Education Skin Care

Bed Sores and Seniors: Causes and How to Reduce Their Risk



The amount of time that many Seniors spend in bed increases as they age and lose mobility. This is especially true for Seniors who are experiencing bouts of weakness and fatigue, for those who have experienced a temporary injury, for Seniors recuperating in bed following a surgery, and for Seniors who are living with an illness — such as dementia.

In such instances, individuals may spend up to 24 hours a day in bed. And such a high degree of inactivity can cause bed sores — otherwise known as pressure ulcers or pressure sores. Bed sores can form on our bodies when either seated or lying down. Susceptibility to bed sores and their duration can be significantly reduced if the infection is identified and addressed quickly.

What Causes Bed Sores?

Bed sores form on areas of the body which take our weight when we are lying in bed or seated in a chair. Our buttocks and tailbone area, the back of our heads, elbows, shoulder blades and under our feet are all areas where bed sores are likely to present.

Bed sores develop when these areas experience a restricted or constrained blood flow after an approximate three-hour period. This causes the skin in the area to begin to die.

Seniors are prone to bed sores due to elongated periods in bed and the thinning of their skin — which offers their body less protection. Other people who are prone to bed sores include those in wheelchairs, people who are unconscious for an extended period, and individuals who are unable to recognize pain.

People who live with circulatory challenges, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes, as well as people who are obese, are also at a greater risk of developing bed sores.

Reducing the Risk of Bed Sores

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize Seniors’ risk of developing bed sores. If you are the primary caregiver for a loved one, follow these steps to greatly reduce pressure ulcer potential.

But first, if you are concerned for a loved one, you don’t have the capacity to administer preventative measures, or perhaps a senior in your care has experienced bed sores, and you’re struggling to maintain wound and aftercare — consider connecting with a care team to assist. Specialists like Integracare Home Care can provide daily, weekly, or bi-weekly assistance from Registered Practical Nurses and in-home care from highly trained caregivers. These compassionate professionals can assist with expert wound care at home and medication following a bed sore infection while also helping reduce the likelihood of Seniors developing pressure ulcers in the first place.

Tips for preventing bed sores include:

  • Moving, adjusting, and rotating a senior’s position regularly — every two hours when viable.
  • Checking pressure points frequently.
  • Purchasing an alternating pressure mattress and cushion — for chairs and wheelchairs.
  • Offering a balanced and nutritious diet and plenty of fluids.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes.

How to Identify Bed Sores

If you are concerned that you, or someone in your care, has developed a bed sore, these are some of the telltale signs of infection:

First symptoms: One can identify a bed sore by checking for a discoloured area of skin. It may look red or purple and won’t change colour if pressed. For the sufferer, the site may feel hot, sore, or itchy.

Next stage: If untreated, bed sores may turn into wounds. Affected areas can begin to look shiny or like an open sore or a blister, causing the individual elevated pain— professionals consider this a category2 pressure ulcer.

Category 3: As the wound deepens below layers of skin, depending on the location, fat may now be visible.

The final symptom: In extreme cases, a large wound is now present, and further infection is a potential hazard. Tendons, muscles, and bones may be affected if the infection spreads. In such instances, skin grafts may be necessary.

Final Thoughts

If you believe you or someone you know has developed a bed sore, it’s crucial for you to seek medical care immediately. As with most illnesses, addressing the problem in its early stage is key to mitigating extreme scenarios later down the line.