Bed sores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are a common sign of nursing home neglect. This is because those who are elderly, injured and ill are often forced to rely on nursing home staff for repositioning because they cannot easily move on their own.
- According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least one out of 10 nursing home residents suffer from a pressure ulcer, or bed sore.
- Long-term residents are usually more likely to have pressure ulcers than those who have been in nursing homes for less than a year.
- Residents under the age of 64 years were more likely than older residents to have bed sores.
- One of every 5 nursing home residents with recent weight loss suffered from a bed sore.
Causes of Bed Sores
Bed sores occur when injuries to the skin and underlying tissues result from prolonged pressure on the skin. Bed sores commonly afflict people who are confined to bed, wheelchair users and those who suffer from medical conditions that impede their ability to change positions.
People who are in poor health or who are weak, paralyzed, recovering from surgery, in a coma, or sedated are also at an increased risk for bed sores.
Bed sores most commonly develop over bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone. They are caused by pressure against the skin, which limits blood flow to the skin and nearby tissues. Limited mobility makes the skin vulnerable to damage, as does age since the skin becomes thinner, more fragile, elastic, and drier with time.
For wheelchair users, bed sores commonly occur on areas of the body that press against the wheelchair, like the tailbone, buttocks, shoulder blades, spine, and the backs of arms and legs.
For those who are confined to bed rest, bed sores are more common on the head, the rims of the ears, shoulders and shoulder blades, hips, lower back, tailbone, heels, ankles and the skin behind the knees.
Potential Complications of Bed Sores
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, chronic bedsores can lead to other medical conditions that can be serious or life-threatening. Some of these include:
- Cellulitis, an inflammation of the skin and connective tissues, can occur in those with bedsores. Cellulitis can lead to meningitis, a serious condition that affects the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain.
- Bone and joint infections can occur when an infection from a pressure sore burrows into the joints and bones. Also known as septic arthritis, these infections can damage cartilage and tissue and severely reduce the function of joints and limbs.
- Cancer can develop from chronic pressure sores, which can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, destructive cancer that usually requires surgery.
- Sepsis, a bacterial infection of the bloodstream or body tissues, can occur when bacteria enters the victim’s bloodstream via the open bedsores. While this is a rare side effect of bedsores, it can spread quickly throughout the body and result in life-threatening organ failure or other serious issues.
Types of Bed Sores
There are four major classifications of bed sores, ranging from least severe (Stage 1) to most severe (Stage 4):
Stage 1: A persistent area of skin redness (without a break in the skin) that does not disappear when pressure is relieved
Stage 2: A partial thickness is lost and may appear as an abrasion, blister or shallow crater
Stage 3: A full thickness of skin is lost, exposing the subcutaneous tissues; this type of sore presents as a deep crater with or without undermining adjacent tissue
Stage 4: A full thickness of skin and subcutaneous tissues are lost, exposing muscle and/or bone
Preventing Bed Sores
There are steps staff members in nursing homes can take to reduce the risk of bed sores for residents. Some of these include:
- Frequent repositioning of wheelchair users and those who are confined to a bed for long periods of time to avoid stress on the skin
- Regular monitoring of bedridden patients and wheelchair users to catch potential sores before they become acute or infected
- Providing pads or other protection for areas of the body that may be prone to developing bed sores
- Proper skin care that includes the entire body
- Good overall nutrition
If you suspect that a loved one is suffering from bedsores, or any other condition as a result of nursing home neglect, contact us immediately for a free consultation.