When you think about terrible elder care, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is bed sores. Those ugly skin abrasions are considered a sure sign of neglect, and something a competent caregiver should be able to avoid.
Bed sores are more common than most people realize. It might surprise you to know that in certain circumstances, skin lesions are actually not preventable. When patients stop eating, their skin—like the rest of their bodies—begins to break down. Add limited mobility to the mix, and you will eventually get pressure sores.
Here are a few other surprising myths and facts about bed sores.
Myth: With Improved Care, They Will Heal
Healing requires nutrition. If the patient is no longer eating well or is losing weight, the body has more serious matters to address, like maintaining respiration and circulating blood. There are just not enough nutrients and calories to address skin abrasions too.
This is why it's so important to start repositioning patients every 2 to 4 hours as soon as they become bed bound. You can't always rely on the body's ability to heal, so you have to focus on prevention.
Myth: Air Mattresses Prevent All Pressure Sores
There are a number of special mattresses available to help reduce pressure on the skin. One popular option uses air chambers to move the pressure points around by alternately inflating and deflating the chambers. Another contains a squishy gel that adjusts to the patient's body, and cushions it.
These products are important tools in preventing the onset of pressure sores, but they are not a substitute for repositioning the patient. Patients can still develop bed sores, and existing sores can get worse even when using a special mattress.
Myth: You're a Terrible and Neglectful Caregiver If Your Patient Develops a Bed Sore
If you're using a special mattress, and you're repositioning the patient every 2 to 4 hours—taking care to prevent the patient's knees and ankles from rubbing each other or the bed—you're nothing less than a devoted and conscientious caregiver.
Sometimes when the body is winding down, visible signs of decline will show up on the skin no matter what you do. Keep repositioning the patient to limit further breakdown.
If the patient is eating well and is not considered terminal, ask a health care professional, such as at Carolina East, to advise you on how you can improve the quality of care the patient is receiving to prevent skin breakdown and heal existing wounds.