Bedsores occur all too frequently to residents in a nursing home environment. They are the result of prolonged periods of sitting or lying down without moving and can be a sign of nursing home abuse and/or neglect. Preventing these is relatively easy compared to treatment after a bedsore has occurred.
Preventing Bedsores is Easy
Simple repositioning of an at-risk individual multiple times a day will help greatly in reducing the risk of the resident developing bedsores. Inspection of the resident’s body upon repositioning will help assess whether the particular resident needs to be moved more frequently.
Bedsores develop more rapidly if there are tears in the skin. The slumping or sliding motion causes the bones in the body to slowly move in one direction, while friction on the skin causes the skin to move in the opposite direction from the bones. Taking steps to prevent residents from gradually slumping or slowly sliding down in a wheelchair or bed can prevent the resident from sustaining small tears in the skin that can serve as a site for bedsore formation. It may be surprising, but even a gentle transfer from a bed to a wheelchair can cause a small abrasion to the skin of a resident.
Special mattresses and cushions can be provided to at-risk individuals. These items are now available in a wide variety of materials and patterns, including waffle or egg-carton-shaped foam layers, fiber mattresses, or gel cushions. Air- and water-filled mattresses are also available.
Treatment of Bedsores is Not Easy
Once a bedsore develops, it requires treatment. Of the four stages of bedsores, only the first stage is simple to treat, as repositioning the resident will usually alleviate the stage I sore. The remaining stages, however, can require highly involved treatment regimens.
Debridement: If the wound is bleeding, oozing, or has foreign matter or debris in it, there is a possibility of infection. Also, if the wound is odorous, there may be an infection or dead tissue inside that will require removal by debridement. Surgical debridement is used for the most severe cases of bedsores, in which the dead, infected, or damaged tissue is physically cut or removed from the wound site. Non-surgical debridement can include exposing the wound to a pressurized water stream or soaking it in special water baths.
Cleaning and Dressing: Whether the bedsore is very bad or barely existent, it needs to be cleaned and dressed often, which is a painful occasion since bedsores are open wounds. They are usually cleaned with a saline solution or a mild detergent. Properly dressing the wound prevents new infections from forming within, and helps to keep the wound moist and the surrounding skin dry.
Antibiotics and Pain Management: Infected bedsores may require antibiotics as a course of treatment. The resident or nursing home staff must remember to administer the antibiotics as prescribed. Similarly, the pain associated with the bedsores may require some sort of pain management regimen, whether a topical analgesic or an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs).
If you believe that your elderly loved one is suffering from bedsores in our state’s nursing homes, please call The Rooth Law Firm at (800) 598-4348 or reach out to our attorneys online.
Jeannette Franks, PhD, Bedsores and Personal Care Services
The Mayo Clinic, Diseases and Conditions, Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)