Taking care of an aging parent or family member at home can be the right thing to do for your family, but it's also a tough job for family caregivers to do. If the patient becomes bedridden, that adds another layer of difficulty to the task. Bedridden patients are at increased risk for several problems, including bedsores. Bedsores are painful wounds on the skin that result from prolonged contact with surfaces like beds or wheelchairs. Once they form, they are slow to heal and put the patient at increased risk of infection. Take a look at some of the things you can do to prevent bedsores.
Bedsores can begin to form very quickly, so one important prevention technique is to make sure that the patient doesn't stay in one position for too long. Changing positions every hour or two helps ensure that the patient isn't in one position long enough for bedsores to form. Patients that are lying down should not lie on their backs constantly, but should also spend time lying on each side.
Even if the patient can't get out of bed on their own, that doesn't mean that you can't help them get out of bed for part of the day. Just getting up for a few hours each day to sit in a wheelchair or other safe chair can be helpful for the patient's skin. But be careful – patients can develop sores from sitting in a chair for too long as well. Make sure that you use pillows or cushions to help the patient adjust positions when they're up in a chair.
Use Exercises for Better Circulation
Elderly adults often experience poor blood circulation, and a lack of activity exacerbates this problem. Poor circulation contributes to the formation of bedsores. However, there are exercises that patients can do to help improve circulation, even when they're in bed, and you can help.
Simple exercises to improve circulation can include things like arm and leg lifts, elbow bends, wrist rotations, hip and knee bends, and head tilts. You can move the patient's arms, legs, hands, feet, and head for them if they aren't able to do it themselves – this is known as passive range of motion exercise. In addition to improving circulation and helping to prevent bedsores, these exercises keep joints flexible and prevent muscles from contracting and becoming stiff.
Ensure That Skin Stays Dry
Prolonged exposure to moisture can speed skin breakdowns and accelerate the formation of bedsores, so it's important to make sure that the patient's skin stays clean and dry. Incontinent patients should be cleaned and changed as soon as possible after an episode of incontinence, and patients who are capable of using a bedpan or toilet with assistance should be thoroughly cleaned and dried after toileting.
Make sure that the patient's hair and skin are both dried completely after a shower or bed bath, and that sheets are changed regularly as well.
Make Sure You Have Enough Help
Preventing bedsores in a bedridden patient is a big job, and it's just one part of a caregiver's duties. Round-the-clock patient care is too big of a job for one person to do alone, and patients may be more likely to develop bedsores when their caregiver is overwhelmed. Caregivers themselves are at risk of burnout and other difficulties when they don't have enough help.
Make sure that you have assistance with your care taking duties so that you're able to provide the patient with the care that they need and take care of yourself and your other responsibilities as well. In addition to enlisting other family members or friends, you should consider hiring a home healthcare worker to take over some of the patient care duties. Often, the patient's insurance covers this service – if not, look into programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and other state and local resources, which can often provide assistance paying for home health services. Enlisting professional home health care aides can lessen your workload while ensuring that your patient still gets all the attention required to prevent bedsores and other problems.
I have a passion for seniors. When I was growing up, my granny was my best friend. She helped me with my homework every day after school and was always ready to lend an ear when I needed someone to talk to. As I grew older and my grandmother did as well, she developed dementia. My parents, siblings, and I all took turns visiting her home to give her the extra care she needed. I learned a lot during this experience and know there are others out there with elderly relatives they are already caring for or suspect may need some extra care. I decided to create a blog to share my senior care tips with anyone and everyone who needs the advice. Come back often for new posts!