Bedsores towards the end of life

Bedsores (also called pressure sores or pressure ulcers) are damage to the skin and the layer of tissue below the skin.

Bedsores are caused by having pressure on the same area of skin for a period of time. They usually affect the bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips, and the base of the spine. They affect people who can’t move around much and spend a lot of time in bed or sitting in a chair.

Bedsores can be painful, and if they aren’t treated they can become infected. Your nurse should check whether you are at risk of developing bedsores.

Signs of a bedsore are red skin or skin that doesn’t turn white if you press on it. The area of skin may also feel warm or hard. If you notice this, tell your nurse so they can check it for you.

How can bedsores be prevented?

  • The best way to prevent bedsores is to change position. Your doctor or nurse may suggest you change position every few hours and show you how to do this. If you are not able to move yourself, you will need help from your family, carers or healthcare team.
  • Your doctor or nurse can arrange special equipment to help, such as pressure cushions.
  • If your skin is wet or inflamed, the nurse may give you a cream which can help prevent bedsores.

If you are worried about getting a bedsore, have any sore areas of skin, or want to know more about how to prevent bedsores, speak to your nurse.

How are bedsores managed?

If you develop a bedsore, your nurse should check it regularly. You should be given a pressure relieving mattress or pressure cushions, and your doctor or nurse will discuss any other treatments with you. For example, you might have a dressing put on a bedsore to protect it and help it heal.

Marie Curie and the NHS website have more information about bed sores.

“Mum had bedsores on her shoulder blades, knees, heels and elbows which needed daily management by the district nurses.”

Questions about bedsores?

Speak to your nurse about bedsores.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions about bedsores.

Speak to our nurses

Published April 2021

Review date April 2023