Wound Prevention for Your Loved Ones
We are seeing more and more families caring for their mothers, fathers, grandparents in the home setting and would like to provide them with some suggestions to help keep their loved ones’ skin healthy. There are a few simple Wound Prevention techniques that we can add to our daily lives which can markedly reduce the risk for pressure sores (bed sores).
As we age, our skin becomes more fragile and prone to bruising, cuts, and areas of pressure-related sores. These pressure-related sore areas are mostly seen over boney prominences on the body, but can also be found in less common areas that we do not always think to check. A few examples of these are: the tops and tips of the toes, mid spine, elbows, and between the gluteal cheeks.
Checking for Developing Sores
Now that we know where to look let’s talk about some simple quick daily tasks that can minimize the development of these pressure-related sores. Check your loved ones shoes for a proper fit. When removing their shoes after being out on the town did you notice any red areas on their feet? If so, this might be a good time to look into shoes made from a flexible cloth material or possibly a wide toe box. A good foot rub with lotion for approximately 5 minutes to each foot will not only win your loved one’s heart, but will also help improve the circulation to their feet and aid with early detection of areas beginning to develop sores.
Does your loved one have a favorite chair or recliner they like to sit in for long periods of time? It is always a good rule of thumb to “off load” or reposition off of your bottom approximately every 2 hours. This will help displace the weight of the body off the tailbone and shift to another part of the buttocks. This can be as easy as using a small pillow to prop up one hip or the other, or encouraging your loved one to lay down on their side to rest. Making sure their entire body is supported with pillows for comfort will often help with their willingness to reposition.
Elbows are Problem Areas
As we get older we will often lean on our elbows to support our upper body especially towards the end of the day as we fatigue. Paying attention to how your loved one sits and what they are resting their arms on can be vital in preventing pressure-related sores to their elbows. This can include padded wheelchair arms, adding sheep skin covers to wheelchair arms, or opting for padded arm chairs rather than wooden arm chairs is always a good and inexpensive fix.
Again here is another area where massage is a great tool. Adding into your evening routine a time to apply lotion and inspection their elbows is not only a great time to reminisce about the day’s events but helps promote circulation and prevention of sore elbows.
Moisture Barriers Help
Unfortunately, as we age “accidents” will happen. This is the number one cause of pressure-related sores in most settings whether at home, in the hospital, or any care facility. Something to keep in mind to head this off is to assist your loved one to the restroom regularly. It is recommended that people be offered the restroom every 2-3 hours to help prevent accidents. Have them wear a good absorbing undergarment, not only for their dignity, but also to keep the moisture from the skin as much as possible. A good barrier cream after each “accident” will help prevent the acidity from burning the skin making it more fragile and susceptible to pressure-related sores.
If your loved one starts to complain of discomfort in any one area this would be a good time to have a look. We know that this can be difficult for our loved ones, and we can offer alternatives or even make a doctor’s appointment if they feel uncomfortable having you check personal areas.
Overall, while assisting our loved ones with their daily activities, be vigilant about looking for those “red spots” and ask yourself, “How did that get there and how can I help relieve the pressure?” Things like off-loading, providing extra padding, creating barriers for moisture, and massage are all excellent ways that are not too time intensive or costly and can help your loved one have healthy skin and be comfortable.
by Deanne Boyd RN, Director of Nursing Services, Life Care Center of Sandpoint
Deanne Boyd is currently the Director of Nursing for Life Care Centers of America in Sandpoint. She began in geriatrics 20 years ago, starting as a Certified Nursing Assist while obtaining her nursing license. Deanne has experience in critical care as an ER Nurse and Surgical Services Nurse with Bonner General Health. She enjoys working with the aging population and building relationships with them and their families.