Avoiding Skin Breakdown

You are at greatest risk for skin breakdown if you move very little or you are in bed or in a chair for a long time, especially if you also have been losing weight. You are prone to have skin breakdown wherever the weight of your body presses into the bed or chair. It is worth a great deal of effort to keep skin well protected; skin breakdown is uncomfortable, slows your overall healing and is costly to treat once acquired.

What can you, as a patient, do to protect yourself from skin breakdown?

  • Change position at least every two hours. If you are in bed and comfortable in most positions, it is good to lie on one side, then your back, then the other side. Have one of your nurses or nursing assistants show you and your family members how to help you shift positions comfortably.
  • Use pillows to protect common pressure points where skin breaks down easily, including the heels and elbows, the back of the head, the buttocks and between the knees. The pillows will help support your body so that areas with breakdown, or at risk for breakdown, are not bearing weight.
  • Ensure that you are eating a balanced diet. Good nutrition promotes skin health.
  • Maintain a clean, dry environment for all areas of skin. Moisture from weepy skin, perspiration, urine or bowel movements hastens skin breakdown.
  • Apply gentle massage with moisturizing lotion or cream to the back, arms, ears, hands, legs and feet.
  • If you or your family notices reddened or broken skin on pressure points, notify your doctor or nurse immediately. You may need special medications, dressings or bed accessories (such as soft pads or heel protectors) to provide added skin protection.
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