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Thursday, Mar 30, 2017
Bed Sore Management and Natural Remedy Tips for Caregivers
Posted by Janie Henry of

America is heading toward a health care crisis, where there are not enough beds for the anticipated number of senior citizens who will require them, within the next ten to fifteen years. Per 2014 data, there are approximately 1.3 million Americans that live-in nursing homes, and who rely on Medicaid to provide health care that can cost upward of $83,000 per year for a private room or residence in a long-term care facility. The estimated costs of nursing home care increases by an average of 4% per year, but that is not the only thing that is outpacing the American healthcare system.

Every day in the United States, 10,000 Baby Boomers celebrate their 65th birthday. While many in the population segment do not retire (or have plans to retire until they are physically required to), the total number of seniors living in the United States was measured at just over 46 million citizens, in 2014. By the year 2060, that number is projected to increase to 98 million adults over the age of 65, per a report by the Administration for Community Living (ACA). 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted in 2014, that there were approximately 1.7 million long-term care beds available in the United States. Because of the low availability rate of good long-term care beds, and the high cost of sustaining a family member inside a nursing home, more families are planning elder care within the home, with part-time medical assistant (nurse aide) and other provisions, to care for relatives. But the responsibility of caring for an elderly relative or parent in the home, while working a full-time job can be daunting and difficult; many lapses in home health care happen not because of a malicious intention, but simply because of lack of experience, exhaustion, or financial burden. 

How Do Bed Sores Happen?

One of the hardest management aspects of bed sores, or pressure wounds, is that they can develop quickly in places that you do not always can inspect. For instance, did you know that one of the most common places that a sedentary patient can develop a bed sore, is on the back of the head? A bed sore can be difficult to detect when it begins to form, while hidden under the hair of the patient. 

Another common area that bed sores can develop is the back of the heel. Consider that an individual may experience a great deal of friction at the back of the heel, when they are sleeping, moving their legs, or even while attempting to slide themselves into a more comfortable position. Because many convalescent individuals lay on their back to aid respiration and digestion (propped up), the back of the heel, buttocks and shoulder blade area can be harder to detect. 

Obesity plays a part by increasing the risk of pressure wounds, and in terms of prevention and treatment. First, a heavy body weight makes it difficult for caregivers or family members to help the patient change body positioning. To move an adult onto his or her side helps alleviate pressure, but it can be difficult to lift some patients. Additionally, a heavy body weight increases the likelihood of friction after prolonged positioning, and increased pressure on the skin, on some of the most high-friction parts of the body (heels, elbows, back of head and buttocks). The important thing to remember about bed sores is that they do not heal on their own, and they do not go away. 

New Technology Helps Reduce Bed Sores 

There are two issues that increase the prevalence of pressure injuries and wounds for patients living at home. The first is lack of circulation, caused by sedentary positioning, when a patient is unable to sit up, move, stand or ambulate without assistance. The second obstacle is to schedule body position changes to help the family member (or home care aide) avoid developing, or worsening bed sores, by reminding the care provider when a position change is needed.

Sensing mats can be placed between the patient and the mattress. These highly sensitive electronic devices are used to gauge the amount of friction on key pressure points on the body. The average standard of care for moving sedentary patients is once every two hours, but given time constraints, many caregivers accidentally forget, allowing bed sores to become a problem. The built-in sensors not only alert nurses and doctors, but they can be monitored by family members, to help advocate for the patient’s circulatory needs.

Hydrocelluar wound dressings have a built-in padding, that helps to protect sores from further damage due to friction. Wounds must be cleaned thoroughly, and covered. Antibiotics are normally prescribed to patients with bed sores to help prevent secondary bacterial infections. Special types of cleansers can be used to reduce dryness (which causes skin damage and inflammation), and scent-free, alcohol free skin moisturizers can also be used to reduce dryness. 

A ripple mattress bed, or one that allows the torso, middle and foot area to be elevated in different positions, is helpful at both reducing the instances of bed sores, and in treating them. Lift beds help the body improve circulation, and make it easier for the homecare giver to alternate the body position every two hours.

Holistic Remedies That Work 

Keeping the wound clean, and removing dead tissue, while promoting healing and the closure of the lesion are the three priorities in treating a bed sore. The following natural nutrients can be added as a compress to help speed healing:

  • Raw honey (disinfects and promotes tissue repair).
  • Aloe Vera gel, applied as a compress to seal the wound, moisturize and prevent bacterial infection.
  • Vitamin E supplements. 
  • Paste compress of slippery elm and comfrey leaf powder.
  • A bandage soaked in Papaya milk helps remove the old, dead skin around the bed sore, promoting new growth. It should be applied as a warm compress. 

The consumption of caffeine dense foods and beverages should be avoided, for someone who is being treated for bed sores. Diuretics lead to dehydration and dry skin, which can further exacerbate existing bed sores, or create new ones. 

The two high-risk sources of injury for seniors who require assisted living, are elderly falls and secondary infections from bed sores. More than just an abrasion, bed sores have been reported in some studies, to increase the mortality rate of seniors by more than 65%. The good news is they are easily managed with a little technology, natural medicine and education for family members and home healthcare teams.

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