Lying in bed for long periods of time, in the same position often leads to pressure ulcers. Most people know them as bedsores. Staying in the same position for too long disrupts the flow of blood to the skin. This causes the skin to gradually die. If one leaves them untreated, bedsores can extend right into the muscles and even to the bone. Many seniors, and particularly those with health conditions are bedridden and therefore at risk of bedsores.
As most in the industry know, high-quality air beds are an excellent way to avoid and relieve bed sores they recommend using pressure relieving alternatives such as air beds. Also called inflatable beds, these are useful in preventing bedsores from developing. In addition to that, air beds can help to treat existing bedsores and prevent further injury.
Lying in bed for too long can also worsen already existing back problems. According to one study, 32% of patients with lower back pain reported increased back pain after bed rest. Additionally, some studies have also established a possible link between lying in bed for too long and depression and stress.
Benefits of Using Air Beds for Bedridden Individuals
Patients and individuals who use air beds also stand to benefit in many other ways other than the prevention and treatment of bedsores.
1. Custom Firmness
Staying in bed for long periods is often uncomfortable. However, with air beds, individuals can have a much easier time. Air beds allow users to customize the firmness of the mattress to their liking. This is an especially important feature for seniors and other individuals with back pain or other body pains.
Air beds can last just as long as traditional mattresses can last. In fact, air mattresses are often able to withstand more weight than traditional mattresses. However, to realize this benefit, good mattress care is essential.
3. Economical and Convenient
There are the hospital or commercial expensive airbeds which patient’s insurance gets billed for. A person can also buy an airbed in a retail store and those airbeds are much more affordable than traditional mattresses and particularly premium brands. Air beds also come with improved features such as custom firmness and electric air pumps. Moreover, inflatable mattresses are light and easily deflated and stored, which offer increased convenience for users. For example, individuals can use air mattresses for guests and family members who are helping out with senior or patient care.
Caring For Bedridden Individuals
Air beds are a great way of keeping bedsores away. However, the general care and attention were given to bedridden patients also matters a great deal. Indeed, many experts have noted that bedsores are a sign of neglect and negligence by caregivers, so if your loved one is in a long-term care facility make sure they have a protocol in place to prevent bed sores. Proper care for bedridden patients and individuals includes;
1. Regular Change in Positions
Caregivers should change the positions of bedridden individuals under their care at least every two hours. Lying in the same position for too long is a risk factor of bedsores. Where the caregiver is a non-professional, one should consult with a healthcare professional on how to move the patient around safely. Bedridden individuals who are able to move should do so as regularly as they can. Sleeping on an air bed can make it easier for bedridden individuals to change positions regularly.
2. Maintaining Good Hygiene
Although extended pressure is the main cause of bedsores, there are certain factors that increase the risk of bedsores. One of these is hygiene. Caregivers should ensure they bath the patient on a regular basis. This should include daily grooming routines such as combing, brushing and even changing clothes. Caregivers should also help bedridden individuals in applying lotion after baths. This is particularly important for those with dry skin.
One characteristic of bedridden individuals is that many have very limited mobility and are therefore unable to cater for themselves. In fact, many are likely to do most things on the bed including eating and relieving themselves. It is important to keep the patient clean at all times and to keep the bed and the linen fresh and clean as well. Bad hygiene increases the risk of getting bedsores significantly. Studies suggest that extended exposure to moisture sweating, urinary or fecal incontinence causes maceration of the skin. Additionally, there is a strong link between dirty beds, bad hygiene and increased risk of infection. This means that bad hygiene and dirty beds can make existing bedsores worse.
Caregivers of bedridden individuals should seek the necessary training and knowledge required to sufficiently care for their loved ones. This also underlines the importance of contracting the services of a professional caregiver.
Luckily, many air beds are easy to clean and this makes them ideal for bedridden individuals. Some even have removable, machine washable covers which even make it easier to clean them. According to experts, caregivers should avoid using chemicals when cleaning air beds. Using a mild soapy solution is often sufficient enough for cleaning an inflatable mattress.
Those using traditional mattress alternatives should invest in removable waterproof covers that are easy to clean and easy to change.
3. Give the back Special Attention
Bedridden individuals often spend a majority of their time lying on their backs. This is why bedsores tend to form on the back, buttocks or even back of the head. Caregivers should ensure that they pay extra attention to the back. This includes changing the position of the bedridden individual from right to left and vice versa. Light gentle massages also improve blood flow and prevent or ease back pain. If the patient can sit up, caregivers should encourage them to sit up for some time every now and then.
4. Proper Nutrition
Most people tend to undervalue the importance of proper nutrition in the prevention and care of bedsores. Yet many studies have shown that there is a clear link between the development of pressure ulcers and proper nutrition. The National Pressure Ulcer Long-term Care Study found a strong association between bedsores and eating problems plus weight loss. Some researchers have also shown that those with bedsores often have higher rates of malnutrition. In fact, up to a third of pressure ulcer cases are attributable to poor nutrition.
A majority of bedridden individuals experience problems with their appetite and difficulty eating. This makes nutrition a critical issue of concern for bedridden individuals.
Carbohydrates such as pasta, and rise as well as healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil are good sources of energy. Energy is essential for the healing process. The extra calories also provide more “padding” to the body hence reducing pressure on the skin. Specialists recommend energy intakes of at least 30-35 kilocalories per kg of body weight daily.
