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Bed Sores in Nursing Homes - Risk Factors and Prevention

When someone moves into a nursing home, it is usually after a lot of careful consideration by the resident and their family. They go in believing that a nursing home is the best place to care for that person given their current circumstances.

When it turns out that the person is not as safe or well taken care of as they should be, it's upsetting at the least -- and potentially very painful. One of the most common injuries suffered in nursing homes are bed sores, otherwise known as pressure ulcers. A 2004 National Nursing Home Survey revealed that 11 percent of all nursing residents suffered from pressure ulcers. 

What are Bed Sores?

Bed sores are skin abrasions or ulcers caused by unrelieved pressure on the skin. They often develop in areas where there is a bony prominence. They are categorized in stages ranging from one to four.

A stage one bed sore is the most mild, characterized by persistent redness of the skin. In a stage four case, the sore or ulcer has eroded the skin to the point where muscle or bone is exposed. The most common stage reported is stage two, which appears as a blister or abrasion. Stage two and more severe sores require special wound care in more than a third of the cases.

Understanding and Preventing Bed Sores

Because of their limited mobility, and the increased likelihood of being underweight and "bony," nursing home residents are at a higher risk for bed sores than the general population. However, the condition can be avoided when the nursing home and staff take the proper precautions to prevent them.

By taking steps to keep residents' skin clean and dry, positioning pillows around pressure points, and repositioning those with limited mobility every two hours, the vast majority of pressure sores can be avoided, as well as the pain that goes with them.

When bed sores are not treated, the ramifications can be far worse than mild pain and irritation. Some of the complications associated with bed sores include:

  • Bone and joint infections that damage cartilage and tissue
  • Celluitis - a skin infection that affects soft tissues that may result in severe pain and/or nerve damage
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma - an aggressive cancer than develops from non-healing wounds
  • Sepsis - a rapidly progressing condition caused by bacteria in the blood stream. The broken skin of the sores may invite the bacteria in, and ultimately cause organ failure.

Nursing home staff have a responsibility to their residents to monitor those who may be at risk of bed sores and other conditions and to prevent sores from occurring whenever possible. If pressure sores are found, they need to be treated as early as possible to minimize their impact and help the resident maintain the best quality of life possible.

If you find that a nursing home has mismanaged your care or the care of your loved one - resulting in bed sores or any other signs of neglect or abuse - an experienced elder care lawyer may be able to help you assert your rights and protect your future.

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