If someone who is confined to bed is so ill or paralysed that they don’t, or can’t, ‘turn over7 as usual, they risk developing painful bed sores. The skin can crack and weep and, as a result of the continuous pressure on a certain part of the body, the tissues below the skin can ‘wear away’. The problem arises because the pressure prevents an adequate amount of blood from getting through to supply the tissues with oxygen and nutrients. This doesn’t happen in healthy people because the normal sensations of discomfort – which at their worst become pins and needles – make us turn over or move about, even in our sleep.
These painful areas of skin are also known as pressure sores and usually appear on the buttocks, heels and elbows due to pressure and friction from the bed itself where it is supporting the weight of the body.
Elderly people who have to stay in bed because of illness are particularly vulnerable to bed sores. Often their skin is not as supple or resilient as it used to be and their ageing nerves are not as sensitive to the warning signals that their skin and tissues are becoming numb and they need to move. And the less a patient moves around, the more likely bed sores are to develop. So, if you’re looking after an elderly person who is confined to bed, make sure he or she changes position as often as possible.
Barrier creams, zinc and castor oil cream or petroleum jelly, used frequently and well rubbed in, can help protect the skin from irritation. So can talcum powder. It’s the regular rubbing that is important. In hospital, when there is any likelihood of such sores developing, the nursing staff will treat those areas already mentioned every four to six hours and turn the patient every two hours.
Should the skin look particularly sore or, even worse, if it is starting to weep, seek help from your doctor or a registered nurse immediately. Once a bed sore has started, it will need regular nursing attention several times a day to clear it up.
Hypercal Cream (for cuts and sores)