What causes bedsores?
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are wounds that occur when blood flow fails to reach a certain area of the body, usually due to prolonged pressure. They often develop on bony points of the body that experience pressure when sitting or lying down for a long period of time such as the shoulder blades, spine, tailbone, heels, and elbows. Bedsores develop when multiple factors coincide to create the perfect storm. Contributing factors include old age, immobility, obesity, friction, incontinence, and neglect. If someone is left in the same position for a long period of time, pressure sores are likely to occur. They can develop in nursing homes or hospitals if the staff does not follow protocols designed to prevent them.
How can I help prevent bedsores?
Every time you visit your loved one, it is a good idea to visually check them for any signs of impending bedsores such as redness, bruising, or small tears in the skin. You can also feel their skin and see if it feels unnaturally warm or cool on the parts of their body exposed to pressure. Changes in temperature and color can be indications of early bedsores. You can also ask them if they feel any numbness or pain on areas of the body that rest against a bed or chair for long periods of time. It may be a good idea to ask hospital or nursing home staff their protocol for preventing bedsores and observe how frequently they reposition your loved one if they are unable to move themselves.
My loved one has bedsores, are they being abused?
It is important to remember that neglect is a form of abuse. Although stage 1 bedsores which are caught early and treated effectively are probably not a sign of abuse, bedsores which progress unchecked or are treated ineffectively clearly point to a larger problem in the quality of care that the victim is receiving. Since treating bedsores is a time-consuming and detail-oriented process, some caretakers may shirk their duties or perform them insufficiently. In addition, if multiple patients within a facility need attention, there may not be enough staff to complete all necessary duties, despite best intentions. Bedsores are a serious medical issue, especially when the progress past stage 1, and they should always be treated as such.
How should bedsores be treated?
The first step in the treatment of bedsores (or “pressure sores”) should be relieving the pressure from the affected area. This can be difficult if the patient is immobile and not able to move themselves. Caretakers should ideally move the patient every 15 minutes if they are in a wheelchair or every 2 hours if they are in a bed. Additionally, there are special mattresses, pillows, and cushions designed to alleviate pressure and distribute it more evenly. Sores should be washed often with a saline solution, but iodine and hydrogen peroxide should be avoided as they can deteriorate the skin. Stage 3 and 4 bedsores should be treated by a medical professional, as they will require frequent cleanings and dressing changes, along with monitoring for infection in the deep tissue wound.
What happens if bedsores are left untreated?
If caught early, bedsores are entirely treatable and should have no long-term effects. In fact, bedsores should never progress past stage 1. In this stage, the wound is superficial and may feel hot to the touch, but the sore has not invaded underlying tissue. Healing bedsores completely do take time, patience, and diligence because the tissue needs time to heal and regrow, which can be a lengthy process, especially in elderly patients or those with compromised immune systems.
If pressure ulcers are only partially treated, they are likely to return. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, they are left undiscovered or not treated with proper and complete care. In this case, they will continue to progress into stage 2-4 as the wound infiltrates into the dermis, the subcutaneous tissue, and finally the bones, joints, and muscles surrounding the wound. In the final stage, bedsores are much more difficult to treat and extremely vulnerable to infection, which can sometimes be fatal.
What are the long-term effects of bedsores?
Over time, even low-level bedsores can contribute to a general deterioration of health. For example, bedsores often lead to bone, joint and skin infections which can further weaken the body's ability to fight off other illnesses. In general, bedsores may contribute to a victim feeling neglected and ashamed of themselves. In addition, bedsores can limit mobility in older patients, causing depression, loss of muscle mass, and the possibility of more bedsores.
What should I do if I discover bedsores?
If you discover bedsores on a loved one who is staying in a long-term care facility or hospital, there are a few steps you can take. First, inform the staff, if they are unaware of the condition and you trust them to care for the patient. If they seem unconcerned or do not call a physician to evaluate the patient, it is best to try and get your loved one to a doctor as quickly as possible so they can check the extent of the wounds and advise the best possible course of treatment. Finally, if you believe the sores may have developed due to a pattern of neglect, consider contact an elder abuse lawyer.
Who is responsible for the development of bedsores?
Multiple parties may have contributed to the development of bedsores. Although an individual staff person may have neglected a particular patient, hospitals and nursing homes are responsible for vetting, hiring, and training their staff in the proper protocols of bedsore prevention.
Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Bedsores?
If staff is failing to perform these duties, the facility itself is often liable for their actions. Attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian are committed to holding these institutions responsible and therefore work extensively in defending victims of medical malpractice and elder abuse. For a free consultation on your case, call them today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online.