Asked by Vidya, Bangalore, India
My grandfather, age 85, has final-stage Alzheimer's disease and is completely bedridden. As it sounds, it is very difficult to see him on the bed unable to move for the past five months. As a result of this inability, he has developed bed sores. We have him laid on a water bed, and my sister is a doctor who dresses the wounds twice a day. Is there anything else we could do to help heal the sores?
Dr. Otis Brawley
Chief Medical Officer,
American Cancer Society
I know how difficult it is to care for a relative with Alzheimer's disease. I thank you for not giving up and for trying to find comfort for your grandfather.
Bed sores develop in patients who are in bed for prolonged periods of time. A very sick person frequently has some protein and nutritional deficiencies, making their skin more prone to breaking down. This also impedes healing and can lead to infection.
We try to prevent bedsores by moving the patient as much as possible, and even putting them in chairs when reasonable. We move patients frequently to prevent one area of the body from being a pressure point for a prolonged time. Egg-crate mattresses, which are a type of foam mattress, as well as air mattresses are sometimes used to decrease the risk of bedsores. Nothing can prevent them all the time, even with the best efforts.
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