Bed sores are easier to prevent than to treat. The first step of prevention is to work with your health care professionals to develop a plan that you and any caregivers can follow. The cornerstones of a plan include daily skin inspections, position changes, along with supportive devices and a nutritious diet.
Daily skin inspections for pressure sores are an integral part of prevention. Inspect your skin thoroughly at least once a day, using a mirror if necessary. A family member or caregiver can help if you're not able to do it yourself.
If you're confined to bed, pay special attention to your hips, spine and lower back, shoulder blades, elbows and heels. When you're in a wheelchair, look especially for sores on your buttocks and tailbone, lower back, legs, heels and feet. If an area of your skin is red or discolored but not broken, keep pressure off the sore, wash it gently with mild soap and water, dry thoroughly, and apply a protective wound dressing.
If you see skin damage or any sign of infection, such as drainage from a sore, a foul odor, increased tenderness, and/or redness and warmth in the surrounding skin, get medical help immediately.
Changing your position frequently and consistently is crucial to preventing bedsores. It takes just a few hours of immobility for a pressure sore to begin to form. Experts advise shifting positions about every 15 minutes that you're in a wheelchair and at least once every two hours, even during the night, if you spend most of your time in bed. If you can't move on your own, a family member or caregiver must be available to help you.
Here are some general guidelines on the best ways to position yourself in bed.
Avoid lying directly on your hipbones. Lie on your side at a 30 degree angle.
Support your legs correctly. When lying on your back, place a foam pad or pillow — not a doughnut-shaped cushion — under your legs from the middle of your calf to your ankle. Avoid placing a support directly behind your knee — it can severely restrict blood flow.
Keep your knees and ankles from touching. Use small pillows or pads.
Avoid raising the head of the bed more than 30 degrees.