THE ELDERLY AND BEDSORES: CAUSES, SYMPTOMS, COMPLICATIONS, PREVENTIONS AND CARE

Bedsores also known as pressure ulcers, are injuries resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. They most often occur on the skin covering the bony areas of the body such as the tailbone, ankles, hips, and heels. The seniors are mostly prone to suffer from bedsores. As they grow older, some medical conditions that come with old often confine them to their bed for prolonged periods of time, causing them to experience bedsores. 
Bedsores commonly affect seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia especially at the later stages of the disease. Stages when they would have to depend on their loved ones for mobility or are already bedridden. As a matter of fact, anyone who spends a lot of time in one position is at risk for bed sores. To care for a loved one who is at risk of developing bedsores, it’s expedient for caregivers to know factors responsible for bedsores, take preventive measures, as well as identify the signs and symptoms of bedsores so as to take immediate action and begin treatment.

CAUSES OF ELDERLY BEDSORES 

To have a better understanding of bedsores, let’s consider some of its causes and risk factors.
Here are the three major causes of bedsores in the elderly 
-PRESSURE  
When a senior has a prolonged mobility challenge , there will be constant pressure on the skin which limits blood flow to tissues. Blood flow is essential for delivering oxygen and other nutrients to tissues. Without these essential nutrients, skin and nearby tissues are damaged and might eventually die. This most often occurs in areas that are not  covered with enough muscle or fat. When the skin rubs against a bed, a piece of furniture, or clothing, it can become more prone to injury. It is a more common cause in the seniors who have more delicate skin.
-SHEAR 
When two surfaces move in the opposite direction, shear occurs. For instance, when a senior has been bedridden, and his or her bed is elevated at the head, the senior can slide down in bed. As the tailbone moves down, the skin over the bone might stay in place, doubtlessly pulling apart. This is shear, and it can cause bedsores.
-FRICTION 
 When an elderly who has been confined to the bed for a long time rubs his or her skin against clothing or bedding, friction occurs. It can make a delicate skin more susceptible to injury, especially if the skin is also damp.

 

SOME RISK FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE CAUSE OF BEDSORES IN THE ELDERLY 

An elderly’s risk of developing bedsores is higher if he or she has difficulty moving and can’t change position easily while seated or in bed. 
Here are some of the risk factors:
-MOBILITY RESTRICTIONS 
Seniors suffering from poor health conditions, spinal cord injury and other causes may have mobility challenges.
Making them stuck in bed or sitting position. This increases the risk of such elderly loved ones developing bedsores. 
-POOR DIET AND HYDRATION 
Poor diet is another risk factor. If a bedridden elderly loved one does not take in enough fluids and foods rich in calories, protein, minerals and vitamins daily to maintain healthy skin and prevent the breakdown of tissues, such elderly one is at risk of developing bedsores. 
-SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER 
When an elderly is suffering from neurological disorders, spinal cord injuries or other conditions can result in a loss of sensation, His or her inability to feel pain or discomfort can result in not being aware of warning signs and the need to change position.
-INCONTINENCE 
When an elderly suffers from continence, not having voluntary control over urination or defecation, the skin becomes more susceptible to bedsores due to extended exposure to urine and stool.
-HEALTH PROBLEMS HINDERING BLOOD FLOW 
There are some medical conditions that can affect blood flow, such as diabetes or vascular disease. They can increase the risk of tissue damage such as bedsores.

SYMPTOMS OF ELDERLY BEDSORES 

The severity of the bedsores determines the symptoms caregivers can look out for. The severity of the skin breakdown may be categorized as follows:
STAGE 1: Tenderness and redness of the skin, with the skin still intact. This stage is reversible.
STAGE 2: The redness progresses to the skin wearing away and blisters are formed. This stage is also reversible.
STAGE 3: The skin starts to develop a crater-like sore or ulcer that has begun to extend beneath the skin. This stage may be life-threatening.
STAGE 4: Skin loss with widespread destruction or damage to bone, muscle, or supporting structures such as tendons or joint capsules. This stage may be fatal.

COMPLICATIONS 

There are complications that can arise if pressure sores are not quickly or properly managed. It can be a life-threatening medical condition. Here are some of the complications:
-BONE AND JOINT INFECTIONS 
Infections from bedsores can eat deep into the joints and bones leading to Joint infections (septic arthritis) or damage to the cartilage and tissue. Bone infections (osteomyelitis) can thereby reduce the function of joints and limbs.
-CELLULITIS 
This is an infection of the skin and connected soft tissues which can cause warmth, redness and swelling of the affected area. Seniors with sensory damage do not always feel pain in the area affected by cellulitis.
-CANCER 
 Long-term or non healing wounds can develop into cell carcinoma.
-SEPSIS 
In some very rare cases, bedsores can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening complication

PREVENTIONS 

Here are some tips caregivers can employ to help their elderly loved ones prevent (since prevention is the absolute best cure for bedsores) or manage bedsores 
-REPOSITIONING 
Caregivers should frequently help to reposition their elderly loved ones to avoid stress on the skin. Like frequently helping them to get out of bed to a wheelchair and vice versa for those suffering with serious immobility challenges. 
-CARING FOR THE SKIN 
Caregivers should regularly keep the skin of their loved ones clean and dry to reduce exposure to moisture. 
-GOOD NUTRITION AND FLUID CONSUMPTION 
It is of great importance that they should be helped to maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Seniors need good nutrients to be able to stay healthy. Their meal should contain the right proportion of vitamins needed to improve their skin health to avoid bedsores.
-LIFESTYLE ASSISTANCE 
Caregivers can help their elderly loved ones with some adjustments in their lifestyle and everyday routine. Such as limiting the intake of alcohol, abstaining from smoking cigarettes and helping them manage stress. Caregivers can also help them go through some exercise sessions daily to keep them as active as possible. 

 

CONCLUSION 

Seniors living with mobility challenges should be given adequate care and attention to prevent bedsores. It can really be stressful going through such health conditions. If your loved one is still able to ambulate, either with or without assistance, the best way to prevent elderly bedsores is to encourage him or her to remain as active as possible. In a case where an elderly loved one already has pressure sores, it is important to treat him or her while practicing the prevention tips above. At this point, caregivers should get assistance from a professional. Family and their caregivers should equally show them love, support and care for them to feel safe and loved.