Nursing home residents who are not mobile are often at risk for development of bedsores. You may also hear the terms pressure sores or pressure ulcers.
Bedsores typically develop on a person’s hip, tailbone, ankles, hips, elbows or any part of the body which is in constant contact with a bed or chair. When your loved one lies or sits in one position for an extended period of time, his/her body weight presses against the surface of the bed or chair, cutting off blood supply.
With constant pressure, your loved one’s skin will start to break down, therefore causing a break in the skin which can become infected. This is a pressure sore.
While even the most attentive nursing home staff cannot prevent every bedsore, you can expect that your elderly loved one will undergo regular inspections for pressure sores and prompt treatment should a sore develop.
Further, since nursing home medical personnel know that sedentary elderly people are susceptible to bed sores, they should be expected to train their nurses and nursing assistants to be on alert. This is especially true when a nursing home patient does not or cannot move. Staff people should be physically moving their patients frequently – every 15 minutes for patients in a wheelchair and at least every 2 hours for bedridden residents.
Additionally, nursing homes have an obligation to keep residents hydrated and properly fed. Diets high in carbohydrates often leave people more susceptible to bed sores and certain medications can cause thinning or weakness of the skin.
Signs of early bedsore development include:
- skin discoloration
- tenderness and pain in the impacted area
- skin feels warmer or cooler to the touch
- appearance of blisters
If pressure sores remain untreated, your loved one’s skin can wear away entirely, leaving bones, muscles and tendons exposed. After even a few days, your elderly relative can be left with large open sores surrounded by dead skin. At such an advanced stage, recovery can be slow and painful.
The key to successful treatment of bedsores is to identify that there is problem as soon as possible and to start medical treatment. Early stage bed sores can be treated with soap and water, antibiotic ointment and gauze coverings, with extra emphasis on eliminating body weight pressure.
If a bed sore develops into an open ulcer, the nursing home should call for immediate medical care. Your loved one may be prescribed antibiotics, need a special mattress or mattress cover, or even need surgery.
Appearance of Bedsores Should Trigger Investigation
Not every instance of bedsore development means that your loved one has been abused or neglected but you can and should expect the facility medical director to take rapid action and to keep you informed about your loved one’s medical status.
The nursing facility should also keep detailed records regarding how often their staff moves or turns your loved one, how often your elderly relative is inspected and bathed, and how prescribed medical care is administered.
As an adult child or guardian of a nursing home resident you have the right to expect regular and ongoing communication and stepped up care for your elderly relative until the pressure sore is responding to treatment.
If your loved one seems to be having ongoing issues with pressure sores, or if many residents at the nursing home seem to be having this problem, it would be wise to contact a nursing home neglect lawyer for advice about how to proceed. If we can be of assistance, please reach out to us by phone or email.