Preventing Friction and Shear Injuries in Elderly Care: A Guide for Non-Health Professionals

Published on August 14, 2023

Updated on March 31, 2024

Taking care of an elderly fragile person at home can be both rewarding and challenging. One crucial aspect of caregiving is preventing friction and shear injuries, which can be painful and detrimental to the person's well-being. In this article, we'll explore what friction and shear injuries are, how they can be avoided, and some practical tips to ensure your loved one's safety and comfort.

Understanding Friction and Shear Injuries

friction and shear pictorial

Friction and shear injuries can occur when the skin rubs against another surface, leading to damage and potential complications. Friction happens when the skin rubs against a surface in a linear manner, while shear occurs when the skin moves in opposite directions with the underlying bone or tissue. These injuries are common in individuals with limited mobility or those who spend extended periods in bed or sitting.

Importance of Preventing Friction and Shear Injuries

Friction and shear injuries can cause open wounds, skin breakdown, and pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores. These injuries can be painful, slow to heal, and can even lead to serious . Preventing these injuries is essential to maintain the comfort and dignity of your loved one and to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.

Tips to Prevent Friction and Shear Injuries

  1. Regular Position Changes: Encourage changing positions every two hours for individuals who spend most of their time in bed or sitting. Shifting positions helps relieve pressure on specific areas, reducing the risk of friction and shear injuries.
  2. Use Pillows and Cushions: Place pillows or foam cushions between bony prominences, such as knees, ankles, elbows, and the lower back, to create a barrier between the skin and the supporting surface.
  3. Proper Lifting and Transfers: When moving your loved one, use proper lifting techniques and assistive devices to reduce friction and shear forces. Avoid dragging or pulling the person across surfaces.
  4. Appropriate Bedding: Choose soft, breathable, and smooth bedding materials. Avoid using rough or wrinkled sheets that could cause friction against the skin.
  5. Moisturize the Skin: Keep the skin well-hydrated with regular moisturizing. Dry skin is more prone to friction injuries, so using a gentle, hypoallergenic lotion can be beneficial.
  6. Optimal Nutrition and Hydration: Ensure your loved one is getting a balanced diet and staying hydrated. Proper nutrition promotes skin health and helps prevent skin breakdown.
  7. Clothing Selection: Choose loose-fitting, soft clothing made from natural fabrics to minimize friction against the skin. Avoid tight or rough materials that may cause irritation.
  8. Regular Skin Checks: Conduct daily skin checks to identify any early signs of redness, irritation, or pressure areas. Promptly address any concerns you notice.
  9. Keep the Environment Clean and Dry: Maintain a clean and dry environment to prevent and skin breakdown. Regularly change soiled clothing and bedding.
  10. Consult Healthcare Professionals: If you notice any signs of skin injury or are unsure about preventive measures, don't hesitate to seek advice from healthcare professionals, such as a or wound care specialist.

Remember, providing compassionate care to your loved one includes taking steps to prevent and injuries. By implementing these preventive measures, you can create a safer and more comfortable environment for your elderly fragile person at home.


Pressure Injury Related to Friction and Shearing Forces in Older Adults

Caregiver Guide to Pressure Ulcers or Bedsores

Pressure Injury Prevention: Managing Shear and Friction

How to Prevent Pressure Ulcers or Bed Sores

The Braden Scale for Determining Risk for Skin Injuries

Eldercare Locator: a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources

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