Bedsores Can Kill Nursing Home Residents
When we think of ways that our loved ones can potentially be injured in nursing homes, we often think of active abuse, such as staff hurting our loved ones, or of staff allowing loved ones to fall. But one of the most serious and deadly injuries that happens in a nursing home is actually a product of staff doing nothing at all: The decubitus ulcer, or as it’s commonly known, the bed sore.
Why and How Do Bedsores Form?
Sadly, many nursing home residents are immobile, if not completely, for large time periods throughout the day.
You wouldn’t think that the act of being still, laying in bed can be dangerous, but it actually can be very dangerous. That’s because when the body lies on a surface, like a bedsheet, for extended periods of time with little or no movement, the contact and friction between the skin and the bedding, combined with moisture, sweat or salts our body excretes, can open the skin and start an ulcer or bed sore.
One place where this tends to happen very often is in the tailbone area, which tends to be very still even when other parts of the body may be slightly mobile. An elderly person can use their arms, but never move the tailbone region. This region can remain in constant contact with the bedding below, wearing away skin.
Hard to Detect
Worse, the parts that develop the ulcer, tend to be hidden from plain view, underneath the patient. Inattentive staff can easily miss an ulcer, until it is too late. Even the patient, who may have nerve damage, or be on medicine that dulls pain response, may not even know that they have a decubitus ulcer developing.
Stages of Ulcers
Bed sores vary and are ranked according to how serious they are. At the lowest range is Stage 1, which may be some irritation and a reddening of the skin. Compare this with a Stage IV ulcer, which is an open wound, often with bone, tissue or muscle exposed. Surrounding tissue may be infected or dead. Even the inside of the body may be worn down, after excessive exposure. Bone may also be exposed to the outside world.
If the wound itself isn’t enough to kill a patient, the resulting infection can be; sadly, by the time infection from a bed sore is realized, it is often too late.
How to Avoid Ulcers
Today, many nursing homes have beds that move the patient automatically, or which adjust pressure points mechanically over a period of time, or which are filled with gels or liquid, all which keeps the body from contacting the mattress below in one place for an extended period of time.
Diligent and attentive staff should be trained to move the patient’s body from time to time, even slightly, to vary up the contact points between the patient’s body and the bed underneath.
Contact the Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Joseph Linnehan, Jr. for help with your personal injury case if you or anybody you love has been a victim of nursing home abuse.