According to Mayo Clinic, the causes of bedsores typically result from prolonged pressure on the skin and include pressure, friction, or shear. Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, result from injuries to the skin and underlying tissue in relation to prolonged pressure from sitting or lying down. Pressure ulcers often occur in the elderly who may have challenges with mobility. However, nursing home staff members should always monitor their elderly residents to prevent bedsores from developing. If your elderly loved one suffered from bedsores in a nursing home, you may have the right to receive compensation.
How Bedsores Develop
People at risk for pressure ulcers include those who have a medical condition that in some way limits their ability to change positions or move freely, according to Healthline. Many elderly residents in nursing homes sit all day or are unable to move from their beds. Bedsores develop quickly. However, with proper attention and adequate monitoring, a nursing home resident should never develop them. Many bedsores heal with medical treatment. But, in severe cases, they never heal completely.
Symptoms of Pressure Ulcers
Mayo Clinic reports that pressure ulcers often develop on areas of the skin that cover particularly bony areas. These areas have less muscle and fat to protect the skin from the bone underneath. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, pressure sores often develop on the following areas:
- Hips, heels
- Shoulder blades
- Back of arms or legs where they touch a chair
- Back or sides of a head where it would rest in a bed, lower back, skin behind the knees, ankles, or tailbone
Warning signs of a developing a bedsore could include unusual changes or texture in the skin, pus-like drainage, swelling of the area, skin that feels either colder or warmer than other areas of the body, or a specific area that is tender to the touch, according to Mayo Clinic.
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Pressure Ulcer Causes
When pressure against the skin never changes, it eventually limits blood flow to that area of the body and skin. Listed below are the three primary causes of bedsores as reported by Mayo Clinic.
Consistent and constant pressure on one specific area lessens blood flow to that area. For those elderly residents with limited mobility or who are confined to a wheelchair or bed, this pressure happens in the areas that touch the bed or wheelchair and do not have adequate padding of muscle or fat. Blood flow delivers nutrients and oxygen to keep tissues healthy. Without blood flow and nutrients, the tissue and skin become damaged and may even die.
Elderly residents of nursing homes often have thinner skin due to age, medical conditions, or medication. When very thin skin rubs against bedding, clothing, or chairs, it can rip or tear. If the skin is moist, it can be even more fragile and susceptible to injuries such as bedsores.
Shear is when two objects or surfaces move directly against each other in opposite directions. If the resident has an elevated bed and slides down, the friction may result in shear between the tailbone and the skin over the tailbone. While one incident of this may not result in a bedsore, several instances of this over a day, week, or month, could easily create a bedsore in an elderly resident of a nursing home.
Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that their elderly residents remain safe through appropriate monitoring and care. Elderly residents confined to wheelchairs or beds should receive additional care to ensure that bedsores do not develop. Mayo Clinic reports that some of the ways a nursing home staff member could reduce the incidences of bedsores and prevent elderly residents from suffering this painful condition include the following:
- A resident’s weight should shift periodically, and repositioning should occur several times an hour to ensure the prevention of bedsores.
- If a resident can lift themselves, they should receive reminders to do so to change where their weight rests.
- If possible, special wheelchairs may provide additional relief from pressure. If your elderly loved one remains restricted to a wheelchair, ask the nursing home staff if they provide these types of wheelchairs.
- Cushions and mattresses help with positioning elderly residents, and the nursing home staff should provide these to residents, as appropriate.
- Change the elevation of the resident’s bed.
- Elderly residents confined to bed or wheelchairs should receive baths or showers so that their skin remains clean and dry, limiting their exposure to urine, stool, or any kind of moisture.
- Products such as talcum powder or certain lotions may prevent friction or shear on the delicate skin of an elderly resident. The staff must change the resident’s bedding often and ensure that certain items like buttons or zippers do not irritate the skin of the senior in any way.
- Nursing home staff members should inspect the skin of those residents prone to bedsores daily to prevent their occurrence.
If the staff at your loved one’s nursing home did not complete these actions, the nursing home may be liable for any bedsores that develop.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney Today
Elderly residents of nursing homes should never suffer from bedsores. Typically, the appearance of bedsores on elderly loved ones in a nursing home are a direct result of neglect or abuse from the staff. If you feel your loved one suffered neglect which resulted in pressure sores, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm to help you with your next steps. Do not wait. Reach out to our firm today.