When a patient must spend prolonged periods of time in bed, the risk for pressure ulcers to form increases. There are, however, several methods that, when employed properly, can greatly reduce those chances. The first line of defense can be found in the type of bed that a patient is using.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, in conjunction with WoundRounds’ vice president of clinical, high-density foam mattresses or mattresses filled with gel or air have proven beneficial when preventing bedsores. Placing pads under a patient’s bottom to absorb wetness and changing them promptly when wet will help keep skin dry, thereby reducing the chance for sores to form.
A pillow (or a soft piece of foam) can also be an effective tool in reducing pressure, when placed between parts of a patient’s body that press against each other or against the mattress. Common pressure can occur near the hips, when patients are lying on their side or between the knees and ankles. It can also occur when they are lying on their back, under their heels, tailbone area, shoulders and shoulder blades, and elbows. Strategic placement of the pillow or form can alleviate the pressure in these areas. Turning a patient just 30 degrees off a pressure area can reduce the chance of a pressure ulcer forming.
Other tips, suggested by the NLM and by the WoundRounds’ vice president of clinical include:
- · Do not put pillows under a patient’s knees as it puts pressure on the heels. Instead, “float” the heels by placing a pill under the calf so that the heels hang off the end of the pillow and do not touch the mattress.
- · Never allow patients to drag themselves to change position or to get in or out of the bed. Dragging will cause skin to breakdown. Encourage patients to get help if they need to move in bed or if they need to get in or out of bed.
- · When moving a patient, it’s important to use a draw sheet for lifting and moving. A draw sheet can be made simply by folding a top sheet or thin blanket in half length-wise and placing across the bed under the patient’s back and hips. Grabbing the free edge of the draw sheet on either side of the bed and lifting the patient in to a new position, rather that dragging them, will increase comfort and reduce the formation of pressure ulcers.
- · Ensure that a patient’s position changes every 1 to 2 hours to keep pressure from building in any one spot.
- · Ensure that sheets and clothing are dry and smooth and without wrinkles.
- · Remove objects from the bed, such as pins, pencils, pens and coins.
- · Ensure that the head of the bed isn’t raised to more than a 30-degree angle. When the angle is higher than that, a patient’s body can slide down into the bed, and sliding can be harmful to the skin.
Being confined to a bed can be very taxing on a patient and so it’s incredibly important to ensure that he or she is comfortable and content. Taking these measures will prevent pressure ulcers from forming and can also ease the process toward recovery.