Being bedbound can be an incredibly challenging and often isolating experience for individuals who are inept to leave their beds due to illness, injury, or age-related conditions. It is important to note that the wellbeing of bedridden patients largely depend on the nursing care provided by caregivers. In this article, we shall delve into the multifaceted challenges faced by bedridden patients, ranging from physical ailments such as bed sores, pneumonia, urinary infections, muscle weakness, and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), to the emotional, psychological, and mental strain on both bedridden patients as well as their caregivers.

  • Bed Sores (Pressure Ulcers): The development of bed sores, a.k.a. pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, results from continuous pressure from the skin and its underlying tissue onto the surface of the bed over a prolonged duration. It occurs especially in bony regions of the body (e.g., hips, ankles, tailbone, heels) and may rapidly turn into painful and potentially serious wounds. To combat this, patients must regularly reposition themselves, maintain adequate hygiene, use softer surfaces on which to support their bodies and consume proper nutrition.
  • Pneumonia: Inflammation of the lungs caused by bacterial or viral infection. Bedridden patients are vulnerable to developing pneumonia because of constrained mobility and compromised lung function. Lying in bed for extended periods impairs the regular clearance of mucus from the lungs, leading to infections. To avoid this, patients should turn themselves frequently, do constant breathing exercises, and keep their surroundings clean.
  • Urinary Infections: Bedridden patients can, unfortunately, get urinary tract infections (UTIs) from using catheters (a tube inserted into the bladder to help in urination), being stationary, and having a lack of proper hygiene. These infections typically cause discomfort, fever and can lead to more severe complications. Habitual cleaning of the genital area, proper hydration and monitoring the usage of catheters can prevent UTIs from occurring.
  • Muscle Weakness: Much owing to the widely used proverb, “You don’t use it, you lose it.”. This holds true regarding the muscle atrophy experienced by bedfast patients. Physical inactivity leads to the loss of muscle strength and tone, resulting in difficulties in performing even the most primitive actions necessary to live. Maintaining muscle strength and functionality involves physical therapy, range-of-motion exercises, and appropriate assistive devices.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) & Pulmonary Embolism (PE): Stagnation increases the risk of forming blood clots (thrombi) in one or more of the deep veins of the body, typically in the lower regions such as the legs. Besides causing pain and swelling, it can lead to serious, life-threatening complications such as pulmonary embolism. PE ensues when a fragment of the DVT clot splits and travels to the lungs. Proper positioning, regular limb movements, compression stockings, and medications (when required) can be used as preventive strategies to reduce the risk of blood clots in infirm patients.

To sum up, bedridden patients and their caregivers face significant challenges that greatly impact their physical and emotional well-being. By understanding and addressing the abovementioned dangers associated with immobility, implementing preventive measures and getting the right support, the patients and caregivers can navigate these challenges more effectively.

Article Credits
Dr. Anoop Lal, Medical Director, CareMithra
Rohan Panicker, Creative Writer, CareMithra