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Preventing Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers (bedsores) are caused by constant pressure that damages skin and the underlying tissue. They can develop in a short period of time, and can take a long time to heal. If you have limited mobility and spend long periods of time in a bed, chair or wheelchair, you may be at increased risk of developing pressure ulcers. Other risk factors include incontinence (loss of bowel and/or bladder control) and poor nutritional status. In most cases, pressure ulcers can be prevented, and if they do occur, they can most often be healed. Common locations for pressure ulcers to occur include the buttocks, tailbone, heels, hips, ankles, shoulder blades, back of head, ears, elbows and knees.

Every patient is assessed daily for risk of pressure ulcers while in hospital, and the appropriate preventative measures are put in place.

Here are some things that you and your family can do to help prevent pressure ulcers:

  • Change position in bed by turning your body, at least every two hours. If you cannot move on your own, ask someone to assist you.
  • While in a chair or wheelchair, shift your weight every 15 minutes. If you cannot shift your weight, ask someone to shift you at least once every hour.
  • Avoid lying on your hip; instead, turn on your side and support yourself with pillows.
  • Use pillows to avoid contact between bony areas.
  • Members of your health care team such as occupational therapists, physiotherapists and nurses may recommend special pressure reducing surfaces for you based on your risk of developing pressure ulcers and your individual needs.
  • Appropriate skin care is very important to prevent pressure ulcers, and your nurses will use moisturizers and special skin protection creams based on your specific needs.
  • Proper nutrition and fluid intake are very important in the prevention of pressure ulcers. Ask to see a clinical dietitian if you are experiencing any eating difficulties, so that they can recommend a diet to ensure that you are well nourished.

If you have a pressure ulcer, HPHA has specially trained wound care nurses who will assess your wound and recommend the best treatments.