Decubitus Ulcers or Bed Sores: What Are They, and How do They Happen?

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, there are a lot of things that you may be concerned about. Many of those things involve an action or an activity. For example, you may be concerned about abuse, or malpractice, or that your loved one will be allowed to get out of bed when he or she really isn’t able to.

Residents in North Carolina that have a loved one victimized by nursing home abuse should connect with a North Carolina nursing home abuse attorney today to find out more about their options.

Not Moving at All Can be Dangerous

One thing you usually won’t be too worried about is whether your loved one is moving too little. Laying in bed without being moved sounds like the most harmless activity of all. However, for nursing home residents, it actually can be one of the most dangerous, and it is a leading killer of the elderly in nursing homes.

Bed Sores Can be Deadly

Bad sores—sometimes called decubitus ulcers—are silent killers. A decubitus ulcer happens when skin is in prolonged contact with a surface—in a nursing home bed, that surface would likely be a bed sheet, but it could also be a chair, for those who may be partially paralyzed. When skin is pressing against a surface for an extended period of time, the skin can start to break down.

In our lives, we rarely press our skin, immobile, against a single surface, for an extended period of time. We move even when we’re sleeping. But imagine that, for example, your elbow was to press with all your body weight against the car door handle in your car, or the center armrest, not moving, for hours or days. You can imagine that the skin on your arm or elbow would start to break down.

Types of Bedsores

That’s exactly what happens to a nursing home patient, immobile, in a bed. The area most affected is the tailbone area, which tends to be in constant contact with the bedsheets underneath when a patient is lying face up.

Even if other parts of the body appear mobile, such as arms or legs, the tailbone can often be in the same place, for hours or days. This is true if the patient is not attended to, and moved properly.

Bed sores are ranked by their severity, based on how badly the area under pressure has broken down. Bed sores can be so severe, as to expose tissue and bone if the skin and surrounding tissue break down enough. On top of the inherent dangers of having the body’s internal workings completely exposed, and rubbing against a sheet, is the natural risk of infection; the parts of the body in contact with the sheets are protected, warm, and moist, perfect breeding grounds for infection.

Add all of this to the fact that a nursing home patient may have other complications, like peripheral artery disease, poor immune systems, or compromised health, and you can see why a bed sore can quickly turn deadly.

Bed Sores are Often Hidden Killers

What makes decubitus ulcers even more deadly, is that they are often hidden. Loved ones who visit someone may not even look at their loved ones’ tailbone or lower back areas; on the surface, the patient may appear as normal as he or she has ever been. Many patients, if they have nerve damage, or are on pain medications, may not even feel pain around the ulcer to report to others.

Some residents may appear active, mobile, and alert, but they may be partially immobile, such as someone who is partially paralyzed. Staff, family, and others may not even realize that the person’s lower body is in constant contact with the chair or seat or the bed, and think to move the person around, or check them for ulcers.

Avoiding Decubitus Ulcers

Many responsible nursing homes today know to check for ulcers and to move patients on a regular basis. Many will keep logs or charts of how often an immobile patient is moved.

Some nursing homes even have beds that will move on their own periodically, so as to alter the pressure points of the body’s contact with the bed underneath (something you may want to ask about when you are selecting a nursing home).

Especially for immobile patients, skin should be regularly cleaned, washed, and moisturized. Any red sport or hardened area should be attended to immediately.

Contact Our Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys Today

Nursing home patients are amongst the most vulnerable. At Gugenheim Law, we can help you if a loved one has been injured, neglected, or abused in a nursing home. Fill out our contact form today to have your case reviewed by our team and get started.

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