Limited Mobility Caregiving: How to Prevent Bedsores with Pillows and Cushions

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Dec 01 2022.

Woman sleeping on bed.

Wheelchair users and others with limited mobility have a higher chance of getting bedsores (also known as pressure sores).

If your loved one sits or lies in the same position for hours, the skin making contact with the cushions or mattress can become irritated. Without treatment, damaged skin can become an open wound, increasing the risk of infection and other potentially serious problems. 

Though there’s no way to prevent pressure sores altogether, special cushions and pillows can reduce your loved one’s risk.

This article briefly explains how bedsores form, discusses how to spot the early warning signs, and recommends several products to help your loved one stay comfortable and pressure-sore-free.

Limited Mobility and Pressure Sores

Limited mobility affects your loved one’s circulation. If they spend most of their time sitting or lying down, pressure on certain areas of the body for long periods restricts blood flow.

“Over time, poor blood flow causes a lack of oxygen and nourishment for tissues in that area,” said Alpana Mohta, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and medical advisor for BetterGoods.org, an independent organization that analyzes ingredients in skincare, beauty, and personal care products for safety.  “This leads to damage, breakdown, and the death of skin cells, resulting in the formation of a sore or ulcer.”

Bedsores can occur anywhere on the body, but “they’re most commonly found on bony areas, such as the heels, hips, elbows, and ankles,” Dr. Mohta said. 

“They can also form on parts of the body that don’t have much fatty tissue or muscle, such as the shoulder blades and tailbone.”

Identifying Pressure Sores

Pressure sores can look many different ways, but Dr. Mohta says the common signs to look out for include:

  • Swelling or pain over bony areas or joints

  • Unusual changes in skin tone or texture

  • Drainage resembling pus

  • A patch of skin that feels warmer or cooler when touched than the surrounding skin

If you notice any of these signs, acting quickly is crucial. Schedule an appointment with your loved one’s primary care physician, so you can determine what steps to take next.

Pressure Sore Prevention

Moving your loved one regularly is the easiest way to prevent pressure sores.

“It’s important to reposition the individual in their wheelchair or bed frequently, at least every two hours,” said Dr. Mohta. “Furthermore, ensuring that the individual receives adequate nutrition and hydration will keep their skin healthy and less likely to break down. Finally, regularly checking your loved one for any signs of pressure sores is essential for early detection and prevention.”

What about pillows and cushions? Can they help prevent bedsores?

Yes, absolutely!

“Pressure redistribution devices, such as cushions and mattresses, can be used to help ease pressure on vulnerable areas of the body,” Dr. Mohta said. 

“If you’re on a budget, special mattresses, overlays, and cushioning devices may be available at reduced costs from local community charities or healthcare organizations. Alternatively, you could use ordinary pillows and cushions to create a comfortable environment for your loved one, which will help relieve pressure on their body.”

Pillows and Cushions to Prevent Bedsores

Here at Carewell, we carry several pillows and cushions to help prevent bed sore. Our top sellers include:

1. DMI Comfort Heel Pillow

The DMI comfort pillow takes the pressure off the heels, ankles, and other bony prominences in the feet. If your loved one has diabetes or another health problem that affects their circulation, a heel pillow is a wise investment. It provides an extra line of defense against weak, dry, or damaged skin.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Filled with a resilient polyester that’s supportive and comfortable

  • Comes with an adjustable hook and loop strap

  • Machine washable

DMI Comfort Heel Pillow, 555-8088-0100, 1 Pair
DMI Comfort Heel Pillow

Price: $26.78

2. Hemmel Knee Support Pillow

This knee support pillow from Hemmel is ideal for patients who spend most of their time in bed. Its ergonomic design gently supports your loved one’s knees, preventing their joints from rubbing against each other. The pillow comes with a 100% cotton cover that’s soft and gentle on the skin.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Takes pressure off the lower back and hips, supporting the spine’s natural curvature

  • Features an adjustable strap you can tighten or loosen for your loved one’s comfort

  • Soothes sore, tired, or aching knees when lying on your side

Hermell Knee Support Pillow, MJ5037, 1 Each
Hermell Knee Support Pillow

Price: $26.97

3. Hermell Body Support Pillow

This full-body pillow provides support from head to toe and is ideal for individuals who spend the majority of their time in bed. When your loved one lies on their side, place this body support pillow against their spine to reduce pressure on their hips and tailbone.

4. Medline Medsoft Pillow

These small pillows from Medline are perfect for wheelchair users and those who spend most of their time sitting. They’re made of soft vinyl ticking and feature antimicrobial properties, so you don’t have to worry about bacteria or mold.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Flame retardant 

  • Fluid resistant

  • Vacuum-packed for easy delivery and storage

Medline Medsoft Pillow, MDT219683, White - 20" X 26" - 1 Pillow
Medline Medsoft Pillow

Price: $9.99 - $99.99

5. Medline Ovation Series Pillow

The pillows in the Medline Ovation series are priced to meet any budget. They’re soft, compact, and made from fluid-resistant propylene. Their small size and flexible filling make these pillows ideal for providing extra hip, back, or buttocks support.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Vacuum packed

  • Fluid-resistant

  • Affordable

Medline Ovation Series Pillows, MDT219886Z, Blue - 18" X 24" - Bag of 2
Medline Ovation Series Pillows

Price: $15.99 - $16.99

Using Pillows and Cushions

If your loved one spends most of their time lying down:

“The placement of pillows and cushions depends on the position of your loved one,” said Dr. Mohta. “If they’re lying down, use one pillow to support their head and neck and another underneath their knees to help maintain proper alignment while providing cushioning.”

If your loved one spends most of their time sitting:

“If your loved one uses a wheelchair, position the pillows or cushions between their back and the chair as well as between their legs to help reduce pressure,” Dr. Mohta said. “Additionally, you may also want to consider placing small cushions on the armrests of the wheelchair for additional support.”

Ultimately, assessing your loved one’s position and comfort is crucial in order to determine where the pillows and cushions should be placed.

Check our article How to Treat and Prevent Bedsores: A Caregiver’s Guide for a full breakdown of treating and preventing bedsores.

Takeaways

Trying to prevent pressure sores can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. With the right supplies on hand, you can protect your loved one’s skin. 

“A mix of proper positioning and cushioning, combined with regular skin checks, adequate nutrition and hydration, and physical exercise can make all the difference,” Dr. Mohta said. “Making sure to stay proactive in monitoring your loved one’s risk of developing pressure sores is essential for maintaining their health and well-being.”

Need Help Finding the Right Pillow or Cushion?

If you're trying to find the right cushion or pillow for your loved one and need some help, give us a call at (800) 696-CARE. Our Caregiving Specialists are here to support you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also send an email to support@carewell.com.

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.