Can Bedsores Be Prevented?
One of the most common signs that a nursing home resident may be suffering from neglect is the development of bedsores, or pressure sores. If a person who is immobile or bedridden is allowed to sit or lie in the same position without being repositioned regularly and provided with skin care, the patient can develop bedsores. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, about 7.5 percent of nursing home patients developed pressure ulcers on average in a recent year. People who have diabetes, circulation problems or poor nutrition are at higher risk of developing bedsores. These wounds can be extremely painful and can lead to health problems, including life-threatening complications, if not properly treated. There is no need for your loved one to suffer through bedsores. They should be prevented.
What Are Bedsores?
Bedsores are injuries that occur when a part of the skin is exposed to too much pressure for extended periods of time, limiting blood flow to the area. These injuries can range from a minor skin irritation without a break in the skin to a serious deep wound exposing muscle or bone. They are an important health problem.
Bedsores tend to occur in particular around bony, protruding areas such as elbows, heels, tailbones, and hips. The affected area can become swollen and tender. In some cases, the sore may become infected, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications. Depending on the extent of the bedsore, it can take weeks or months to heal.
Be Alert for Symptoms of Pressure Sores
If your loved one is a nursing home resident with limited mobility, it is important to watch for signs of bedsores.
Some people may be unable to feel even extremely serious bedsores on their own. Start by checking bony areas that often come in contact with beds or chairs, such as the tailbone, shoulders, and back.
Any unusual variation in the color or texture of the skin may be a sign of bed sores. Other potential signs include blistering, swelling and a temperature difference between different parts of the skin.
If the bedsore has reached a more advanced stage, you may see signs of infection, such as pus-like drainage. If this has occurred, you should seek medical attention for the patient as soon as possible. In any case, if you see any signs of bedsores, it is important to communicate with your loved one’s doctors to ensure that they are receiving medical attention.
Read our answers to frequently asked questions about recognizing nursing home neglect and abuse.
How Bedsores Can Be Prevented
Since bedsores are caused by rubbing and abrasion of the skin, reducing pressure on bedsore-prone areas can help prevent them. People who are bedridden or who spend most of the day in a wheelchair should be readjusted to different positions on occasion, ensuring that pressure does not stay on the same points of contact for too long.
Friction with sheets and clothes should be avoided. Avoiding positions that pull the skin in one direction and bones in another can also help reduce the incidence of bedsores. It can also help to explore different cushioning options for the bed or wheelchair your loved one uses the most so as to reduce pressure on contact points of the body.
Medical Complications Arising from Bedsores
Infection is the most common complication that can arise from bedsores. This happens especially when the sores are left unattended for too long. Types of infection resulting from bedsores can include cellulitis, a skin infection and bone and joint infections. Serious bedsores left unattended for long periods of time can lead to infections in the bloodstream known as sepsis. Sepsis can be extremely serious and result in death.
Why Bedsores Occur in Nursing Homes
Nursing home residents are at a high risk of developing bedsores because they tend to be less mobile and spend a great deal of time sitting or lying in bed. Areas of skin that come in contact with beds or chairs experience pressure. ‘Elderly people also tend to have more protruding, bony areas that have a greater chance of pressing on the skin and rubbing it against outside surfaces.
Nursing homes staff should understand how bedsores develop and know the steps to take to prevent them. Unfortunately, inadequate training, low wages, and staff turnover often mean that nursing homes do not have enough staff to devote as much attention to patients as they need.
Unfortunately, nursing home staff may fail to take the necessary steps to prevent bedsores. Nursing home staff may leave residents in one position for hours on end without ensuring that they are turned or repositioned. Another problem is that staff sometimes fail to check the residents who are most vulnerable to bedsores to see if any have developed.
The risk of infection becomes even worse if nursing home personnel fail to properly clean residents, in some cases even letting them sit in their own waste. This problem can be compounded when a sore develops around the buttocks or tailbone, where failure to clean may result in a bacterial infection of any open sores.
What to Do if Your Loved One Develops Bedsores
If your loved one has developed bedsores, the first thing you should do is speak with the staff attending to them in the nursing home and report your concern. You need to draw attention to the sores so that they can be treated before complications arise. You also should try to find out what conditions might have led to them. You may need to speak with the nursing home manager or nursing superintendent and insist that they take more reasonable steps to prevent more sores from developing, such as assisting your loved one in moving about some and shifting to different positions.
If you believe the bedsores may have developed as a failure to take preventative steps, you may be able to hold the parties responsible financially accountable by pursuing a negligence lawsuit. An experienced nursing home negligence attorney can review the facts surrounding your loved one’s nursing home care, and if appropriate help you and your loved one recover compensation for medical care related to treatment of bedsores. The Kentucky nursing home abuse lawyers of Becker Law Office have years of experience fighting negligent nursing home personnel. For more information about how we can help, call us today.