Bedsores, known medically as decubitus ulcers, occur as a result of prolonged pressure on one part of the body. They can begin to form after as little as 12 hours of pressure, though most bedsores go unnoticed until they start to cause visible skin breakdown.
Bedsores are common in nursing homes, where many of the residents are unable to maintain sufficient mobility without help, but they’re also 100% preventable. Residents’ loved ones should keep an eye out for signs of bedsores, not just so these potentially serious injuries of neglect are caught early enough to facilitate a full recovery but also so that those responsible can be held accountable.
The Stages of Bedsores
Whether family members are planning a lawsuit or just trying to understand what happened to their loved ones, the first step they should take in educating themselves is to learn about the different stages of bedsores and what each of them looks like. There are four stages, with stage one being relatively mild and stage four almost always indicating nursing home neglect or abuse.
Stage One Bedsores
Stage one bedsores involve only the upper layers of the skin because the ulcer has not yet broken its surface, so they involve skin discoloration rather than open wounds. Catching bedsores at this early stage makes them easy to treat, though, and healthcare providers know what to look for. All the staff needs to do is routinely change the person’s position and provide wound care, and the pressure sores should heal within a few days.
Stage Two Bedsores
Stage two bedsores have penetrated the skin’s inner layers and usually form blisters or collect fluid. Identifying pressure sores during this stage still allows patients to heal within a few days if they get the right care.
Stage Three Bedsores
Stage three bedsores are a sign of neglect or abuse. Pressure sores enter this stage when they break into the second layer of skin and fat and start to turn black as a result of infection and tissue death. Patients with stage three bedsores need to be placed on antibiotics and receive supportive treatments to speed up healing and fight off infection.
Stage Four Bedsores
Stage four bedsores are very serious and should always be prevented. They take months to heal and may never completely go away if the affected person suffers from chronic health problems. Stage four bedsores affect muscles and ligaments and can create serious and even life-threatening complications.
Risk Factors for Bedsores
Anyone who remains sedentary for too long can develop bedsores. However, some people are at greater risk than others. Factors that increase the risk of a nursing home resident developing bedsores include:
- Limited mobility
Diseases that decrease blood flow
Spinal cord injuries
Nursing home residents who have one or more of these risk factors should be receiving more advanced care. Those who are unable to shift positions alone should get help from staff and people who are more prone to bedsores should be checked on more often.
What to Do About Pressure Sore Injuries
If loved ones notice their elderly relatives developing bedsores in a nursing home, they should take action immediately. If the sores are very mild, inform the staff to make sure the resident is getting adequate care. If they’re more serious, move the person to a different facility and contact a lawyer regarding how to hold the staff accountable for nursing home neglect.