Is That a Bedsore? Uggh!
Identifying and Treating
Our bodies were designed to move! Without even thinking about it, we will shift positions! Constantly we change the way we sit at the computer, watch TV, sit in the car or even move unconsciously while sleeping.
When the body is not moving, the circulation is limited in an area and one can develop the undesired “Bedsore!” Otherwise, bedsores are known as Decubitus Ulcers, Pressure Sores or Ulcers. Pressure from being in a static position for long periods causes the skin to break down, which could turn out to be life-threatening if an infection occurs in the skin or the bone. These can become extremely difficult to heal and cause a lot of pain for an individual.
Oftentimes the elderly will not be able to notice them until they are full-blown ulcers. As loved ones of aging family members, it is extremely important to be aware of what bedsores look like, where they commonly occur and how to prevent or treat them.
The Risks and Stages of the Bedsore
As we age, skin becomes thinner, tears more easily and bruising occurs more rapidly than the days of our youth. In the elderly, immobilization and decreased activity makes them more vulnerable to quick forming bedsores. Diabetes and smoking increase risk factors as well. Pain perception decreases as we age leading to not knowing skin is breaking down. Lack of good nutrition, urinary incontinence, and fecal matter left behind also cause an environment for ulcers to develop.
Physicians will classify the wound in stages:
Stage 1 Skin irritation begins, it may appear reddened, hurt, or itch. In a dark-skinned person, it may appear purple or bruise-like, dry or ash-colored. It can feel hot or hardened or spongy to touch. This stage can quickly disappear if the pressure to the area is removed. This is the stage which should be constantly monitored daily.
Stage 2 The skin is in decline. Look for possibly a blister, or open area with the skin around the wound appearing colored. If caught early and the person is not paralyzed or diabetic, the skin can recover quickly.
Stage 3 The third stage of a bedsore is difficult to heal. They can be painful as layers of skin have deteriorated all the way to the muscles. Possibly permanent damage is done to the tissues and irreparable.
Stage 4 This stage is very dangerous as not only is skin layers deteriorated, but muscle, bones and other tissues are compromised. Infection can start quickly and could lead to death.
How to Treat Bedsores
The best way to treat a bedsore is to catch it early! Consistent monitoring of pressure points for any elderly person who is sitting or sleeping in one position for long periods. Being diabetic or having very thin skin make it more challenging to heal. If you notice a bedsore, prompt communication to the primary physician can help with assessing and ordering proper treatment.
For Stages 2- 4, a team approach is necessary for arresting bedsores progression. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, aides and social workers need to work together. First response should be to address the pressure causing issue. That may mean adding a pillow or cushion to a chair, simply changing positions or changing to a pressure relieving mattress. Exercise to the area will help with increased circulation to bring about healing. Here are some other treatment options to consider!
Analyze the Diet
Think about colorful vegetables! Vibrant Greens, orange and red vegetables are power packed with the nutrients necessary for the skin. Drinking plenty of water and taking supplements such as zinc or Vitamin C could help.
Clean the Wound
Sores that are open need to be cleaned of dead tissue to prevent infection and promote healthy cell growth. This is called debridement. A very bad wound may need to be surgically debrided. Saline solution forced water like a whirlpool or enzymes applied to the skin are non-surgical options to rid of the dead cells.
Dressings are necessary for keeping the wound moist and the other skin dry to protect from infection, further damage and promote healing. There are many options on the market. Antibiotics and pain-relieving gels can be applied with a bandage as well. Bedsores can be a real nuisance, take a long time to heal and can be life threatening. Even a well-managed bedsore may require surgical intervention to heal. Surgeons may need to use tissue such as fat or muscle or skin from a healthy area of the body to promote healing. Prevention is always the best approach when dealing with these common wounds in the elderly population.