The human body was made for all varieties of movement. We have bones, muscles, and joints that provide us with agility and locomotion. We are constantly moving around, whether we are running, walking, or tapping our feet while we sit at our computers. And when elder individuals are afflicted with a condition that leaves them immobile, or with limited mobility, their bodies can sustain damage from the lack of motion and movement. Muscle loss and pressure ulcers, or bedsores, are two of the most common results of elder person immobility or limited mobility. Bedsores are often a sign of nursing home abuse and neglect.
What are Bedsores?
Bedsores occur in areas of the body where there is little to no fat deposit between the skin and the bone. The most common locations on the body where bedsores occur include the coccyx (i.e., the tailbone), shoulders, elbows, heels, and hips. Bedsores are incredibly painful, they take a very long time to heal (even with treatment), and can start to form in as little as 12 hours if the elderly individual is unable to move.
When adequate blood flow is not supplied to an area of the body that is under compression for an extended period of time, the muscle tissue and skin in the compressed area become deprived of oxygen-rich blood. Without oxygen and nutrients supplied by the blood, the tissue cannot survive and will begin to die.
Stages of Bedsores
There are four distinct stages of bedsore development, and each stage is progressively worse than the preceding one:
- In the first stage, an at-risk area of the skin is red, warm to the touch, and may appear irritated. The area may either itch or hurt, as well. The area may appear to be blue or purple-hued in darker-skinned individuals or appear ashen or flaky. At this stage, if the individual is moved and the pressure is relieved from the affected area, these signs will go away on their own
- At the second stage, the affected area begins to sustain actual damage. The area may be discolored, or have developed into an open wound, blister, or abrasion. If recognized at this stage and immediately treated, this stage of bedsores can heal quickly and with little to no complication.
- By stage III, the sore is deep and immensely painful because the bedsore affects both the skin and the underlying muscle tissues. Visually, the third stage of a bedsore appears to be a deep, crater-like wound. Treatment of stage III bedsores is a long process, as this level of damage takes a long time to heal.
- The final stage is the most devastating stage of bedsore, as the damage is very severe and affects the skin and underlying muscle and bone. This stage can even produce damage to tendons or affected joints. Stage IV bedsores can be fatal.
Bedsores can also be a precursor of certain life-threatening complications. For example, when a bedsore becomes infected, the infection can easily spread to the skin causing cellulitis, to the blood causing sepsis, or to the bone causing osteomyelitis.
If you are concerned that a loved one is suffering from bedsores or pressure ulcers while in the care of a nursing home, please contact The Rooth Law Firm for a free consultation at (800) 598-4348.
Sources: Jeannette Franks, PhD, Bedsores and Personal Care Services, available at https://www.aplaceformom.com/caregiver-resources/articles/elderly-bedsores