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 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 very serious. Your nurse should assess whether you are at risk of developing bedsores.

How can bedsores be prevented?

The best way to prevent bedsores is to change position – your doctor or nurse may suggest you do this every few hours and show you how. If you are not able to move yourself, you will need help from your family, carers or healthcare team.

If you are at risk of bedsores, the district nurse may arrange special equipment such as pressure cushions. Or you may be able to have a hospital style bed with a pressure relieving mattress. These can help prevent bedsores developing. If your skin is wet or inflamed, the nurse may offer you a cream to help prevent bedsores.

How are bedsores managed?

Signs of a bedsore include red or discoloured skin that doesn’t turn white if pressed. If you notice this, tell your nurse so that they can check it.

If you develop a bedsore, your nurse should check it regularly. You should be given a pressure relieving mattress, and your doctor or nurse will discuss any other treatments with you.

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. 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 March 2018

Review date March 2020