Alternating Pressure Mattresses, Pressure Ulcers & Good Nutrition

10th November 2015

An alternating pressure mattress is a tool to aid good nursing care.  Whilst we at Select Medical work hard to design and deliver clinically effective pressure mattress brands, we are only too aware that an alternating pressure mattress is just one key element in the fight to prevent pressure ulcers (pressure sores).  There are many other important factors to delivering effective pressure care including risk assessment, repositioning, ongoing skin assessment, nutrition and more.

In this short post, we’ll give consideration to nutrition.  The importance of good nutrition can not be understated when caring for someone at risk of developing pressure ulcers.

In a healthy person enjoying a good diet is important.  When caring for a person suffering ill health, nutrition and food can be more critical to their overall health and well being.  Eating a balanced diet helps provide the correct amount of nutrients without too much or too little to maintain good health.  “Good nutrition is the foundation of good health, good organ function, energy, food utilization and cell organ growth”.1

When caring for an older person with existing tissue damage, and looking carefully at their pressure care needs, there are some notable differences in a persons skin that should be observed.  As a person reaches old age their skin loses its elasticity making them more susceptible to pressure ulcer damage.  Nutrition amongst other contributing factors plays an important role in keeping the skin intact and healthy.2 “There is no doubt that adequate carbohydrates, fat, and protein is required for healing to take place”.3

When caring for an elderly patient it is important that you ensure you are always encouraging a healthy diet.  Carers may not always understand the importance of healthy eating and may not always know the best way to encourage and support them in this area.4 It is for reasons such as this that care providers need to be providing adequate training to their employees.  Nutrition is an essential factor within the caring profession and nutritional education should be made available to all pre-qualifying students; qualified staff should also have a nutritional programme in place.5

If a patient you are caring for is struggling to maintain a healthy diet it is important that you the carer contact the appropriate health care professional. The correct health care team may suggest a number of possibilities ranging from prescribed nutritional supplements to multi–vitamins and mineral supplements.5

Rosalyn Tarrent a senior clinical nutritionist at St James’s Hospital has stated that “The nutritional needs of people with pressure ulcers are very high and they may need extra protein, calories and vitamins and minerals to help their wounds heal”.6

Remember: Without enough protein body tissue becomes a lot weaker and once damaged is much slower in healing.7

1) Enever, G & Rodrigues, S (2011) Diet and Nutrition [online] Available at: [Accessed 04/08/2015] 2) Pressure ulcer in the elderly (2015) [online] Available at: [Accessed] 28/08/2015] 3) Arnold, M & Barbul, A (2006) Nutrition and Wound Healing [online] Available at: [Accessed 18/08/2015] 4) Crawley, H & Hocking, E (2011) Eating Well: Supporting Older People and Older People with Dementia [online] Available at:
5) Diet for pressure ulcers. Advice for patients and cares (2015) [online] Available at: style=”color: #00adbb;” [Accessed 27/10/2015] 6) Green. S et al (2002) Nutrition and nurse education Nursing Times 98: 34 59 [online] Available at

About the author – Ray Booth
Ray Booth is Research & Innovation Director at Select Medical. He has been involved in the pressure care equipment industry for over 20 years, and has created a wide range of well-designed alternating air pressure mattress systems for use in hospital, hospice and community healthcare sectors.