Nursing Homes & Pressure Ulcers: An All Too Common Pairing
Bed Sores. Pressure ulcers. Pressure sores. Decubitus ulcers. Different names for the same sinister, often painful skin condition. Bed sores, unfortunately, occur far too frequently in the nursing home/long term care setting—often because of negligence. Bed sores are caused by pressure against the skin’s surface for a long period of time. Pressure from firm surfaces such as mattresses can cause decreased circulation and skin breakdown. Because long, continued pressure can result in bed sores it is important that nursing homes and hospitals take the appropriate precautions to avoid bed sores.
But how? Bed sores are often avoided when the nurses change the resident’s position frequently, use pressure relieving pads and devices, and using specialty mattresses that oscillate and otherwise reduce pressure.
In the elderly, avoiding bed sores is critical because they can be very difficult to treat and heal once they form. Once formed, the bed sore must be staged by the health care providers. Often forming in the buttocks and tailbone area, sores are assessed by a health care professional and are “staged.” There are four stages, depending on how deep the wound is and how much tissue is involved. Once formed, the nursing home and its doctors and nurses have an obligation to appropriately stage and treat that ulcer.
In my practice, unfortunately, I am consulted by clients that have the worst form of pressure ulcer—Stage 4. The stage four pressure ulcer represents extensive destruction, tissue necrosis, or damage to muscle, bone, or supporting structures. The pressure ulcer requires extensive, exacting care. In stage four ulcers, there may be a deep crater in the sore with significant drainage and pus. A foul odor may be present, and the tissue surrounding the area may be dark purple or black.
If your loved one has reduced mobility and isn’t able to get around like they once did, you need to be aware of the risk factors for developing a pressure sore and avoid its development at all costs. Health care providers also have an obligation to prevent and, if they develop, treat bed sores.
If you have any questions about nursing home care or elder abuse, please feel free to contact me in the office at 410-769-5400. I am always happy to assist with these
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