What is a bedsore?

If you are caring for a frail elder or someone who is largely immobile (in bed or a wheelchair), be on the lookout for bedsores.

Bedsores usually appear on bony parts of the body when a person is unable to turn, lift, or shift him- or herself. First, the skin just seems to be red. But the red does not go away. Left untended, the skin can break open. The break can deepen and become infected. Oddly enough, the person with the bedsore may not even be aware that it’s there.

Bedsores develop quickly, yet take a long time to heal. Prevention and early detection are key.

  • Examine the skin daily, especially bony areas. Look at the hips, heels, ankles, shoulders, elbows, tailbone, and back of the head. For those in a wheelchair, look at the buttocks and bottoms of the feet. Talk to a medical professional if the skin looks red, feels warm, or if your loved one says it burns, hurts, or itches.
  • Reposition every two hours in bed. Rotate your loved one to put weight on different areas: first lying on one side, then the back, then the other side. Use pillows to cushion bony areas, such as knees and ankles.
  • Help the person shift weight every 15-30 minutes in a wheelchair. Move out of the wheelchair, to a recliner or to bed, after two hours.
  • Provide padding. Use a foam or gel cushioning in chairs and bed. Or an alternating air cushion. Medical supply stores carry these and other protective products, such as heel covers.
  • Keep the skin dry. And clean. This is especially important with incontinence. Change clothes and bedding frequently. Talcum powder may be helpful.
  • Provide a good diet and plenty of water. Skin health and healing requires protein, vitamins, and minerals, with adequate calories and fluids.