Bedsores — or decubitus ulcers — are unfortunately a common reality in nursing homes and other care facilities throughout New Mexico. Bedsores are potentially serious injuries that can become infected and threaten a patient’s life.
However, it is possible for nursing home staff to intervene well before a bedsore becomes infected. Bedsores are preventable, and bedsores are very treatable when detected early enough.
What causes bedsores?
When elderly patients become immobilized, either due to physical degeneration or dementia, the pressure of sitting or lying on certain parts of their very fragile skin can cause bedsores to form. In fact, the earliest stages of a bedsore can begin over a single shift at a nursing home even in patients who are receiving proper medical care.
In many cases, bedsores form when a patient’s body weight presses the skin against parts of the bed that are firm, such as metal bars beneath the mattress. This pressure prevents circulation of blood to the skin, causing injury to the skin cells. It is important for nursing home staff to move patients so the pressure is relieved and blood circulates to the skin.
For people in beds, bedsores often form over the shoulder blades, spine, lower back, tailbone, hip, elbows and heels. For people in wheelchairs, bedsores often form on the bottoms of the feet and the buttocks.
How neglect factors into bedsores
At the beginning of each shift, the nurse or nursing assistant in charge of caring for the patient should do a skin integrity check and chart the impressions. When this is done at every shift, potential bedsores can be duly noted and treatment initiated.
However, if skin checks are skipped and no treatment is begun on the bedsore, it will quickly worsen and fester, progressing to stages that clearly indicate the patient is not receiving the treatment they need.
What if you believe the nursing home is neglecting your loved one?
The kindest thing that you can do for a loved one in a nursing home is to visit and maintain a presence in their lives. Pay attention to their conditions and question staff about any worsening sores or unexplained bruises. If your questions are not satisfactorily answered, you may need to take legal action against the nursing home to protect your loved one’s well-being and that of other nursing home residents.