Bedsores are a common occurrence among older Americans, but their frequency should not be a reason to write them off. Bedsores are serious injuries that, left unattended or treated, can become deadly. Unfortunately, because of the way bedsores develop, they can be a key sign of nursing home neglect. Past studies have found a substantial link between neglect and bedsores, even finding cases of death as a result of bedsores. So we thought it was important to cover the link between bedsores and neglect so that you know what to look for and how to ensure they do not worsen.
The Common Causes of Bedsores
According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, bedsores are caused “when excess force is put on the skin over a long period of time.” But in as little as 2 to 3 hours, bedsores can develop into serious skin injuries. Typically, bedsores occur among older nursing home patients because they are less likely to move or change position while sitting or laying down.
Some common factors that contribute the occurrence of bedsores, specifically in nursing home environments are:
- Friction between skin and a surface (such as a bedsheet)
- Shear (when skin moves away from the bone)
- Other factors, such as dehydration and malnutrition
All of these factors can lead to bedsores on the ankles, feet, hips, spine, shoulder blades, tail bones, and even the toes. When there is friction, pressure, or inadequate nutrition, blood flow is easily but off from these areas of the body and the skin begins to die. It doesn’t take much time before that deterioration spreads to deeper levels of tissue.
Bedsores that occur because of shearing are more common among patients who need to be propped up, especially at night, or need staff help to be moved from bed to chairs, etc. Because skin becomes more fragile as we age, it is critical to take extra care to ensure that minimal friction, sliding, pressure, and aggressive movement occurs.
What to Look For
The beginning stages of bedsores may not be immediately obvious, and if you’re unable to see certain areas of the body, ask a staff member to check as they administer baths/showers and help change the patient’s clothes.
Some common signs of bedsores forming are:
- Reddish or discolored skin
- Lack of blanching (lightening of skin when pressure is put on it)
- Open wounds
- Skin that is unusually soft or firm
- Painful or irritated skin
The Link Between Neglect and Bedsores
Adequate attention and care keeps residents moving and changing positions, and ensures that their movements don’t harm them. Good care also takes into account their more delicate skin for all activities. Additionally, adequate care would mean the patient would not suffer from dehydration or malnutrition.
Nursing home staff and anyone who takes care of the elderly should ensure that their patient’s skin is moisturized regularly, that symptoms are monitored for any medication that might restrict blood flow, and that any patient who has limited mobility is checked regularly for bedsores.
Neglect is always a little harder to spot than outright physical abuse, but still has serious consequences. In most cases, bedsores can be detected and treated early, and avoided if caretakers and nursing home staff are paying attention. Otherwise, bedsores may be a sign of neglect.
If you think your loved one is developing or at risk of bedsores, bring it to the attention of the nursing home staff and administration immediately and seek medical intervention to keep the bedsore from worsening.
And if you or a loved one has been the victim of neglect or abuse, call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.