If you are caring for a parent or grandparent, understanding how to prevent and treat bedsores is essential to your loved one’s health, comfort and well being. Without the proper care, bedsores can become painful and life threatening. Thankfully, bedsores do not have to reach this level and can be successfully treated and managed with the right knowledge and awareness.

What are Bedsores?

Bedsores are skin ulcers that occur from immobility and most commonly affect the elderly and those who are bedridden. Bedsores generally occur in an area where there isn’t much padding, such as the lower back, shoulder blades or hips. What happens is that blood supply to this area is reduced and the skin is under pressure for an extended period of time. It causes a sore to form, which can escalate if not treated. Additional risk factors include malnutrition, diabetes and age.

The Progression of Bedsores

Bedsores are progressive and include four stages.

Stage I: The affected area is red and feels warm to the touch. It may also have a small rash. This is when treatment is vital and includes removing the source of pressure.

Stage II: If the pressure is not relieved, the bedsore will open and resemble an abrasion or blister. Open sores are at risk for infection.

Stage III: By this stage, the sores worsen and extend through several layers of skin. They can even damage muscle tissue. Sores at this point are painful and difficult to treat.

Stage IV: Finally, bedsores left untreated can result in permanent damage to tissue, muscles, joints, bones and tendons. They can even be fatal.

Preventing Bedsores

Prevention is key when dealing with bedsores. The best way to avoid this risk is by changing the resting positions of your loved one to reduce stress on the skin. If your parent is bedridden, their position should be changed every 1-2 hours. If they are in a wheelchair, switching seat positions every hour is helpful. There are also a number of bedsore aid cushions on the market that reduce pain and friction.

Upright positioning is also beneficial. Legs should be supported with a cushion, and high-pressure areas should get careful attention. It’s also important to routinely look for bedsores, since they can be successfully treated if they are caught early on. Finally, ensure that your loved one is getting the proper nutrients to keep their skin strong, such as Vitamins A and C, iron and zinc.

If you do notice a bedsore forming, reduce pressure on the area and wash the affected area twice a day. This will help with healing and reduce the risk of infection. If you have any concern about a bedsore, or it seems to be getting worse, be sure to contact your doctor right away.