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For nursing home residents, bedsores may become deadly

Whether due to physical or mental disability, nursing home residents may have to spend much of their time confined to a bed or wheelchair. Unfortunately, patients with prolonged immobility issues may develop painful, progressively worsening sores.

Also called pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers, bedsores are a type of skin condition that can develop quickly but may take weeks or months to heal. Without proper attention from residence staff, the condition may even become deadly, especially for vulnerable patients.

What causes bedsores?

Bedsores occur when pressure from sitting or lying down cuts off the blood supply to the skin for more than 2 to 3 hours. Depending on whether the patient is primarily bed- or wheelchair-bound, pressure ulcers may develop on the hips, tailbone or buttocks area, the back or sides of the knees, at the shoulder blades, on the back of the head or on the heels of the feet.

What should staff do to prevent pressure ulcers?

In addition to maintaining a regular schedule for turning or readjusting immobile patients, caregivers should make sure to monitor individuals for new wounds and keep sensitive skin areas clean and dry.

What may happen if bedsores go untreated?

When a bedsore first appears, the area may become red, inflamed and itchy. Left untreated, the sore may blister or scrape to become an open wound. In addition to presenting a high risk of infection, damage from the ulcer at later stages may extend to the muscle, joints and even bone.

While bedsores are common in nursing home settings, they are also preventable with the right level of care. If poor staffing, poor staff training or poor residence management has led to deteriorating health on the part of a resident, the nursing home may be responsible for providing medical and other legal compensation.