In this new blog series, Best Care’s Qualified Professional (QP) staff are compiling useful information and practical advice for caregivers and recipients of care. 

Noel Dohmeier, RN
Noel Dohmeier, RN

Today, , teaches us how blood clots happen and how they can be prevented.

About 350,000 Americans are diagnosed with blood clots each year and almost as many have them and don’t even know it. For those caring for persons with limited mobility, or who may be confined to a bed or chair or might be recovering from surgery, here are some tips that you may find helpful in preventing DVTs, also known as blood clots. 

What Is a Blood Clot?

“DVT” stands for deep vein thrombosis. It occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, more commonly found in the legs or thighs, as well as the upper arms. DVTs can cause swelling or pain when standing or walking. The leg may look swollen, the skin may change color, or the body may feel warm in the area that hurts. 

It’s important to note that clots can also occur without any symptoms at all. 

What Causes a Blood Clot?

Prolonged sitting, lack of physical activity, and recovering from surgery can all contribute to the formation of a blood clot. The first 10 days following surgery greatly increases that likelihood. 

When a person sits or lies for long stretches of time, the muscles in the lower legs stay pretty lax, which makes it harder for the blood to move around and circulate the way it should. When this occurs, it increases the risk of a blood clot forming. 

Smoking also increases the thickness of the blood itself—making it stickier than it should be—and harms the lining of blood vessels.

How Can You Decrease the Likelihood of Blood Clots?

If you or your recipient of care is at an increased risk of developing a DVT, keep in mind the following tips: 

  • Stay hydrated by drinking more water. Avoid dehydration by eliminating beverages that contain caffeine and alcohol. 
  • Stop smoking. 
  • Wear compression stockings as prescribed by a doctor. These can reduce the swelling in the legs and improve circulation. 
  • Elevate the foot of the bed to help circulation and decrease swelling. 
  • Move as much as possible, every couple of hours, to improve circulation. For individuals who are not physically able to move independently and rely on a caregiver to assist them to move, the caregiver can perform range-of-motion exercises on their legs and ankles every couple of hours, if tolerated. Some helpful exercises that work the muscles in the legs include:
    • leg lifts
    • bending the knees
    • curling or pressing the toes down
    • drawing imaginary circles with the ankles
    • flexing the feet 
  • Individuals who are physically unable to be active or move independently are encouraged to consult with their doctor on a regular basis. At that time, they can discuss further medical options for clot prevention.

If you believe you or your client may be experiencing signs or symptoms of a blood clot—or suddenly develop lightheadedness, unexplained shortness of breath, rapid pulse, sweating, or chest pain that worsens when you cough or deep breathe—talk to a doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency department. 

Contact the team at Best Care with your additional caregiving questions!