Updated: Feb 25
Developing a bedsore (or pressure ulcer) poses significant challenges for patient and caregiver - not only does it cause pain and affect day to day living, but bedsores are at high risk for infection and require vigilant care and attention. Many assumptions about bedsores, like where they occur, what they look like, and how to prevent them, are misinformed and can lead to poor treatment choices and further injury. We’re debunking 5 major bedsore myths to help you and your loved ones stay in the know:
Bedsores Only Happen on the Bottom
FALSE. Wherever a bony protrusion makes contact with a bed or surface placing pressure for an extended amount of time, a bedsore can develop. This includes on hip bones, shoulder blades, elbows, the heels of the feet, and even the back of the head. Bedsores gradually worsen over time, beginning as a reddish discoloration of the skin in stage 1, to a breaking and opening of the skin, infection, and tissue decay by stage 4. Bedsores can be life-threatening and require immediate treatment.
The Type of Mattress Doesn’t Matter
FALSE. When it comes to bedsores, specialty mattresses can make a huge difference in preventing and aiding bedsore treatment. The typical mattress is made with springs, foam, cotton batting, and polyester. Weight distribution is minimal, and even 12 hours of immobility in a bed with this type of mattress can induce a pressure ulcer. Specialty mattresses, mostly utilized in hospitals and medical facilities, redistribute weight with specialized foam, gel, or air pockets, like in an alternating air mattress, to avoid focused pressure on any one part of the body.
Sitting on a Donut Pillow Will Help
FALSE. This incredibly common misconception might stem from the fact that donut pillows have been used by older adults for decades who experience spine or hip injuries. Donut pillows, especially for patients with bedsores on their tailbone or hip areas, actually limit blood flow which is required for healing and focus the bony pressure even more on internal tissues. If you are concerned about bedsores, avoid donut pillows at all costs.
Only Worry About Bedsores In Bed
FALSE. If you or someone you care for is bed-limited, that does not mean you or they might not be taken out of bed to spend time in a wheelchair or recliner during the day. Even if it is just a couple hours sitting in a chair, bedsores can be exacerbated if preventative measures are not taken. For example, wheelchair cushions which offer skin protection and weight distribution have shown significant improvement of bedsores like in this 2011 study. Protective wound dressings like silicone or hydrophilic foam can be worn proactively as well to cushion and protect a healed bedsore when sitting.
You Have to Manage Bedsores All By Yourself
FALSE. This assumption that you need to diagnose and treat bedsores yourself is possibly the most dangerous. Because bedsores can so quickly spiral out of control and land you or your loved one in the hospital, medical professionals (and insurance companies) take them very seriously. Not only will seeing a doctor expedite the process of getting treatment for a bedsore, but you may be referred to a wound care specialist who can provide training and supplies for you, as well as a home health nurse who is tasked with monitoring and dressing the wound with you.
A reduction in pressure and a boost in blood flow combined with disinfecting and dressing a bedsore can make all the difference in expediting healing. Preventing future bedsores requires the same keen attention and action. Know the facts and schedule time with a medical professional right away if you are concerned about a potential bedsore on you or a loved one