Whether you’re a healthcare provider or a caregiver, understanding how to prevent pressure ulcers is essential. Pressure ulcers, also known as pressure injuries, are a persistent concern, especially in long-term care facilities. Older adults, individuals with cognitive impairment, limited mobility, or those bedridden face heightened vulnerability to these wounds. That’s why pressure ulcer and injury prevention is critical when it comes to the health of anyone in these settings.
In this article, we will explore essential steps that can be taken to prevent the worsening or further deterioration of pressure ulcers. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a caregiver, our aim with this article is to provide you with a basic guide for effectively caring for those in this challenging situation. We’ve outlined five essential steps for reducing ulcers and we’ve also outlined the three main risk factors for developing them. Let’s get to it.
Why is Pressure Ulcer/Injury Prevention Critical?
Within hospitals and long-term care facilities, the prevalence of pressure injuries cannot be overlooked. Recent surveys highlight this fact, as nearly 30% of hospitalized patients have been found to have pressure injuries at some point during their stay. Such widespread occurrences place a significant burden on resources as they make extensive care and treatment necessary. In fact, pressure injuries rank among the most financially demanding medical conditions because of their pervasive nature. Estimates say that nearly $30 billion is spent on it in the United States alone. Here is an article about the prevalence of pressure injuries and how that impacts our health care industry. In light of these staggering figures, a proactive approach around pressure injury prevention is crucial. By proactively identifying at-risk patients and adhering to best practices, healthcare professionals and loved ones have the potential to prevent pressure injuries and minimize their impact if they do occur.
Five Essential Steps for Reducing the Risk of Pressure Injuries:
- Implement a Preventive Approach: Collaborate with hospital, hospice, and at-home health personnel to establish a holistic pressure injury prevention plan. Your main goal should be to reduce pressure injuries by giving the people you’re working with essential knowledge and actionable steps for prevention. You can do this as a healthcare provider and as a family member. Simply come up with a plan and stick to it.
- Understand Risk Factors: Identify patients who are at risk of developing pressure injuries by familiarizing yourself with relevant risk factors. The elderly, those with diabetes, incontinence, chronic health conditions, and mobility issues are particularly susceptible. You can use assessment tools like the Braden Scale to standardize the wound identification process and use that to prioritize appropriate care.
- Use Better Skin Care Products: Utilize skincare products that facilitate skin health and minimize irritation. Try gentle, pH-balanced cleansing and moisturizing products, soaps, lotions, and so on. These products play a vital role in mitigating moisture-associated skin damage (MASD), offering not only palliative relief but also serving as a preventive measure against the development of pressure injuries in patients who are at risk.
- Optimize Nutritional Support: Start by acknowledging the influence of nutrition on skin health. Preserving adequate albumin levels plays a pivotal role in preserving skin integrity and preventing tears. It is imperative to ensure that at-risk patients receive appropriate levels of protein as well as other vitamins and minerals, as recommended by the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel. This not only promotes optimal skin health, it also enhances the overall well-being of the patient. Vitamins A, C, D, and E are important, for example.
- Try Prophylactic Dressing Techniques: Incorporate the use of specialized prophylactic dressings for the best possible outcome. Bordered foams, for instance, serve as a prime example. Apply these dressings purposefully, focusing on bony prominences and the areas beneath medical devices. You can purchase them online or through medical device and pharmaceutical companies. Their effectiveness in reducing the risk of pressure ulcers/injuries is noteworthy, providing an additional protective layer for patients who are especially prone to such wounds.
BONUS: Our Greatest Piece of Advice
Do you know what the best piece of advice is? This will help you not only prevent pressure ulcers, but also treat ones that do form. It’s easy: learn how to position optimally. Regularly repositioning individuals who are immobile or at risk of developing pressure ulcers/injuries is of the utmost importance. Why? It relieves prolonged pressure on the skin, especially in bony areas. During the repositioning process, it is crucial to exercise caution and prevent any undue stress or friction that could potentially harm the skin. Afterall, that would be the opposite of what you’re trying to do, right? To effectively distribute pressure and alleviate vulnerable areas, make use of positioning devices like pads, soft pillows and wedges. These aids can significantly contribute to reducing the risk of pressure-related skin damage and enhance the overall comfort and well-being of the individuals in your care.
Reducing the risk of pressure ulcers is crucial. If you don’t want a pressure ulcer to form in the first place, you need to take steps toward prevention and maintaining skin health. To achieve this, we need to focus on three main risk factors: nutrition, age, and positioning.
- Nutrition: Proper nutrition is essential for skin integrity and preventing pressure ulcers. Maintaining appropriate levels of albumin, a crucial protein, enhances the skin’s ability to withstand damage. Albumin is just as important as collagen when it comes to skin management. At-risk patients should receive enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and energy as recommended by experts. Ask your doctor what vitamins and minerals the patient should be taking. Plus, a well-balanced diet tailored to the patient’s individual needs is key.
- Age: Age is a significant risk factor for pressure ulcers.Why? It’s simple: aging skin is thinner, less elastic, and more prone to injury. Older adults require extra care to prevent ulcers. Regular monitoring and proactive measures help skin stay away from prolonged pressure.
- Position: Proper positioning is crucial for preventing pressure ulcers, especially in bony areas. Immobility and prolonged pressure can damage tissues. Healthcare professionals should regularly reposition immobile or at-risk individuals, being careful not to stress or rub the skin. Friction is public enemy #1 when it comes to pressure ulcers. Positioning devices like pillows and wedges can relieve pressure, and pressure-redistributing mattresses and cushions are also helpful.
When we address primary risk factors like these—nutrition, age, and positioning—we can reduce the occurrence of pressure ulcers. A comprehensive approach that includes proper nutrition, personalized care for older individuals, and diligent positioning techniques greatly improves skin health and minimizes the risk of developing painful ulcers.
In conclusion, both healthcare professionals and loved ones can effectively reduce the occurrence of pressure ulcers by implementing the strategies discussed above. By addressing key risk factors like nutrition, age, and positioning, skin health can be improved, and the likelihood of pressure ulcers minimized. Prioritizing proper nutrition, vitamin intake, and maintaining optimal levels of collagen and albumin contribute to the overall integrity of the skin. Additionally, providing personalized round-the-clock care and regularly repositioning patients using soft cushions and pads helps relieve pressure. A proactive approach will lead to better patient outcomes. Plus, it will enhance the well-being of those at risk and ultimately improve the overall delivery of their healthcare. Remember that if you’re dealing with an aging patient or a patient that is immobile, pressure ulcer occurrence is more likely.
Contact Wound Care OC for wound treatment in Orange County, CA
Dr. Faried Banimahd is a board-certified physician specializing in emergency medicine, wound care, and pain management. Our team will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs and unique conditions. Our clinic includes highly trained and experienced physicians, registered nurses, and certified medical staff who work together to provide you with the highest standards of wound care treatments.