How to avoid bedsores / pressure sores

Bedsores are easier to prevent than to treat, so thought should be given to prevention measures before it is too late. Actions that can be taken include changing position as much as possible. If the person concerned is not capable of doing that for themselves, and these are the people at most risk, then their carers should ensure that they assist in helping them to shift position.

A good diet is also considered to be a help in the prevention of bedsores. Regular eating and drinking of sufficient amounts is encouraged and the individual's diet should have an adequate amount of calories, protein, vitamin C and other nutrients to ensure that the body is less susceptible to skin breakdown.

The body should be checked every day for any early signs of sores such as spots or colour changes and, in particular, there should be special attention placed on those areas most at risk such as bony parts of the body where there is little padding. Any friction can affect the area around the bedsore and this can be avoided by lifting rather than dragging.

Other hints that may help include placing pillows under the legs to try and keep the heels off the bed, avoiding lying on the hip bone and using pillows under a person's side so that weight rests on the fleshy part of the buttock instead of the hip bone. Pillows should also be used to keep the knees and ankles slightly apart and to lift ankles slightly off the bed. Those confined to a wheelchair, or those in a chair should sit upright and straight as that allows easier movement. Also, there is specialist equipment available, such as specially designed mattresses and cushions which can help and protect vulnerable parts of the body.

There is renewed hope for those seeking to prevent bedsores occurring through new research which has shown that carrying out a system of checks on vulnerable hospital patients can dramatically reduce the number of cases of bedsores. The trials, which took place in Scotland, saw the hospitals take action first by encouraging patients to move position, encourage good nutrition and keep on top of the problem of incontinence. Working with colleagues in Wales and the United States, the hospital staff in Scotland developed a "care bundle" consisting of a number of checks and measures carried out at a patient's bedside.

These include checks on the surface the patient was resting on, skin inspections, keeping the patient moving, checking incontinence and nutrition. The frequency of the checks would vary depending on a patients' needs, but could be as often as every two hours.

The action taken followed a 2007 report by the Care Commission which found that many of the elderly in Scottish care homes were spending their last months in pain from pressure sores due to widespread poor practice. The report called for more support and training to be given to staff dealing with bedsores in patients and perhaps shows that with more care and attention hospital and care home staff can assist patients effectively in prevention of the problem.