Proteins are also an important nutritional need for bedridden individuals. Proteins are involved in every stage of the healing process. Additionally, proteins help in cell growth. It is worth noting that wounded individuals lose between 90 grams and 100 grams of protein every day. Individuals with bedsores should, therefore, increase their protein intake. According to some studies, the amino acid arginine is particularly important for wound healing.
Arginine is found in foods such as;
- pork loin
- pumpkin seeds
Thirdly, Vitamin C deficiency is also a major determinant of skin health. The fact that vitamin C is water-soluble means that it is excreted in urine. Daily vitamin c replenishment is important. Good sources of vitamin C include papaya, oranges, and broccoli among others.
Proper nutrition also involves maintaining healthy hydration levels. Bedridden individuals need to drink as many fluids as possible. Good hydration is essential for wound healing and also in maintaining healthy volumes of blood. Ultimately, this improves blood and nutrient circulation in the body. Dehydration increases the risk of getting bedsores.
Caring for and Treating Bedsores
For individuals who already have bedsores, proper care and treatment are essential to help heal the ulcers. Typically, treatment includes the use of pressure relieving techniques such as air beds, special pillows, and air-filled mattress pads. However, it takes more than just pressure relief to heal existing bed sores.
1. Keeping the Bedsores Clean
Bedsores, like any other wound, can worsen and develop infections if not kept clean. Cleaning procedures differ based on the extent of the bedsores.
For bedsores that are in stage 1, mild soapy water is ideal for use in cleaning the area. Where necessary, experts recommend applying a moisture barrier to help protect the bedsore from bodily fluids and moisture on the bed.
In the case of stage 2 bedsores, proper cleaning entails using salt water to rinse and remove any loose or dead tissue around the wound. Alternatively, caregivers should consult with doctors on recommended cleaners to use.
Caregivers should avoid using hydrogen peroxide and iodine cleaners on bedsores. These cleaning agents tend to damage the skin which may worsen the pressure ulcer.
When it comes to stage 3 and stage 4 pressure ulcers, professional care is always the safest bet. Stage 3 and stage 4 bedsores can often cause life-threatening conditions, particularly if not well taken care of. Stage 3 often requires the medical removal of dead/ damaged/ infected tissue. This is meant to enhance healing for the remaining healthy tissues.
2. Appropriate Use of Dressings
Special dressings also play an important role in healing pressure ulcers and preventing further infection of the wound. Generally, medical professionals advise against using dressings that have gauze, paraffin gauze or simple dressing pads.
Ideal types of dressing for bedsore treatment include;
The hydrocolloid dressings are designed to create a barrier between the bedsore wound and external irritants such as fluids. Hydrocolloids are made from non-breathable materials that promote healing by maintaining optimum moisture levels. They also contain a special gel that aids in the growth of new skin cells in the pressure wound. One huge advantage of hydrocolloid dressings is that they are biodegradable.
These alginate dressings are absorbent dressings that are made from seaweed. They contain sodium and calcium fibers which are beneficial to the healing process. Alginate dressings promote healing by absorbing wound fluids and dead tissues. Another benefit of alginate dressings is that they have hemostatic properties i.e. they stop bleeding. Alginate dressings are particularly ideal for use on pressure ulcers that are in difficult-to-clean areas. These include bedsores on the heels or the sacral area.
Hydrogel dressings promote healing by keeping the wound sufficiently moist. Some hydrogel dressings also help in cooling the wound and subsequently providing pain relief for up to 6 hours. They normally consist of 90% water suspended in a gel base. Caregivers should not use these dressings on already infected pressure ulcers.
The protein responsible for giving skin strength is collagen. Collagen used in collagen dressings is often derived from animals such as cows, pigs and horses. The collagen dressings encourage debridement and natural tissue growth. Additionally, collagen dressings help to prevent the likelihood of wound infections. Since collagen dressings can stay on the wound for up to 7 days, they are highly convenient. Individuals who have high sensitivity to cattle, swine or bird products should not use collagen dressings.
3. Antibiotics and Antiseptics
If not well taken care of, pressure ulcers may develop certain infections which lengthen the healing process. When this happens, antibiotics and antiseptics help to slow down the growth of the micro-organisms responsible for the infection. This prevents infections from getting worse or spreading to other parts.
4. Negative Pressure Wound Therapy
This is a medical procedure in which vacuum dressing is used to encourage healing in wounds. The procedure involves using a sealed wound dressing that is then attached to a pump to create subatmospheric pressure to the wound. Sub-atmospheric pressure is air pressure that is lower than that of the environment.
Negative pressure wound therapy triggers increased blood flow to the wound area. Additionally, it helps to draw out excessive fluids from the wound while maintaining optimum moisture levels. Negative pressure wound therapy also protects wounds from infection and encourages natural debridement of the wound. The use of negative pressure wound therapy is also convenient as it reduces the number of required dressing changes.
The popularity of Negative Pressure Wound Therapy has surged in the last two decades. The general consensus is that this technique improves wound healing. However, there are no conclusive clinical trials or studies on the effectiveness of the treatment particularly in relation to alternative treatments.
Pressure ulcers can make life unbearable for seniors who are bedridden. Preventing them is possible through the use of air beds, proper hygiene and constant changes in position. In cases where bedsores have already developed, keeping them clean and free of infections is important for healing. While it is possible to do all this from home, caregivers should also consult with medical professionals. This is particularly so in regards to stage 3 and stage 4 pressure ulcers.