Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are a serious concern for the aging population. The elderly are more at risk for bedsores because they are less mobile, often confined to beds and wheelchairs. Bedsores, which affect nearly 2.5 million people nationwide each year, are localized injuries to the skin and underlying tissue as a result of pressure and/or friction. The injury often occurs near a bony prominence, such as the sacrum, coccyx, heel, or hip, and less often, near the elbow, knee, or ankle. If left untreated, bedsores can lead to infection and, in severe cases, necessitate amputation or lead to death.
Patients and nursing home care providers in Naperville and throughout Illinois can and should take certain measures to either prevent bedsores, or to aid in healing once they have already developed. It is thought that bedsores are far easier to prevent than to treat. If the patient and nursing care providers are pro-active, bedsores are almost always preventable. What steps can be taken to prevent bedsores? First and foremost, bed-ridden patients should be turned or repositioned at least every two to four hours to redistribute pressure. If the entire body cannot be turned, limbs can be repositioned to the extent their joints will allow. Pressure-redistribution mattresses, which elevate certain parts of the body to relieve pressure on other parts, may be used. For the wheelchair bound patient, redistribution should occur every 15 minutes, if the patient is able to reposition without assistance, and at least once each hour for those that require assistance. Cushions, similar to pressure-redistribution mattresses, can also be used to relieve pressure and to ensure proper positioning.
The patient’s skin surface condition should be monitored for excess humidity and dampness. Mattress pads that specifically address this concern are available. Other general concerns, such as malnutrition, smoking, and age, can also affect prevention and inhibit recovery. Malnutrition, for example, can change the skin’s properties and cause it to be more susceptible to friction and deterioration. Adequate nutrition, including protein and vitamin C levels, and hygiene will help to reduce the risk of bedsores. For more information, go to the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.
Long-term care facilities should maintain programs to avoid bedsores among bed-ridden patients and incorporate bed turning into their daily schedules. Quality care is needed to control the heat and moisture levels on skin surfaces. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) in conjunction with the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (EPUAP) has published a comprehensive guideline on the prevention and treatment of pressure ulcers.
Nursing homes may be liable to the family or person injured by bedsores. If you or a loved one resides in a long-term care facility that you believe has failed to take certain measures to prevent or treat bedsores, you contact Naperville nursing home attorneys at John J. Malm & Associates immediately to further discuss your rights and a possible means of redress.