Bedsores, also called pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue due to prolonged pressure that limits blood flow to the skin. They most often appear on skin that covers bony parts of the body, such as the back of the head, back, heels, or buttocks. Those most at risk of developing bedsores are people with a medical condition that does not allow them to change positions often, requires them to use a wheelchair, or confines them to bed for prolonged periods of time. Because of this, seniors in nursing homes are at significant risk for bedsores – and it is one of the most visible signs of mistreatment or abuse at the facility.

Bedsores range in stages from I (redness, discoloration, and tenderness of the skin) to IV (exposed muscle or bone, dead tissue that appears yellow or dark, an extension of the wound beyond layers of healthy skin.) Extreme cases of bedsores are classified as unstageable due to the amount of tissue decay and/or blisters that prevent one from telling how far the wound extends. More severe cases of bedsores can result in infection, fever, foul odor or drainage from the sore.

While increased pressure or friction on the skin due to immobility is the leading cause of bedsores, a patient’s hygiene and overall health also play large roles. Dehydration and malnutrition don’t allow the body to heal properly and may impact the skin. In instances of nursing home abuse or neglect, patients have been left in their own feces and urine for prolonged periods of time, which can deteriorate the skin and lead to bedsores. When the pressure on the skin is never relieved and other key components of medical care or neglected, bedsores can lead to further medical complications such as gangrene, infection, sepsis, amputation, or even death.

Often, bedsores are an outward sign of a serious underlying problem with the level of care at a nursing home, due to inadequate staff training, neglect, or intentional abuse. It is the facility’s responsibility to care for them to the highest degree possible. This includes moving patients at regular intervals, maintaining patients’ personal hygiene, changing bedsheets and undergarments regularly (and quickly after they’re soiled), ensuring that patients are hydrated and nourished, and using specially designed mattresses and cushions to relieve pressure points.

It is also important for loved ones to stay vigilant of the warning signs of nursing home abuse and neglect and inform the medical team of any suspicious bruises, sores, or specific complaints from your loved one. Early detection and treatment of bedsores is the key to recovery. Staying involved in your loved one’s care and holding the facility accountable for their responsibilities and staff is also essential to ensuring that your loved one is well taken care of at a nursing home.

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