If you have an elderly loved one who is being taken care of by someone other than yourself, you may have certain concerns. Elderly people, especially those who are bedridden or those who are unable to communicate their needs may be at high risk for developing bed sores or pressure ulcers. These skin wounds are almost always preventable, however, once they develop, they can be difficult to treat. Here are three things that may raise your loved one's risk for bed sores, and what you can do about them:
No Turning Schedule
People who are bed or chair bound need to change position frequently to prevent prolonged pressure over bony prominences such as the hips, spine, elbows, ankles, and heels. If your loved one is not repositioned every couple of hours, the skin over these areas may redden, and over time, start to break down.
If you are unable to be with your loved one, make sure to check with the caregiver or facility to ensure that they are implementing a turning and positioning schedule so that pressure is kept off vulnerable areas of the body. It is also a good idea to gently massage areas of pressure after the patient has been repositioned to facilitate blood flow and circulation, which will help prevent bed sores.
Dehydration is another risk factor in the development of pressure ulcers. Offering fluids throughout the day will help keep the patient's skin hydrated so that it is not as susceptible to tears and sores. To check if your loved one is dehydrated, gently grasp the skin on the back of the hand so that it forms a small "tent."
After releasing the skin, it should snap back into place after a second or so. If the skin stays up for a longer period of time, he or she may be dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include dark urine, poor urinary output, sunken eyes, and a dry mouth.
Poor Incontinent Care
If your loved one is incontinent of urine or stool, it is crucial that incontinent care be implemented promptly. Urine and stool are extremely irritating to the skin of the perianal area, and if not quickly washed off with warm soapy water, pressures ulcers may develop.
After cleaning the area with soap and water, using a moisture barrier cream will help keep the skin protected in-between incontinent episodes. Skin breakdown that is associated with incontinence is similar to diaper rash, so meticulous care needs to be taken.
If your loved one develops bed sores or pressure ulcers as a result of neglect, elder law lawyers can help you determine if you should pursue litigation against the caregiver or facility where the patient resides.