Bed sores are a common sign of nursing home neglect and abuse. When the skin sustains pressure for a prolonged period of time, injuries form on the skin and underlying tissues. These injuries are bedsores and can also be called pressure sores, pressure ulcers or their medical name – decubitus ulcers. The elderly have an increased risk of developing bedsores, especially those who have medical conditions that prohibit freedom of movement and mobility. Nursing home staff should be on the lookout for a variety of risk factors that can promote the development of bedsores in residents. Some examples of risk factors include:
Advanced age and moisture content of the skin
As people age, the skin becomes more fragile and is less elastic than it was during youth. The skin can also lose its ability to hold water so the skin is drier and more prone to cracking. Also, the lack of hydration in the skin makes it difficult for new skin cells to grow and revitalize the skin. While moisturizing the skin can help, sometimes it is not enough. However, too much moisture can also be bad for the skin. For instance, when skin is too moist for too long, such as from exposure to sweat or urine in bedding material, it can cause problems with skin and tissue integrity. The skin becomes overly saturated, and more fragile, especially if the skin is normally too dry. Dry cracks in the skin that are then supersaturated by moisture are more likely to crack and rupture. Elderly residents who have difficulty moving are at a higher risk of developing bed sores because they are unable to shift position, and further, moisture that is trapped against or near the skin is not able to properly dry.
Reduced sense of awareness or a lack of sensory perception
A variety of injuries and neurological conditions can result in a decreased sense of awareness or sensory perception, which can include an inability to detect pain. Commonly, spinal cord injuries or damage to the brain resulting from a stroke can produce a loss of sensation in an individual. Bedsores result when a person is unable to detect or feel pain. Normally, the brain uses the detection of pain as an indicator that something is wrong and that the body is in danger of harm or is suffering harm. When a person’s pain detection mechanism is malfunctioning, a person is unaware that a sore is developing and the person needs to change positions to prevent further harm. Additionally, certain mental conditions can also affect whether a person can detect pain. Some medications can make a person not feel pain, or not care about pain. Ignoring pain indicators can cause more damage to the affected tissues.
Inadequate nutrition and/or hydration
As mentioned previously, skin loses its ability to retain water, but adequate hydration and nutrients can help maintain and promote healthy skin and prevent the breakdown of dermal tissues. A healthy diet with the appropriate balance of protein, vitamins and minerals will also help. If an elderly individual is not properly fed or hydrated, it can have a serious impact on their body’s ability to maintain healthy skin and dermal tissue. If nursing home staff notices that a resident is not eating or is improperly hydrated, the staff should take immediate action to correct the situation.
Contact us for help
If you notice signs of bed sores on your loved one, it is a sign of nursing home abuse and neglect and needs to be dealt with immediately. Please contact the Rooth Law Firm for guidance on what you should do.