When caring for someone, it is important to relieve pressure and reduce the time in which their limbs, areas of the torso and head are stationary. Where helpful, use a pillow as a soft buffer between the skin and the bed or chair to boost comfort levels.
People who have to stay in bed for most of the time ought to change position at least once every two hours, including during the night. It is best to avoid lying directly on the hipbone. Bedridden patients are susceptible to pressure sores on the back and sides of the head, as well as the sides of the knees, ankles and toes.
Wheelchair users should shift position within their chair at least every fifteen minutes or so, paying particular attention to where the body rests against the metal structure. In addition to the areas at risk detailed above, pay additional attention to the shoulder blades and the back of the legs.
Daily Skin Care
Every day, check the skin for redness or signs of discolouration. Pressure injuries are more likely to occur if the skin is too dry or too moist, so hydrate correctly with a gentle moisturiser to keep the skin supple and prevent dryness. Avoid massaging movements near areas of bone, as the flesh is particularly delicate in these regions.
Diet and Lifestyle
Observing a healthy, nutritious diet is most helpful, along with regular and effective hygiene. To boost circulation, maintain activity levels where possible and – importantly – avoid smoking.
Signs and Symptoms of Pressure Sores
During regular skin checks, look for early indications of problems such as swollen skin and red or blue discolouration. Remember to pay special attention to bony areas. If you detect signs of infection, including high skin temperature, cracks, calluses and wrinkles, do not delay. Call the doctor, community nurse or care specialist as soon as possible.
Pressure Sore Grading
When a person is bed bound, those parts of the body that are in firm contact with the mattress are likely to suffer pressure. As a result, skin discolours. For similar reasons, patients confined to chairs also require close monitoring.
Health professionals classify pressure injuries in four groups of ascending severity:
Red, blue, purple or black skin discolouration typifies Grade 1 pressure sores.
In Grade 2 sores, some damage occurs to the topmost layers of skin and there is an elevated risk of ulceration.
With Grade 3 symptoms, there is some necrosis (death) or damage to layers of skin in a patched area.
More seriously, Grade 4 pressure injuries feature skin necrosis with damage to underlying tendons, joints or bones.
Because older people tend to have thinner skin, they are often prone to pressure ulcers when hospitalised or if confined to bed at home. Pressure sores tend to appear with constant contact over time, especially with poor circulation or other predisposing conditions.
Notably, tobacco consumption impedes capillary circulation near the surface of the skin. In smokers, healing is slower than usual. Pressure ulcers can occur at any age but are more common in patients who are dehydrated, over seventy years old, obese, or who have experienced significant recent weight loss.
Significant risk factors include:
- Lack of mobility due to head injuries or a stroke.
- Sitting or lying down for extended periods.
- Circulatory system disorders, due to reduced blood flow in capillaries.
Complications due to Pressure Sores
If left untreated, pressure sores are likely to worsen. In such cases, it is vital to avoid infection. With less severe symptoms, treatment involves relieving the force on the affected area, cleaning the wound regularly and applying suitable dressings. However, for more severe incidences, the removal of dead tissue may become necessary.
Unfortunately, delays in treatment or diagnosis can exacerbate the symptoms of soreness, worsen the discomfort and lengthen the healing process. In the worst cases, complications include sepsis, cellulitis, infections and squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer. Necrosis, or the death of tissue due to the failure of its blood supply, can even become life-threatening.
Pressure Sore Compensation Claims
Occasionally, even with the correct level of care, some patients still develop sores. If you or a person in your care has been affected by delayed diagnosis, you could have a valid claim for compensation. For a significant number of clients, our team of medical experts is able to determine that such problems were avoidable. Medical negligence complaints and pressure sore claims might include, for instance:
- Failure to carry out adequate and proper risk assessments, including miscalculating the level of risk.
- Poor treatment or failing to use pressure ulcer equipment.
- Inadequately trained nurses.
- Poor record keeping.
- Delays in treatment.
Support and Advice
If you or a member of your family has experienced bedsores or pressure sores, possibly due to negligent care or inadequate treatment, we invite you to discuss the circumstances with our legal specialists. Contact us here today or, if you prefer, telephone our advisers on 03339 874161 to receive a free initial assessment. Naturally, all calls are in confidence.
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