A widespread and common misconception is that bedsores are a regular part of life in a nursing home. Rather, bed sores are an indication of nursing home neglect here in Illinois and anywhere else they occur.
Bedsores, often called pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or pressure injuries, are injuries to the skin and underlying soft tissues that happen due to prolonged weight or pressure being applied to the same area. While able-bodied individuals are capable of regularly moving around, those with limited mobility or limited physical skills may be forced to remain stationary far more often, allowing the same parts of their body to support their weight.
Bedsores commonly form on patients who spend a great deal of time lying or resting in a bed or who must use a wheelchair to ambulate around a facility. As the same areas of a patient’s body regularly touch a bed when lying or a wheelchair when sitting, the skin at these sites can begin to deteriorate, leading to a bedsore or other harm.
It is the responsibility of a nursing home and its employees to treat patients in a manner that prevents bedsores from happening in the first place. This can be done by regularly moving patients, practicing regular turns at specified intervals, and making sure that patients move about during their day. If a bedsore does develop, it is critically important that treatment begin immediately to help the bedsore heal and to make sure a patient is caused as little pain and inconvenience as possible.
Pressure sores are described by the stage that they fall into with Stage I considered the mildest form and Stage IV the most severe. Stage I sores show a redness and irritation on the skin itself but the skin remains unbroken. By the time a pressure sore progresses to Stage II, the outer layer of the skin may be disturbed or missing and the sore may look like a blister either before or after popping. A Stage III pressure sore is a deep wound that may have dead tissue at the bottom. It often resembles a crater and can be quite deep with fat exposed around the sore. If a pressure sore progresses to Stage IV, there may be a large-scale loss of tissue with bone and/or muscle exposed. The wound may be greater below the surface and may extend beyond layers of healthy skin.
When a pressure sore is present, it must be cleaned regularly. Failing to clean a wound may allow bacteria to grow and the area to become infected. In those with weakened states to begin with, sepsis is a real possibility if a bedsore is not kept in a clean and sanitary state. After cleaning a bedsore, a dressing should be applied to help the area remain clean and to promote healing of the wound.
If a bedsore is significant, it may need to be debrided which is a medical process to remove dead tissue. By removing the dead tissue, new tissue can grow and can begin to close the wound. As the same time as other treatments, steps should be taken to remove pressure from the area affected so that more pressure does not cause the bedsore to remain or even worsen. The use of pillows, cushions, or even alternative ways of sitting or lying can help to relieve some of the pressure experienced by nursing home patients so that healing can continue.
If your loved one has a bedsore or a pressure sore in the Chicago area, make sure you have a full understanding of whether that sore is a sign of neglect and what legal rights your loved one may possess.
Prior Blog Entry:
Falls are Often Fatal in Illinois Nursing Homes, Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog, published May 31, 2016.
Bedsores (pressure sores), Mayo Clinic, published December 13, 2014.