Pressure relieving equipment is something that every care home needs to have to hand. Issues relating to high pressures, such as pressure sores or even high blood pressure, are frequent in the nursing home environment. Because of this, it is vital that care home staff know what to look for when it comes to pressure issues, and how to prevent and alleviate those problems with the correct pressure relieving equipment.
Pressure relieving aids include items such as:
- Pressure relieving mattresses
- Crash mats
- Pressure cushions for the elderly
- Hip and elbow pads
- Blood pressure monitors
It’s important that care homes around the world have ways of dealing with the multi-faceted issue of pressure when dealing with patients and those they are caring for. Because the term ‘pressure’ can encompass so many different things, it is essential that there is a sufficient knowledge for care home staff to draw from, that the equipment is the correct piece for the job and that such equipment is used properly.
What are Pressure Sores/Ulcers?
Pressure sores (also known as pressure ulcers) are a common health risk in care home environments. They can range in severity from mild to very harmful. At the mild end, pressure sores manifest as discoloured patches of skin similar to bruises and corns. At their worst, pressure sores can be large open wounds that may expose bone and/or muscle.
They are more prevalent in people who have health conditions that limit their movement, such as elderly patients in a care home or people who use a wheelchair. The NHS Choices is a useful resource for knowing the symptoms of pressure ulcers.
How Pressure Sores Develop
Pressure sores can be a serious health risk. They occur when a large amount of pressure is placed on a particular area for a period of time. For instance, sitting in a wheelchair or lying in a bed for long periods of time can cause pressure sores in the areas of contact.
Pressure sores disrupt the blood supply to that affected area and without the necessary blood, tissue cannot stay healthy. When this happens, the tissue gets damaged and dies. Disrupted blood supply also means that the supply of white blood cells is affected, which are cells in our bodies that fight infection. With less white blood cells able to get to the area affected by pressure, the ulcer can be infected by harmful bacteria.
Relieving Pressure Sores
We’ve spoken before about why pressure relief is important, and it’s key that the process for relieving pressure sores is well understood by everyone working in the care sector or as a carer for a family member.
We’ve also previously written about pressure sores as a condition in a management and prevention guide, which will be a useful resource alongside this post.
Pressure relief mattresses are by far the most effective way of relieving pressure ulcers and working to prevent them from re-surfacing. They are designed to produce active pressure relief, so that the patient is comfortable due to the pressure being handled effectively and the pain being eased.
Pressure mattresses work by having specially-designed air pockets which alleviate pressure on certain parts of the body. There are different types of mattress which correspond to the severity of the patient’s pressure sores and ulcers.
For more information, read our previous blog on how pressure mattresses work, which details the different types of pressure mattresses available such as static, alternating, and hybrid mattresses.
Pressure relief cushions are another important item for care homes to have available. They help to prevent pressure sores by allowing air to circulate effectively around the body part in contact with the cushion.
Not only do these orthopaedic products help to relieve pressure and prevent pressure sores, but as a secondary benefit they also work to improve the patient’s comfort and quality of sleep.
Pillows and cushions for the bedroom aren’t the only available product under this umbrella, though. Pressure relieving wheelchair cushions help to distribute pressure evenly by moulding around the body when seated. This prevents the pressure building up in a singular area and increases comfort trough bodily support.
Other Pressure Sore Relief
Outside of specialist equipment, there are a couple of things that can be done to help alleviate pressure sores. Making sure that the patient changes position often is of paramount importance when dealing with pressure damage on the skin. This is so that the pressure does not stay on the same part of the body for an extended period of time. It is recommended that the patient changes position every two hours so to allow the skin to remain unbroken.
Pressure sores can also be cleaned out if they are not too severe. For minor sores, they can be cleaned with soap and water. For more moderate-level pressure sores, cleaning with salt water (as can work for mouth ulcers, for instance) can really help. It will sting the patient’s skin, but it help massively in removing loose or dead skin and fighting infections. More serious pressure ulcers should be handled by professional staff, who may give further advice on what to do next and the sort of care that is appropriate for the circumstance.
Blood Pressure in a Care Home
Pressure sores are not the only form of pressure that care home staff need to be concerned about. Especially with older patients who are at a higher risk of high blood pressure, it is important that internal pressure is acknowledged and managed as effectively as external pressure in the form of sores and ulcers.
While it’s difficult to notice any explicit symptoms of high blood pressure, it can lead to strokes and heart attacks if left untreated. According to the NHS, more than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although they most likely will not know.
Similarly, low blood pressure does not have any clear symptoms in its own right, but it can lead to dizziness, blurred vision, feeling sick and fainting. Some people have low blood pressure because they are taking certain medications, or because of other medical conditions such as diabetes.
Blood pressure monitors enable care home staff to keep track of their patient’s blood pressure. Knowing what the patient’s blood pressure is means that carers can tailor their care to suit their needs.
Generally speaking, when it comes to blood pressure readings:
- 140/90mmHg or higher is considered high blood pressure
- Between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg is considered ideal blood pressure
- 90/60mmHg or lower is considered low blood pressure
High Blood Pressure
If the patient has a high blood pressure, you can make lifestyle changes to help lower it. This includes:
- Regular exercise
- Reduce alcohol, salt, and caffeine consumption
- Stop smoking if they are a smoker
- Try to get at least six hours of sleep each night
Some prescription medicines may also help, which are listed at the end of the NHS’s page on high blood pressure.
Low Blood Pressure
If the patient has low blood pressure, it is slightly different in terms of treatment to high blood pressure. Medication specifically to increase blood pressure is rarely needed because lifestyle changes usually work effectively of their own accord.
If the low pressure is because of medication, then the patient may need to change their dose or the medication that they are taking altogether.
In terms of lifestyle changes, there are a few things that can be done. Increasing water consumption, eating smaller but frequent meals, and moving slowly from sitting to standing are all small changes that can have a big long-term effect.
We hope that this guide has been informative and has answered questions surrounding pressure injuries in a care home. Investing in pressure relief products is so important for care homes, because the consequences can be severe if left untreated.
Please contact us if you have any further queries, or would like to talk to someone in our offices about placing an order.