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Avoiding Pressure Ulcers

Tip 10 Genworth Many studies show what a large number of the elderly have experienced firsthand: prolonged sitting, especially in a wheelchair that might not have been optimally fitted, can have adverse effects, especially on people whose limited mobility prevents them from changing position and those with reduced sensation. The most prevalent medical problem is developing pressure ulcers, which might begin as skin irritations, but can quickly worsen into a health threat. Sitting-acquired pressure ulcers are a significant problem for the elderly living in nursing homes, with estimates pointing to as many as 50 percent of pressure ulcers being due to sitting in a wheelchair. Despite these findings and federal regulations directed at preventing the development and progression of pressure ulcers (a “Healthy People 2010” initiative), the US population of elderly wheelchair users — 600,000 and growing — is not routinely evaluated for seating and positioning needs, a situation, experts say, is related to inadequate funding. Several risk assessment tools are, however, readily available to help practitioners identify individuals who might develop a pressure ulcer; if you or a loved one has any kind of sitting issue, talk to your doctor about getting a risk assessment and about what kind of wheelchair cushion might help protect you. The right cushion is also a helpful daily living aid for those who are mobile but have pain when sitting and for those who need assistance getting up and down.