Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, affect those who are confined to a bed and stuck in a single position for an extended period. Victims of bedsores often suffer from paralysis or mobility conditions that prevent them from getting out of bed or even readjusting their position while in bed.
The sores develop anywhere on the body but are prevalent on the bony areas, such as around elbows, knees, heels, ankles, and back.
Pressure ulcers are treatable, but immediate treatment is critical. When bedsores are allowed to continue, they can lead to severe, sometimes life-threatening, complications.
Bedsores are quite common in the US and especially in nursing homes and private care settings. Intensive care units in the country see an estimated 16.6 percent to 20.7 percent of its patients with bed sores.
What Louisville Caretakers and Family Members Should Know about Bedsore Prevention and Risk Factors
Anyone can develop a bedsore if they are stuck in bed or sitting in a chair for too long. The more movement, the less likely a person is to develop a bedsore.
Who Is at Risk for Bedsores?
To prevent pressure ulcers, you must understand the risk factors. Those who are unconscious are less likely to reposition themselves, especially those in a vegetative state or deep coma. They rely on their caretakers to reposition them so that they do not develop these sores.
Also, certain medical conditions make it more likely a person will develop pressure ulcers, especially conditions that affect circulation and blood flow like:
- Low blood pressure
- Peripheral vascular disease
Proper hygiene is equally critical to avoid bed sores. When a patient is allowed to sit in feces or urine, these substances break down skin tissue and can lead to bedsores faster.
Four Stages of Bedsores
There are four stages of bedsores – with the final two phases being the most serious. These stages include:
- Stage 1 – Skin becomes red, irritated, and might even look bruised.
- Stage 2 – Skin is more worn, and an open wound starts to form.
- Stage 3 – Skin becomes crater-like, bleeding and irritation are present, and risk for infection and tissue death is high.
- Stage 4 – Skin has extensive damage to deep tissue layers, muscle, and the wound goes down to the bone. The risk of infection is high and it is likely that infection will continue into the bone and possibly the blood (causing sepsis).
5 Ways Caregivers Can Prevent Bedsores
Prevention is critical for bedsores. When caretakers take precautionary measures, bedsores are less likely to form. Furthermore, checking patients regularly for Stage 1 and Stage 2 sores and seeking treatment immediately can prevent those sores from becoming life-threatening.
1. Change Positions Frequently
Immobile patients need to change positions throughout the day to prevent pressure ulcers. Their body should be repositioned once every two hours, minimum. Caretakers should note the positions the patient had laid in that day to avoid repeating the same position. For example, if the patient lies flat on their back, two hours later, they can be repositioned to their right side. Two hours from then, they can reposition to the left side. Pillows can help keep the patient propped into their new position and keep them from rolling back down.
2. Keep the Skin Clear, Dry, and Clean
Skin needs to be dry to avoid pressure ulcers. Patients that are bedridden should receive sponge baths using warm water each day to clean it. Then, the skin should be patted dry. Bedding and clothing should also be changed.
If a patient suffers from incontinence or uses adult diapers, ensuring they are cleaned up after an accident is critical.
3. Use Pillows in between Bony Parts
Pressure ulcers are not just from the friction against a bed – it can happen from friction between the patient’s body parts. Prevent this by placing pillows in between those parts. For example, when the patient lies on his or her side, put a pad in between their knees and ankles so that the limbs do not rub against one another and create a sore.
4. Check for Signs of Pressure Ulcers Frequently
Stage one sores are harder to diagnose because they are red irritations. However, a skilled caregiver in a hospital or nursing home should know how to identify a stage one ulcer. Pressure ulcers can develop in a matter of hours. Therefore, patients should be checked each time they are repositioned for early signs of bedsores.
5. Manage Health Conditions
Chronic health conditions that increase the risk of developing pressure ulcers should be managed effectively. This might include monitoring fluid intake and retention, establishing a healthy diet, or administering medication per the schedule written by a physician to keep circulation up.
A Patients’ Rights: When Bed Sores Develop in Nursing Homes
Unfortunately, nursing homes today have more patients than staff. Therefore, immobile residents might find themselves lying in bed or sitting in a wheelchair for hours, unmoved. In some nursing homes, patients sit in soiled clothing. This type of neglect often leads to bedsores, including stage three and four sores.
Regardless of how understaffed a nursing home is, there is no excuse to allow a resident to sit long enough to develop sores. Nursing homes are required to have protocols in place that reposition immobile patients and provide a safe, sanitized living environment for all residents.
When a nursing home neglects or abuses a patient and the patient suffers from painful bed sores, that resident and their loved ones have rights.
Nursing homes can be held accountable for their inattention. Furthermore, they can be required to pay compensation to the victim or their family for medical costs, pain and suffering, and funeral costs if the patient dies because of an infected bedsore.
If your loved one developed a bedsore due to nursing home neglect or abuse, contact an attorney with experience handling these types of cases, right away.
Attorney Seth Gladstein, at the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, can assist you with your nursing home neglect case. Schedule a free case evaluation now at 502-855-4177 or request more information online.