Bedsores are also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers. They occur when a person sits or lies down in the same position for extended periods of time. Elderly patients frequently contract bedsores due to their lack of mobility.
Four Bedsore Stages
There are primarily four stages of bedsores. During these four stages of bedsores, the elder patient’s health condition progresses from a mild discomfort to a severe pain. Ironically, in the worst stages of bedsores, elderly patients experience little to no pain due to the incredible amounts of tissue damage. Without healthy tissue, there aren’t any nerves left to feel the pain of the pressure ulcer.
What is a Stage 1 Bedsore?
A stage 1 bedsore is the mildest form of bedsore that an elderly patient may experience. Stage 1 bedsores are not open wounds. There are no tears or breaks in the patient’s skin. Although infections are not commonly connected with stage 1 bedsores, they can be very painful for the elderly patient. The skin temperature of the affected area may feel warm when touched. Stage 1 bedsore skin will also be firmer or softer than the skin surrounding it.
What Do Stage 1 Bedsores Look Like?
Stage 1 bedsores typically appear as red-colored patches of skin that do not blanch. This means that the red-colored patch of skin does not turn white when a finger is pressed upon the irritated area. On a dark-skinned patient, a stage 1 bedsore may simply appear to be a different color than the surrounding skin. It will not necessarily be red in color, but the affected skin may appear purple or blue.
Risk of Bedsore Development
Elderly patients most frequently develop bedsores around or near the following body parts:
- Back of the head
- Back, especially along the spine
- Tailbone or buttocks
Stage 1 Bedsore Treatment
Stage 1 bedsores are easier to treat when they are identified early. In some cases, a stage 1 bedsore may be allowed to develop into a more severe ulcer without the skin actually breaking open. If a stage 1 bedsore is especially deep purple or maroon, mushy to the touch, or beginning to blister, it is likely that the bedsore has progressed deep into the elder patient’s tissue. Emergency medical care should be started at that time.
First Aid for Bedsores
For most stage 1 bedsores, the following first aid steps can be used to treat the bedsore and prevent it from become a life-threatening condition:
- Relieve pressure on the stage 1 bedsore area. Use foam cushions, special pillows, special forms of bedding, or sheepskin to help alleviate pressure on the bedsore. The elderly patient may also be moved to sit or lay in a position which does not directly apply pressure to the stage 1 bedsore.
- Avoid further friction or bedsore injury to the affected area. There are special medical supplies that may be used to prevent friction for an elderly patient who is immobile. In addition, the elder patient’s bedding may be powdered lightly to avoid rubbing of the injured skin.
- Clean the stage 1 bedsore. Cleaning processes may vary depending on the severity of the bedsore. Most stage 1 bedsores are rinsed with salt water to remove the elder patient’s loose or dead skin tissue. Be gentle, as this will be painful for the patient. After the salt rinse, the elderly person’s stage 1 bedsore is typically covered with a special type of gauze. This type of gauze dressing is made specifically for bedsores. Properly cleaning and dressing a stage 1 bedsore will help prevent infection.
- Ensure that the elderly person is well-nourished. Elderly patients are frequently malnourished. To heal a stage 1 bedsore, it is important to ensure that the patient is getting adequate nutrition, with a healthy diet and plenty of water.
- When in doubt, talk to the doctor. There are new medications available that may help promote skin recovery after a stage 1 bedsore. In addition, some bedsores may falsely appear as stage 1 bedsores because they are not open wounds. However, that does not mean that the infection has not progressed deeper into the elder’s skin tissue.
Berman, Kevin. “Pressure Ulcer.” Medline Plus. Atlanta: 2012. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007071.htm>.
“Pressure Sores.” American Academy of Family Physicians. 2012. <http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/pressure-sores.printerview.all.html>.