Pressure Sores and Decubitus Ulcers in Nursing Homes

Sadly, preventable pressure sores (also known as decubitus ulcers and bedsores) frequently occur after an elderly person is admitted to a nursing home. What is a pressure sore? It is an area of skin that has broken down because a person has stayed in one position too long without shifting their weight. Constant pressure on one location will reduce blood supply to the area, and the tissue around that area will die. An estimated 17 to 28 percent of nursing home residents will develop at least one pressure sore.

Nursing home residents are frequently unable to turn themselves or move with normal frequency. As a result, they must rely on their caregivers at the nursing home to move them regularly. But too often, nursing home residents just aren’t moved enough.

Bedsores are categorized according to four different stages, from Stage I (the mildest) to Stage IV (the most severe).

Stage I
A reddened area on the skin that does not turn white when pressed. A pressure ulcer is beginning.

Stage II
An open sore or a blister has developed. The skin around the ulcer is often irritated and red.

Stage III
The sore has formed a crater. Damage below the skin can easily be seen.

Stage IV
The sore has become so deep that there is damage to muscle, tissue, bone, tendons, and/or joints.

Pressure sores frequently become infected, and we often hear reports from new clients of a foul odor. Infections can be critically serious. The tissue around the bedsore can become very warm to the touch.

How can bedsores be prevented?
There are a number of things that nursing homes should be doing to prevent pressure sores from developing in their residents. There are also many things that can be done to heal pressure sores before they worsen. Here are a few. First, nursing home residents who are bedridden, or who suffer from diabetes, circulation problems, incontinence, or mental disabilities must be checked for pressure sores daily. Second, they must have their position changed every two hours. Third, items such as pillows and foam products can be used to reduce pressure. Fourth, residents must be provided with enough healthful food and water. Fifth, skin must be kept clean and dry. Sixth, after urination or a bowel movement, make sure the resident’s skin is promptly cleaned and dried.

When a nursing home resident develops pressure sores, it can be a sign of a serious neglect problem. We recommend that you obtain photos of the wound, but first and foremost, the nursing home resident needs active medical intervention to prevent pressure sores from worsening.

If your loved one has developed pressure wounds inside a nursing home, and you would like for us to review your case, call me directly at (803) 808-9600.