As a Patient Care Technician, you are tasked with the important responsibility of keeping those who are placed under your care as happy and comfortable as possible. Bedridden patients are at an increased risk of getting bed sores. Bed sores occur when pressure is applied or airflow is restricted to concentrated areas of skin for extended periods of time, resulting in the skin dying and forming painful and troublesome sores. Areas with less muscle and fat such as the tailbone, hips, heels, and elbows are the most prone to developing sores. These wounds are not only uncomfortable, they can also put your patient at risk for infection.
While difficult to dodge with certain patients, there are certain measures that can be taken to avoid bed sores. Here are five tips for preventing bed sores in bedridden patients.
1: Keep Their Skin Healthy
Proper hydration and nutrition are crucial for preventing bed sores. When the internal body is well taken care of, the skin will be less prone to sores and any resulting infections. A proper diet and increased hydration levels allow the skin to be at its full potential when it comes to withstanding bed rest. Nourishing the patient with a good diet and hydration schedule can also help with our next tip.
While we understand that your patient might have limited independent mobility while they are bedridden, it’s important to perform as much movement with them as possible, as this is one of the most effective ways to get air flow to all parts of the body. As you can imagine, this is also a domain where proper diet and hydration could be a huge help in getting your patient’s energy levels up enough to perform some simple exercises. Start with smaller tasks such as lifting an arm up for 10 seconds at a time, assisted if needed, and work up to whatever full capabilities your patient has.
This is the number one recommended tip when it comes to preventing bed sores on your patients: frequently repositioning your patient. Try to reposition them at least once every two hours, and take care to tend to points of high pressure or high-risk body parts. Check their skin frequently to ensure that there is no irritation indicating the early stages of a sore. If your patient is able, getting them off of their backs and onto their side can be immensely relieving. Repositioning relocates the pressure of the patient’s body weight and distributes it more evenly throughout the course of the day. It also allows air to reach spots that previously were not getting any. Air flow and decreased pressure points are the two main keys to preventing sores and frequent repositioning aids both of these processes.
4: Extra Cushioning
Many Patient Care Technicians find it helpful to put pillows under points of high pressure such as the tailbone or shoulders to try to alleviate some of the pressure that’s being put on the skin. For less mobile patients, additional padding overall may be helpful to ease pressure throughout the entire body. This type of more general padding often comes in the form of a foam topper for the bed that eases whatever pressure the patient’s body is currently placing onto the surface. While pillows are more targeted, overall padding allows you to reposition someone with more ease than having the additional burden of pillows, so it can work well with immobile or unconscious patients who are unable to assist in their repositioning.
5: Keep Everything Clean and Dry
Keeping your patient’s skin and linens disinfected and dry is key to lowering the risk of sores and infection. Make sure to give your patients frequent baths, and that you’re cleaning all the hard to reach spots, even if you need to ask for some extra help. Those often forgotten spots are where sores will form if you’re not diligent enough with your cleaning process. Make sure that you’re drying your patient thoroughly allover before putting them back onto the linens. Wet skin trapped against a bed will not dry and therefore fester, cultivating incredible amounts of bacteria that can irritate the skin and increase susceptibility to sores.
Pat the skin and allow it to completely dry before moving on. These same principles also apply to the patient’s pillows, sheets and blankets. Cutting down on the amount of harmful bacteria that your patient’s skin is exposed to is crucial when preventing sores. An unsanitary environment in any way is putting your patient at risk for potential health hazards, including skin sores and irritation.
Is Patient Care Right for You?
Preventing sores in bedridden patients is often difficult and high maintenance, but it’s also a tremendously important part of their care. Being diligent about taking proper care of their skin and providing them with the most comfortable experience that they can have while bedridden is a crucial part of your duties as a healthcare professional. If you follow all of these tips and remain attentive your patient’s individual needs, you should be fostering a happier and healthier patient.
If you think a career as a Patient Care Technician is right for you, take Woodruff’s Medical Professional Career Training Readiness Quiz and find out. Our PCT program is sure to fit your schedule and budget. Schedule a visit with us now!