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Senior Health Issue: Avoiding the Development of Bedsores

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, develop for many reasons and are a sign of nursing home abuse. A bedsore forms in an area of the body where there is too little fat between the skin and the bone to cushion against forces of pressure. The common causes of bedsores include sustaining shearing or friction injury to the skin, too much exposure to moisture, incontinence, not being repositioned frequently enough or the overgrowth of a pathogen or infection in a wound site. Diabetic residents also have a high likelihood of developing diabetic ulcers, which are pressure ulcers that occur on the lower extremities. Bedsores are largely avoidable when the appropriate preventive measures are taken. There are many things that can be done by nursing home residents and care providers alike to avoid the risk of developing a pressure ulcer.

Repositioning and Bracing Immobilized Residents
Immobilized residents, and residents who have limited mobility often rely on nursing staff to reposition their bodies multiple times a day. These residents are at a higher risk of developing bedsores because they have a higher likelihood of sustaining pressure to a localized area of the body for extended periods of time. Bedsores can develop within 12 hours if a person is not repositioned regularly. Nursing staff should be committed to a schedule for each immobilized resident that requires repositioning every 2-3 hours, and a visual inspection of the resident for signs of developing bedsores every 6-8 hours.

Another cause of bedsores is if the skin steadily sustains friction or shearing damage. This can happen if an immobilized resident gradually slides from a sitting position to a lying down position over the course of several unsupervised hours, the movement can cause the resident’s skin that is pinched between his or her body and the surface which he or she is propped up against to tear. These tears are located under a focal point of pressure. These tears also make the skin vulnerable to infection. To help prevent this type of sliding, nursing home staff can use pillows to help prop up or brace the immobilized resident and prevent this gradual sliding from happening. It is also important to prop up the resident’s feet as bedsores commonly develop on the heels. Also, checking on the resident more frequently can also reduce the risk of this type of injury occurring.

A resident who is capable of limited mobility should be encouraged to reposition him or herself, unless doing so would put the resident at risk of harm. Even if the resident can reposition him or herself safely and regularly, nursing staff should visually inspect the resident’s body at least daily to make sure that the resident is moving enough to prevent bedsores from forming. If a resident with limited mobility cannot safely reposition him or herself, nursing staff should provide assistance.

Use Special Mattresses, Cushions, etc.
There are numerous products available to help prevent bedsores for occurring in the first place. For example, special mattresses and cushions are very popular in nursing homes and should be made readily available to those residents who are at risk for developing bedsores. These mattresses and cushions are made from a myriad of materials and are designed to help cushion the body and alleviate or greatly mitigate pressure points.

Residents who are capable of limited movement should be encouraged by nursing staff to frequently adjust themselves in a safe fashion. These residents should also be encouraged to use small pillows or cushions to help provide themselves with better support.

Legal Help
Bedsores indicate a lack of supervision, care and preventative measures taken by nursing home staff to protect residents from avoidable harm. Bedsores are a sign of nursing home abuse and should be taken seriously. For help with elder care planning, feel free to contact our elder law attorneys today.

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