Nursing home residents who are unable to change their sitting or lying position on their own are at particular risk for an injury known as a “bedsore.” Because of these residents’ confinement to a wheelchair or bed, they must rely on caregivers to reposition their bodies frequently. If this does not happen, bedsores can damage a resident’s skin and the tissue beneath it, particularly the bonier areas of the body such as the shoulder blades, hips, tailbone, and ankles.
Causes of Sores in Nursing Home Residents
The basic cause of a bedsore is a decreased blood flow resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. Blood is supposed to deliver nutrients and oxygen to skin to keep it healthy and alive. When this does not happen, the skin and the underlying tissue can, over time, be damaged. Eventually, the skin will begin to die. The areas of the body that are most vulnerable to pressure sores are those that lack natural padding, which is muscle and fat.
The less mobility a nursing home resident has, the more likely it is that he or she may suffer from a bedsore if adequate care is not provided by the staff. Those who suffer from paralysis, are frequently sedated, or are recovering from surgery are at a particularly heightened risk. Other factors that may put a person at increased risk for bedsores are decreased sensation, thinning skin, weight loss, incontinence, dehydration, and diabetes.
Stages of Bedsores, Pressure Sores, and Pressure Ulcers
There are different stages of bed sores. In the first stage, the skin is discolored but not broken. Still, it may be very tender or painful to the touch. A bedsore in the second stage has damage to both the outermost layer of skin, as well as the underlying layer. There may be discoloration of the wound, which may appear like a blister to the undertrained eye. Stage three bedsores involve an ulcerated, deeper wound that may contain dead tissue. The fourth stage involves the loss of tissue on a larger scale. In this stage, bone or muscle tissue may be visible. A foul odor, redness, heat, or fever can indicate that there is an infection of the sore.
In many instances, bedsores can be avoided or minimized by frequent repositioning of a patient or the use of cushioning or appropriate support surfaces. When bedsores do happen, it is very important that they be treated promptly. This includes cleaning and dressing of wounds, debridement if necessary, and administration of medications to control pain and prevent infection. Sadly, bedsores and pressure ulcers can become life-threatening if they are not treated properly. Nursing home residents with pressure sores can develop serious medical conditions such as sepsis, cellulitis, and even cancer. These potential complications may require hospitalization and other costly medical care.
Speak to an Attorney about Nursing Home Negligence
If you have concerns about a family member’s care in a Kentucky nursing home, speak to a knowledgeable nursing home litigation attorney about the situation. The Bowling Green injury attorneys of English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley have experience investigating and litigating cases in which nursing homes have allegedly failed to meet the standard of care owed to patients, including the prevention and care of bedsores. Call (270) 781-6500 to discuss your case. We are currently reviewing nursing home cases throughout Kentucky.
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