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Quality indicator – pressure injuries

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Pressure injuries are areas of damage to the skin and the tissues underneath. They are caused by constant pressure or friction and often occur over bony areas such as the tailbone, elbows, heels or hips. They are also known as bed sores, ulcers or pressure sores.

If you develop a pressure injury, particularly one which becomes severe, it can affect your quality of life. Pressure injuries are very painful, can be difficult to heal, and can make it difficult to move.

Why are pressure injuries used as a quality indicator?

Pressure injuries are used as a quality indicator as part of the National Aged Care Quality Indicator Program because thousands of people are affected by them in Australia, especially people living in aged care homes.

The risk of getting pressure injuries can be greatly reduced by having effective care strategies in place. Aged care homes can use the results from this quality indicator to identify the risks that could affect the development of pressure injuries.

What are some reasons for developing pressure injuries?

Pressure injuries are more likely to happen if people are frail or have to stay in bed or a chair. They also happen because of normal changes that can come with ageing, such as skin becoming more fragile and thinner.

Other reasons include:

  • multiple health conditions
  • incontinence
  • malnutrition
  • obesity
  • dementia
  • smoking.

How are pressure injuries treated?

Once you have a pressure injury it can be hard to heal. Healing can take more time if you are elderly, frail, do not eat properly or move much, and have other health problems. The injury must be treated to stop the wound from getting worse.

How can pressure injuries be prevented?

The best way to prevent pressure injuries is to remove the pressure. You are encouraged to change position regularly. If you are unable to move on your own, then staff at the aged care home will need to help you. Managing any regular pain you suffer will also help you keep mobile.

Keeping clean and looking after your skin will reduce the chance of pressure injuries. Having a healthy diet is also very important. Plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and water will make the skin healthier and less likely to be injured.

People living in aged care homes should be assessed to identify if they need help to change positions, or need something else to help such as specialised mattresses.

Individual care plans should then be developed for each person who needs it. A pressure injury can develop in just a few hours so regular skin checks by care staff are necessary.

Things you can do to help prevent pressure injuries include:

  • keeping as active as possible
  • changing position as often as possible when in bed or a chair
  • telling care staff if your clothing or bedding are damp or if you have any reddening or soreness anywhere, particularly over a bony area
  • participating in your care plan with your aged care home
  • eating a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water.

Questions about pressure injuries

You might like to ask your aged care home some of these questions

  • What are you doing to prevent pressure injuries?
  • What do you use to relieve pressure?
  • Are all people living in this aged care home assessed for how likely they are to have a pressure injury?
  • What do you do to treat pressure injuries?
  • Are your care staff trained to prevent, recognise and treat pressure injuries?
  • What improvements are you working on in your prevention and treatment of pressure injuries?
  • How do you support physical activity and exercise?

Last reviewed: 10 December, 2016.