help with dry skin; you can also use that time to scan for potential problem areas. Ideally, a health care provider or other caregiver should assist you in these checks, but in a pinch you can use a mirror to see those hard-to-reach spots.
Bedsores: What to do Next?
If you have developed bedsores there is no reason to panic. For mild cases, often all that is needed is to change position more frequently. Ideally, you will change your position every hour or two during the day. You may need to ask your caregiver for help with this. Move from chair to bed and back again if you can, or at least change the way you are lying or sitting down. While you are doing position changes, take a moment to make sure your clothes and bedding are dry; smooth dry bedding and clothing are less likely to aggravate existing bedsores. Besides position changes, the most important step in the care of bedsores is to keep them clean. Wash with plain soap and water and pat dry with a soft clean towel. If a sore is open, it may benefit from cleaning with a special solution, so be sure to check with your health care provider, who can also advise you on applying a protective dressing if needed. Careful monitoring, ideally on a daily basis, is important to ensure quick healing. Bed sores can be painful, but there is no need to suffer. Talk to your health care team putting together a pain management plan, in addition to your treatment plan. Over-the-counter pain medications taken as strategic times (such as an hour before position changes) can be very helpful.
If bedsores are an ongoing problem, they will be most easily managed in a care facility where skilled nurses can assist you with position changes, help keep you clean and dry, and oversee your care. If this is not an option, a loved one can be trained to assist you with the daily care that is needed. A little attention to your environment, including staying as active as possible, will go a long way towards keeping bedsores at bay.