Preventing pressure sores is always better than treating one
Pressure wounds, pressure sores, pressure ulcers or skin breakdown, are different names of an injury to the skin or to the tissues under the skin. These wounds occur more often in older people, whose skin has become thinner and less elastic.
While the prevention of pressure sores is easier than to treat after they occur, that doesn’t mean the process is easy or uncomplicated. Also, even with following the appropriate care, pressure sores can still develop.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Position changes are key to preventing pressure sores. These changes need to be frequent, repositioning needs to avoid stress on the skin, and body positions need to minimize pressure on vulnerable areas. Other strategies include taking good care of your skin, maintaining good nutrition, quitting smoking and exercising daily.”
This article will focus on pressure wounds that typically occur in wheelchairs.
- Shift your weight and reposition frequently (about every 15 minutes)
- Lift yourself off of the seat cushion (wheelchair push-ups) if you have the upper body strength to do so. If not, seek help to perform your push-ups.
- If either of the first two suggestions are too difficult, look into a specialty wheelchair – one that will tilt and help to relieve pressure off the buttocks.
- Select a wheelchair cushion that relieves pressure, maintains a neutral temperature and breaths to allow airflow below the butt. While there are many foam, air and liquid cushions on the market, none will truly perform all of those functions. Look into an EquaGel wheelchair cushion which has been proclaimed by many skilled nursing professionals as the premier cushion for aiding in the prevention of pressure wounds.
Monitor your skin frequently, particularly in areas that are under consistent pressure – such as you buttocks, upper legs, tailbone and hips. It is important that you become able to identify Stage 1 (redness) areas so that they can be properly treated and not become more serious.
- Keep all of the skin on your body clean with daily baths or showers
- If you have an affected area, keep that area especially clean with warm water and mild soap or a no-rinse cleanser. Pat the area dry.
- Use talcum powder in areas susceptible to moisture and put a good quality lotion on areas of dry skin.
- Keep the skin dry from incontinence or feces. If you have incontinence take steps to reduce or eliminate this type of moisture and bacteria against your skin.
As is the case throughout all our life, it is important to eat a healthy diet. If you have questions on needed changes to your current diet, talk with your doctor or a nutritionist.
- Eat a healthy diet. You may need to increase the amount of protein, calories, vitamins and/or minerals in your current diet. It may also be wise to take nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin D and/or Zinc.
- Drink to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Signs of too little water may include dry mouth, thirst, dry skin or constipation.
- Quit Smoking – if you smoke – QUIT!
- Stay active – Limited mobility is a key factor in causing pressure sores.* Within your ability, exercise daily to improve blood flow, increase muscle tone, stimulate your appetite and strengthen your body.
If the recommendations above are beyond your ability, seek help from professionals to help you perform them.