What Are Bed Sores?
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, are a common nursing home injury and a warning sign of nursing home abuse. Bed sores occur when a person sits or lies in one position for too long and the weight of their body against the surface of the bed, chair, or wheelchair cuts off blood supply. If you have a loved one that lives in a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania nursing home, stay vigilant and attentive to their physical needs and watch for any sign of these types of injuries. Whether it happens intentionally, as the result of negligence, or even due to a malicious act – each of these causes constitutes illegal nursing home abuse.
How To Spot Bed Sores
Bed sores commonly form on the parts of the body where nursing home residents have the least amount of muscle or fat. When the bone is close to the skin’s surface, bed sores can form. The most common locations where they form include:
- Shoulder Blades
What Causes These Injuries?
Immobilization is the number one cause of bed sores. When surgery, injury to the spinal cord, or illness cause immobility, the pressure to certain areas of the body will increase and bed sores can start to form. They have been known to show up after as little as 12 hours of immobility. Sitting still in a wheelchair and lying still in a bed create a stagnant environment where bed sores can crop up.
Friction is another cause of these injuries, and often a sign of nursing home abuse. Friction to the skin can happen when elderly patients are moved too quickly or violently. Thin, fragile skin will break down and bed sores can result.
Bed Sore Stages
When doctors diagnose bed sores, they may describe the severity in stages. The earlier a bed sore is found, the better the chances are it will heal quickly. If you suspect your loved one has a bed sore, immediately contact their physician to have it treated. When graded in stages, they are classified as follows:
Stage 1: This is the mildest stage, as stage one bed sores only affect the upper layer of skin. Symptoms can include pain, itching, and burning skin. The spot may feel different from the surrounding skin by being harder or softer, warmer or cooler, and/or having slight discoloration. This stage is the easiest to treat. Recovery can be seen in as little as two to three days if treated properly by a doctor.
Stage 2: In this stage, the bed sore digs deeper below the surface of the skin and creates an open wound or blister that is very painful. It is important to have a doctor diagnose and treat the wounds at this stage or they may become infected. Recovery can take anywhere from three days to three weeks.
Stage 3: In stage three, bed sores penetrate all layers of skin and gone into the fat tissue of the body. A sore will look like a crater and may have a bad odor. Infection may be present, with symptoms including red edges, pus, heat, bad odor, and/or drainage. If the tissue around the sore has turned black, it has died. This stage is serious and must be treated quickly. A doctor may remove dead tissue and prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. Stage three may also require a special bed to prevent pressure on certain spots on the body for too long. Recovery is long and can take at least one month and up to four months or more to heal.
Stage 4: The most serious stage, stage four bed sores are so deep that they can affect muscles and ligaments. This is also the deadliest stage, as infection has set in and the body may be unable to support itself. The sore will be deep, show signs of infection and necrosis, and you may be able to see muscles, tendons, or bone. This type of bed sore requires immediate medical attention and possible surgery. Stage four can take months to years to heal.
Potential Medical Complications
While bed sores are painful and difficult to treat, they can also cause other serious medical conditions, including:
- Joint and Bone Infection: These types of infections develop along with stage three and four bed sores. Also known as septic arthritis, they not only damage cartilage and tissues, they can severely restrict joint function and body movement.
- Cancer: When an individual has chronic bed sores, they can develop squamous cell carcinoma which is a destructive type of cancer that almost always requires surgery.
- Cellulitis: This is an inflammation of the connective tissue that can lead to meningitis – a deadly condition if not treated quickly.
- Sepsis: When bacteria is able to enter the bloodstream via open bed sores, it can lead to sepsis. This condition causes the body to turn on itself and quickly leads to life-threatening organ failure.
How To Prevent Bed Sores
Competent medical providers will have a prevention plan ready for any nursing home resident with risk factors. Only a negligent, abusive nursing home employee would ignore a patient’s risks.
Common Steps in Prevention:
- Regular Repositioning. Moving the body every two hours in bed, or every thirty minutes in a wheelchair.
- Leg Support. Avoid lying directly on hip bones and/or the tailbone by supporting the patient’s legs with a foam pad or leg rest.
- Special Mattress. A high quality, supportive mattress. Memory foam, air mattress, or an adjustable firmness bed should be chosen for at-risk residents.
- Inspection. Routine inspection is the number one way to detect these sores. Early detection and changes to a bed sore prevention plan will keep pressure ulcers from forming. Nursing home care providers should perform proactive, daily inspections of each resident’s body.
If a family member or loved one has suffered from bed sores, you may have a case for nursing home abuse. Negligent nursing homes and nursing home injuries are against the law. Contact Lopez McHugh today to schedule a free appointment with one of our experienced attorneys.