As we entrust the care of our loved ones to nursing homes, ensuring their well-being becomes a top priority. One common and preventable issue that often arises in long-term care facilities is the development of bedsores. Also known as pressure ulcers, these painful wounds can lead to severe complications if left untreated.
This article will discuss effective strategies to prevent and identify bedsores in nursing home residents. By being proactive and vigilant, you can help maintain the comfort and health of your loved ones during their stay in a nursing home.
What are Bedsores?
Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are localized injuries to the skin and underlying tissues caused by prolonged pressure on specific areas of the body. Typically, they develop in individuals who are immobile or have limited mobility.
Common areas prone to bedsores include the back, heels, hips, and elbows. These wounds can progress through four stages, each indicating increasing severity.
The skin is red and mildly irritated in stage one, but there are no open wounds. Patients with darker skin tones may notice an area that looks different from the skin around it and will appear discolored (but it may not be red). Skin temperature will be warmer than the surrounding skin, and the only other symptoms are pain and redness, which doesn’t get lighter when you press on it.
Stage one bedsores can be treated by keeping pressure off the area and cleaning the area with soap and water. Be sure to pat the skin dry so it doesn’t stay moist.
In stage two, the skin will wear away and break open. Areas where ulcers are found will be tender and painful as the ulcer has extended into deeper layers of the skin.
During this stage, some skin will be lost. Treatments include soaking the wound in saline, and dead tissue must be removed so the ulcer can heal. This process can take several weeks to heal fully.
Stage three bedsores are deeper than stage two and extend deeper into the skin. You may notice a small, visible crater with fatty or dead tissue. At this stage, tendons and bones are not involved.
The dead tissue must be removed at this point, and the wound should be dressed to protect against infection. Unfortunately, bedsores are hard to treat at this stage, especially if the pressure isn’t relieved from the affected area.
This is the most severe stage. In stage four, the bedsore is extremely deep and affects bone, muscles, and other connective tissue. The tendons can be damaged to the point where they will not heal, and there is a lot of dead tissue in the wound that will typically have to be removed by surgery so the remaining tissue can heal.
At this stage, dressings must be applied to the wounds, and there can not be any pressure placed on these areas so the wound can heal completely. Stage four bedsores are difficult to treat and are very prone to infection.
Preventing bedsores requires a comprehensive approach involving the nursing home staff and family members. Here are some essential prevention strategies:
- Frequent Position Changes — Encourage regular repositioning of your loved one, ensuring that no single area of the body remains under pressure for an extended period. Aim for position changes every two hours or as the healthcare provider recommends.
- Proper Nutrition and Hydration — Adequate nutrition and hydration promote healthy skin. Ensure your loved one receives a well-balanced diet, including protein-rich foods, vitamins, and minerals. Hydration is equally important, so encourage regular fluid intake.
- Optimal Skin Care — Keep your loved one’s skin clean and moisturized. Regularly inspect the skin for any signs of redness, tenderness, or discoloration, and report them promptly to the nursing home staff.
- Cushioning and Support — Provide appropriate cushions, padding, and mattresses to relieve pressure on vulnerable areas. This may include foam overlays, pillows, and specialty mattresses designed to distribute pressure evenly.
- Regular Exercise and Mobility — Encourage supervised movement and gentle exercises suited to your loved one’s abilities. Physical activity improves blood circulation, reducing the risk of bedsores.
Despite preventive measures, bedsores can still develop. Therefore, it’s crucial to identify them early to initiate prompt treatment. Watch for the following signs:
- Skin Discoloration — Look for patches of redness, bluish or purplish areas, or discoloration that does not fade when pressure is relieved.
- Swelling and Tenderness — Notice any swelling, warmth, or tenderness around certain areas of the body, especially the bony prominences.
- Skin Texture Changes — Look for skin that feels unusually firm, spongy, or bumpy. It may also appear shiny or dry.
- Open Wounds — If you notice any breaks in the skin, including shallow sores, blisters, or ulcers, seek immediate medical attention.
- Pain and Discomfort — Pay attention to signs of discomfort or pain expressed by your loved one, as bedsores can be quite painful.
Communicating with the Nursing Home
Communicating with the nursing home staff is vital. Share your concerns about preventing bedsores and ensure they are aware of your expectations.
Regularly inquire about your loved one’s condition and any changes in their skin health. If bedsores are identified, discuss treatment options and request updates on their progress.
Turn to Pullano & Siporin If Your Loved One Has Suffered Due to Nursing Home Neglect
Implementing preventive measures reduces the risk of bedsores, and identifying bedsores at an early stage will ensure timely intervention and minimize complications. By staying vigilant, communicating effectively, and actively participating in your loved one’s care, you can help maintain their comfort, health, and overall well-being during their stay in a nursing home.
When you place a loved one in a nursing home, you assume they will receive exemplary treatment from knowledgeable healthcare professionals. But unfortunately, nursing home neglect has become a national epidemic. We have decades of experience protecting the rights of injured victims.
At Pullano & Siporin, we have decades of experience protecting the rights of injured victims. Coupling our experience with our commitment to every client, and extensive knowledge of the law, we have a history of success and record-setting victories.
If your loved one has experienced nursing home neglect, we can help. Contact us today.