Whether sitting in a wheelchair or lying in a bed, residents of nursing homes often spend long hours in the same position due to mobility issues. Without preventative care, this kind of prolonged pressure on the skin may result in bedsores, also called pressure ulcers.
Older adults and those with circulation problems or diabetes may be especially at risk for developing pressure ulcers. Left untreated, this progressive skin condition may lead to increasingly severe pain, damage to surrounding tissues and a higher risk of bacterial infection.
What causes bedsores?
Bedsores occur when prolonged pressure cuts off the supply of blood to the skin. Common areas where pressure ulcers occur include the shoulder blades, tailbone/buttocks, hips, back of the head, sides or back of the knees and behind the heels of the feet.
What are the symptoms of pressure ulcers?
The first signs of a pressure ulcer may include redness, itchiness and inflammation of the affected area. Without treatment, a sore or blister may develop and progress to an open wound. In addition to creating a high risk for bacterial infection, open ulcers can worsen quickly, with damage extending to surrounding muscles, tendons and bones.
How can caregivers prevent bedsores?
One of the most important ways to prevent pressure ulcers is maintaining a regular schedule for repositioning immobile individuals. Caregivers should also check for developing sores frequently and keep vulnerable areas of the skin clean and dry.
Unfortunately, whether due to staffing shortages, poor caregiver training or poor nursing home management, residents who are at risk for developing pressure ulcers may not get the basic level of care they need to prevent a potentially deadly infection. Residents and their loved ones should know that providers may be liable for harm if provider negligence leads to preventable harm.