Some Seating Elements Can Leave You Sore: Regular Inspection of Bathroom Equipment Is Vital to Preventing Skin Breakdown


Even if a bathroom seating surface addresses the needs of an individual who is at risk for pressure sores, equipment neglect can increase the risk of skin breakdown. For that reason, frequent inspections are vital.

Elizabeth Stevens, an OTR/L at Invacare, Elyria, Ohio, says that equipment inspections should be a team approach that involves everyone who participates in the care of an individual, including the individual, parents, caregivers and therapists. Mobility providers can also lend a hand by providing professional inspections.

Many clinicians urge routine inspections at least every three months, but more often if possible. For example, Stevens says, "It wouldn't be much to take a look at the upholstery every time [someone] transfers onto it." Schedule a professional inspection annually.

Evaluate a seating surface for the following to reduce the risk for pressure sores:

  1. Cracked or wrinkled upholstery — The integrity of the fabric covering cushioning can be a huge factor for preserving skin integrity. Check for any cracks, wrinkles or rips that could cause a tear in the skin. For a surface that gets wet, a tear in the fabric could lead to bacteria formation in the foam, which could also lead to skin infections.
  2. Rough or sharp edges — Look for wear and tear on the surface or other parts that come in contact with the skin. Rounded corners and smooth surfaces will prevent bumps and other skin injuries that can make skin susceptible to pressure sores.
  3. Malfunctioning parts — Parts, such as armrests, that are not working properly could put unnecessary pressure on areas prone to pressure sores.
  4. Loose brackets — Since brackets secure the equipment in place, it is essential that they tighten completely. If the equipment moves during a transfer, friction could cause skin integrity problems, not to mention injuries from falls.

If the equipment is no longer meeting an individual's needs, take a look at some product upgrades that can help alleviate pressure, such as:

  1. Padding — Padding helps to distribute the weight and reduce pressure.
  2. Increased surface area — If the seating surface is small, consider investing in equipment that increases the surface area. A larger surface area redistributes weight onto the thighs, which are better equipped to handle pressure.
  3. Adjustable footrests — Adjustable footrests will put some of the body's weight onto the feet, thereby taking the weight off the bony prominences that are sensitive to incurring pressure sores, such as near the sacrum. Be sure to adjust footrests properly to distribute weight appropriately.

This article originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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