Bedsores and Pressure Sores
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, decubitus ulcers and pressure ulcers, are one of the many signs of nursing home abuse, nursing home neglect, or medical malpractice in a hospital. Bedsores are caused when there is unrelieved pressure to the skin and can cause serious health problems like infections and other life-threatening injuries. They occur most frequently to areas of the body where bone and skin are very close in contact, such as the hips, back, elbow, ankles and heels. Nursing home residents and people staying at a hospital are at high risk for bedsores because they often times remain sedentary in a bed or wheelchair.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one out of 10 nursing home residents currently suffer from bedsores. Although this is alarming to many, this isn’t a new problem. For several decades, bedsores have been a prevalent problem in nursing homes throughout the United States. In many instances, bedsores are caused primarily from lack of attention and improper medical care in nursing homes.
Nursing home abuse lawyers have knowledge of nursing home abuse laws and experience helping victims. This is valuable to nursing home residents and their loved ones in order to get the justice that they deserve.
Getting Legal Help
Keep in mind that if you or your loved one has suffered from pressure sores because of the negligence of a nursing home, an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help you.
Call today for a no-obligation consultation at 1-866-548-9636.
Bedsores are serious health concerns and once identified they need to be treated immediately. If a resident enters a nursing home with a bedsore, it’s the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure the sores don’t get worse. Unfortunately, a good majority of residents who enter a facility with bedsores don’t get the kind of quality medical attention needed. As a result, their bedsores get worse, moving into the later stages, which can cause a whole new host of medical problems.
When patients who are elderly or have a disability develop bedsores, it is extremely difficult for them to endure. These sores can cause pain and disability, and considerably increases the chance of patients acquiring dangerous complications like gangrene, osteomyelitis or sepsis.
Tips for Bedsore Prevention
It is best to prevent bedsores before they start. Too often, however, bedsores are already at an advanced stage before being noticed, which in turn requires long and difficult treatments. In order to help prevent bedsores, a number of activities can be done to ensure the best possible chances.
Change positions regularly
People with limited mobility should change positions every 15 minutes. Patients who are confined to a hospital bed should change positions at least every two hours. It also helps to avoid laying directly on the hip bones. Instead, patients should lay at a 30 degree angle to reduce pressure on the hips. Patients should not have their head raised more than 30 degrees, as this encourages the body to slip down and raises the risk of friction injuries. Pressure-reducing mattresses can be helpful here.
Inspect skin daily
Inspecting the skin is a great prevention tool to incorporate into any daily care routine. Also, skin should be kept clean and dry. If the patient has bandages, it’s imperative to make sure they are changed daily. If there is skin damage, foul smell, infection or tenderness, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Pay close attention to nutrition
Malnutrition can lead to bedsores as well as other diseases and illnesses. It is essential to get enough calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. Nursing homes should consult a dietitian to come up with eating plans for residents that appeal to their food preferences while also supplying the necessary nutrients.
Try to exercise every day
Exercising increases blood flow throughout the body. It also promotes a positive mood and socialization. Each of these is important for nursing home residents. Caregivers should consult with a physical therapist for exercise programs that are beneficial to patients.
Stages of Bedsores
Hospitals and nursing homes use a scale to help determine the severity of bedsores. Bedsores are also known as decubitus ulcers and pressure sores or ulcers. By using this scale to categorize bedsores, according to their typical characteristics, some uniformity can be established. This assists medical facilities in the treatment of those suffering with bedsores.
At first, a pressure sore will appear as an area of skin that is red and possibly itchy. This area may also feel firm or warm and spongy to the touch. People with darker skin may have an area with a purple or blue hue, rather than the aforementioned red. It could also look ashen or flaky. Stage I bedsores will heal once the pressure has been relieved.
Some skin loss has occurred at this point and the sore may appear as an open wound. Skin loss can be in the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin or in the dermis, which is the deeper layer of skin. Some sores also affect both of these layers. The wound has become a sore that resembles an abrasion or blister. The tissues surrounding it may have a purple or red discoloration. If this bedsore is treated promptly, these sores can generally heal rather quickly.
Once the bedsore reaches this stage, all layers of skin have been affected down to the muscle. This process damages or destroys tissue. The wound is now deep, resembling a crater (known as slough). The open skin may show fat around the infected area. At this stage, treatment is crucial to preserving tissue and preventing infection.
This is the most advanced and serious stage. Damage has now been done to the bone, muscle and the joints and tendons, which are the supporting structures. Large amounts of skin have been destroyed and these wounds are very difficult to cure. At this stage, they can cause lethal infections. Stage 4 bedsores can be life-threatening, so timely treatment is essential. In many cases, surgery is required to remove tissue. Sometimes surgeons must amputate an affected limb to remove dead tissue and prevent sepsis or gangrene.
On occasion, a bedsore will be categorized as ‘unstageable.’ These are generally extremely advanced wounds involving muscle, skin and bone.
Common Areas to Monitor for Bedsores
Depending upon the circumstances, bedsores will manifest in different areas of the body. For example, a person who is confined to a wheelchair will have different areas of the body affected as opposed to someone who is confined to a bed.
Residents in Wheelchairs
- The buttocks area and/or the tailbone
- The back both the legs and arms, in the areas that these body parts rest for long periods of time against the wheelchair.
- The spine and/or the shoulder blades
Residents Confined to Beds
- Both sides and the back of the head
- The outside areas of the ears, specifically on the rims
- Shoulders and shoulder blades
- Lower back and hips
- Knees, heels, and ankles
Most bedsores are caused by friction, shear, and sustained pressure. Residents, especially those confined to a wheelchair and bed, should be inspected regularly even if their positions are moved frequently.
Medical Complications as a Result of Bedsores
Bedsores can lead to an array of other medical conditions if not monitored and treated in the early stages. Some possible complications include:
- Cancer: Chronic sores can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, a destructive type of cancer that almost always requires surgery.
- Joint/Bone Infections: Bone and joint infections develop after burying themselves deep into pressure sores. Also known as infectious or septic arthritis, these types of infections can not only damage cartilage and tissue, but can also severely restrict joint functions.
- Sepsis: Sepsis occurs when bacteria enters into the victim’s bloodstream via the open pressure sores. Instead of fighting off the bacteria, the body turns on itself. Sepsis can quickly spread throughout the body resulting in life-threatening organ failure and other issues.
- Cellulitis: Cellulitis, an inflammation of connective tissues, can also infect victims of bedsores. If cellulitis occurs, victims may develop meningitis, which affects the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord and brain.
There are a few ways to treat bedsores, which depend upon the level of the wound. For Stage I sores, a combination of antibiotics and cleaning solutions are usually effective. Victims should also be repositioned regularly. Supportive aids should always be available, such as specialized cushions, pillows and mattresses.
For advanced stages, victims may need to undergo surgery via mechanical, autolytic or enzymatic debridement in order to successfully remove the damaged tissue. Afterwards, cleansing and bandaging the wounds is extremely imperative and must be done regularly. Pain medication and antibiotics are typically prescribed as well.
Along with pain medication and antibiotics, patients should eat a healthy diet. Nutrition and hydration will help the healing process. In addition, muscle relaxants may be prescribed as some victims experience muscle spasms.