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How to Prevent Bed Sores (Pressure Sores)

Updated on November 22, 2012

Having been a nurse for many years, I saw many people develop pressure sores, or bed sores as they are commonly called, or even pressure ulcers.

Not in my care! When I was nursing, it really was the worst thing to find someone with bed sores, because it meant someone wasn't doing their job properly.

Among nurses, someone developing a bed sore on your shift, meant it was your responsibility, and your fault.

So someone from Ward 10 was transferred to your ward, and you saw that they had pressure sores, everyone from Ward 10 was talked about, looked down upon, and generally ostracised for allowing someone to develop them.

It is of vital important that if you have someone who is bed-bound in your care, that you know how to prevent bedsores from developing.

Learning how to prevent pressure sores is one of the first things a nurse learns.

a bed sore on the sacrum
a bed sore on the sacrum | Source

How does someone get bed sores?

Anyone who is semi-conscious, or unable to move through illness, accident or old age, is at risk of developing pressure sores.

When you are lying prone in a bed, the blood doesn't circulate in the same way as it would if you were up and about.

Lying, not moving for any period of time slows your natural blood flow down.

You know if you have been sitting at a computer, for example, for hours, your behoochie begins to ache.

That is why I don't like those long movies they show at cinemas. There is not a lot of room to move around and after a while your bum gets sore.

Imagine if you were bedridden, not for a couple of hours, but for days or weeks at a time.

I know we all spend hours in bed each day, to sleep, but we naturally change position from time to time without even wakening up.

This is our body's natural reaction, and stops us from becoming sore (like you can do at a cinema).

Many people who are ill cannot move; they cannot turn in the sleep.

The parts of the body that constantly touch the bottom bed sheet would be the heels, hips, the sacrum and the elbows.

The head and shoulders too, but seldom do pressure sore develop there, presumably because they are near the heart and get a better blood supply anyway.

Knowing how to prevent pressure sores is not rocket science.

early and later stages of pressure sores
early and later stages of pressure sores | Source
stage 3 pressure sore
stage 3 pressure sore

What are bed sores?

Bed sores start off as red pressure areas. Left untreated, the skin breaks down and starts weeping. Ignored further and they start bleeding.

Left untreated for longer periods, they turn into holes that are red, hot and painful and an easy route for infection to appear.

Necrosis sets in, the edges of the wound turns black, and they start to smell.

Ignored further and the life of the patient is at risk.

How to prevent bed sores?

It's actually very simple.

Anyone at all who is bedridden and cannot move from their position, needs to be turned regularly by someone else.

If you are a nurse or a care helper, you should have been taught how to turn someone so that they change position, allowing their blood flow to move once again, instead of being coagulated somewhere in the body.

This is part of the learning process on how to prevent pressure sores from developing.

It also helps if you use some oil or talc to gently rub the area they were lying as after you have changed their position.

We used to use a mixture of oil and alcohol that we kept in a plastic bottle just for this. We have to shake it to mix the two, then apply a little to the hand, before gently spending a few seconds massaging the pressure point area.

The alcohol was supposed to toughen the skin up a bit, and the oil was the make it easier to rub on without damaging the tender skin cells.

It wasn't motor oil!

It was something like vegetable oil that you might have used for cooking.

patients must be turned to precent bed sores
patients must be turned to precent bed sores | Source

How often should someone be turned?

You could start off at 4 hourly turns. This is day and night, so if you are nursing someone at home, you will need to set your alarm clock for the nighttime turns.

If you see the patient's skin turning red at this frequency, you may want to increase that to 2 hourly.

This may seem like a lot of work, but prevention is better than cure!

Once the skin starts to break down at the start of a pressure sore, it is much harder to fix. You may then have to go on to hourly turns, or even half hourly, with massages to the area each time.

Once sores have taken a hold, the patient will need antibiotics and all sorts of medications to prevent or heal infections.

Now you see why we as nurses do not want to see pressure sores developing, and how it is of vital importance that we learn how to prevent bed sores.

How to Prevent Pressure Ulcers

What are you telling me for? That's a nurses job?

You simply never know when you might have someone in your home who is bedridden. Your elderly mother, perhaps?

Your teenage son?

Not every condition will put you in hospital where there are nurses to look after you 24 hours a day.

Bed sores can happen to everyone, and the chances are that more people develop them at home than elsewhere, like in a hospital or nursing home.

Know what to look for.

Know what to do to prevent bed sores from developing.


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