Preventing Skin Breakdown

Document created by tfreiberg Employee on Dec 27, 2016Last modified by mcunningham on Mar 23, 2017
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  • To keep skin clean, dry and intact
  • To prevent pain and infection from broken skin


Supplies you will need

  • Washcloth and towel
  • Mild cleanser
  • Moisturizing lotion
  • Barrier cream (if recommended)
  • Absorbent pad


What to do

  1. Explain to the patient what you are going to do, even if you are unsure whether they can hear.
  2. Inspect skin daily, especially the ears, elbows, back, hips and heels.
  3. Cleanse skin with warm water and a mild cleanser.
  4. Pat dry and apply moisturizer and/or barrier cream.
  5. Keep linens clean, dry and as wrinkle-free as possible.
  6. Help patient change position at least every 2 hours or as recommended.


Special instructions

  • It may be helpful to give pain medication before turning the patient.
  • Pad the bed rails.
  • Use a turning sheet when changing the patient’s position.
  • Lift, don’t drag a person who is unable to help during transfers or position changes.
  • Avoid massaging reddened skin or skin that may easily tear.
  • Avoid powders (they tend to accumulate in skin folds).
  • Report any areas of redness, color changes or blisters to your nurse.
  • Do not use doughnut-type devices. They may cause more pressure rather than relief.
  • Use pillows to keep bony areas like knees and ankles from touching each other.
  • Report any skin breakdown to your health care professional.



Adapted from: Smith, Sandra. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills, Eighth Edition, Pearson: Prentice Hall, 2011.