Pressure Sores

Pressure sores are one of the most visible and dangerous results of nursing home neglect. It is the caretaker’s duty to assess risk and implement care methods to maintain skin integrity and prevent breakdown. Pressure sores -- also called bedsores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers -- develop when there has been too much pressure on an area of the body where skin is thinly stretched over a bone, a “bony prominence.” Bedsores are most frequently found on an individual’s heels, tailbone, elbows, and shoulder blades, but can also be found on other areas of the body. Elderly patients are at risk for developing pressure ulcers after admission to care facilities, and a nursing home should take steps to maintain skin integrity and prevent breakdown.

Preventing Pressure Sores

Someone who is entirely immobile should be turned and repositioned every couple of hours in order to prevent pressure sores. The development of pressure sores on any individual may mean that a facility is failing to meet its duty of care to its residents. Pressure sores are often the result of time management tradeoffs made as a result of nursing homes and their corporate overseers looking to maximize profits by downsizing the staff needed to perform essential tasks. For an understaffed facility, repositioning residents who are immobile can unfortunately become a secondary priority, leading to the development of dangerous bedsores.

Consequences of Pressure Sores

At the very least, pressure sores can be extremely painful. At their worst, pressure sores can be fatal. If pressure ulcers are left untreated, they can become infected, weakening an individual’s immune system. The onset of an ulcer’s infection can weaken an already compromised immune system to its breaking point. In addition, deep wounds caused by pressure sores can lead to a bone infection known as osteomyelitis. Often these infections affect parts of the spine or other bony areas that have been left exposed to bacteria because of a pressure sore. Treatment of bone infections is very difficult and often involves surgery to extract infected bone tissue. This can be a painful and potentially deadly process that can easily be avoided by maintaining skin integrity through proper care.

Pressure Sore Assessment

The Braden scale is the most common tool used by doctors to assess the risk of a patient developing bedsores. The Braden scale uses a series of six factors, such as moisture, activity, mobility, and the amount of friction a patient’s skin undergoes, to evaluate a patient’s risk for the development of a pressure ulcer. By performing Braden Scale assessments on a regular basis and implementing appropriate care plans based on the results of these assessments, a nursing home can drastically curb the risk of pressure sores for the patients in their care.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s risk for or actual development of pressure ulcers, ask your healthcare provider questions about their assessment of your loved one’s skin condition. You may even wish to ask about the Braden scale and what polices the facility subscribes to in its risk assessment. It is important that as an advocate for your loved one, you are concerned and informed about the policies and procedures employed by his or her care provider. If you suspect that your loved one is not being properly treated and is at risk of developing pressure sores, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our attorneys have years of experience recognizing the signs of neglect and abuse associated with pressure sores and skin conditions.