Bedsores Can Be a Tell-Tale Sign of Nursing Home Neglect

As our population ages, the numbers of elderly people needing full-time care in nursing homes and residential care facilities is rapidly increasing. An increase in residents, however, does not necessarily translate into an increase in the number of caregivers, and the incidence of cases of nursing home abuse and neglect is on the rise. A huge number of those cases involve infirm patients affected by painful and sometimes deadly bedsores.

Bedsores - also known as "pressure sores" or "decubitus ulcers" - are formed when a part of the patient's body remains in contact with the surface of a bed, wheelchair or seat for a prolonged period of time. The pressure causes loss of blood flow to the affected area and eventual tissue death. Once a bedsore appears, if it is left untreated, it can easily become infected, spreading infection to surrounding tissues or throughout the body.

Bedsores commonly appear on the back of the body, and as a result they may remain unnoticed for an extended period of time unless the patient receives adequate care. Pressure points on the body where there is little muscle covering, i.e., the hipbones, elbows, heels, ankles and the base of the spine, are at the highest risk for developing sores.

Fortunately for patients, as far as bedsores are concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure. Proactively taking steps to prevent bedsores is much more effective than trying to treat them later. In order to avoid the pain and suffering associated with bedsores, nursing home staff should:

  • Ensure that immobile and incapacitated patients are moved regularly - even a small shift in position every 15-30 minutes can make a huge difference in preventing bedsores;
  • Maintain proper nutrition for all residents - malnutrition and dehydration reduce the body's natural defenses, increasing the risk of bedsores;
  • Encourage exercise - even immobile patients should receive physical therapy that moves body parts to encourage blood flow and prevent muscle atrophy; and
  • Regularly inspect skin - close examination of patients' skin can reveal problem areas and can ensure that new sores are treated quickly.

Bedsores may seem like a relatively minor issue, but they can be a gateway for infectious diseases to enter the body. If an elderly loved one has been afflicted with bedsores while at a nursing home facility, contact a skilled elder law attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.