Bedsores : a serious medical problem

Bedsores, also referred to as pressure sores and decubitus ulcers, are a serious medical problem. Unfortunately, elderly nursing home residents and hospital patients are typically the ones who develop these sores. Decubitus ulcers are painful and result from prolonged pressure on an area of the body that has a bony prominence and a thin covering of flesh. Examples of common pressure sore areas include the tailbone, heels, elbows, and shoulder blades. Bedsores can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • The presence of moisture due to unchanged adult diapers and wet sheets
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Immobility
  • The failure of nursing care providers to reposition bedridden patients regularly

In order to prevent decubitus ulcers, it is imperative that the resident be turned and repositioned frequently. People that cannot move on their own should be turned and repositioned every two hours in order to prevent skin breakdown.

People who have bedsores suffer immense pain and can even die. In one alarming case, a Pennsylvania nursing home resident suffered a severe decubitus ulcer that was so deep, it penetrated her internal organs and her bowel drained from her hip. She eventually died.

What is more alarming is that most bedsores can be prevented. Additionally, when the sores do develop, most can be cured. Despite this, it is estimated that as many as one-fourth of nursing home residents fall victim to bedsores at some point during their stay. Many elderly nursing home residents are at high risk for developing pressure sores. High risk factors for decubitus ulcers include:

  • Residents aged 75 and older
  • Residents needing help with feeding and those totally unable to feed themselves
  • Residents who have a limited ability to reposition themselves, which may be  caused by physical inability or the use of restraints
  • Residents who cannot sense the need to reposition
  • Residents who are underweight
  • Residents who suffer from decreased mental status
  • Residents with dry skin
  • Residents who are incontinent
  • Residents with special medical conditions, including diabetes, cancer, and multiple sclerosis

The law requires that a nursing home must ensure that a resident does not develop bedsores, unless the resident’s medical condition shows that the bedsores were unavoidable.

Many times, however, the development of bedsores is avoidable, and the reason for their development is the negligence of the nursing home. It is also important to note that the law also requires the nursing home to prevent the progression of any bedsores the resident may have at, or during, admission to the nursing home facility.