While we expect our loved ones to receive the best care in their nursing home facility, this is not always the case. When neglect or abuse is present, the consequences can be severe and even deadly. One of the more common results of neglect is pressure sores. These develop when there is too much pressure on the skin. Discomfort, pain, and infection can quickly set in.
If you have a loved one in a long-term care facility, it’s a good idea to evaluate their health and wellbeing every time you visit them. If you are able to understand the causes and consequences of pressure sores, you’ll be able to assist in the prevention of them.
What Causes Pressure Sores in Nursing Homes?
Pressure ulcers develop when constant pressure is placed on a particular part of the body. That pressure interrupts the blood supply, which can lead to damaged and dying tissues. The lack of blood also means the skin no longer receives infection-fighting white blood cells – which is why infection is common with pressure sores. There are several factors that increase the risk of nursing home residents developing these injuries.
- Limited Mobility. Nursing home staff are supposed to ensure their bedridden patients are frequently moved. If a resident is paralyzed, has sustained brain damage, has a nerve condition, or has another condition that makes it difficult to move their joints and bones, they are at risk for developing pressures sores.
- Poor Nutrition. When a person is severely dehydrated or has difficulty swallowing their food, their body will be unable to maintain itself. Because of this, they are more susceptible to skin breakdowns.
- Aging. Aging skin is more susceptible to pressure sores because the skin loses elasticity over time, blood flow is reduced, and the amount of fat under the skin tends to decrease.
- Incontinence. Urinary and bowel incontinence can cause areas of the skin to become moist and be more vulnerable to infection.
What Are the Physical Consequnences of Pressure Sores?
Even with the best medical care, an already-formed pressure sore can produce a number of complications, including conditions that can be life-threatening.
- Cellulitis. When infection spreads from the site of the sore to a deeper layer of skin, this is called cellulitis. It is often accompanied by pain, redness, and swelling. If left untreated, the infection could spread to the blood or underlying bone or joint.
- Blood Poisoning. If a person has a weakened immune system and develops a pressure sore that becomes infected, there is the risk that the infection will spread to the blood or other organs. Blood poisoning is a medical emergency. In the most serious cases, septic shock, when damage to multiple organs leads to a large drop in blood pressure, can happen.
- Bone and Joint Infections. If the infection from a pressure sore spreads to the bones or joints, significant damage can happen. In the most severe cases, amputation may be necessary.
- Necrotizing Fasciitis. This serious skin infection causes rapid tissue death. It happens when a pressure sore becomes infected with certain bacteria.
- Gas Gangrene. While rare, this serious infection happens when a pressure sore becomes infected with Clostridium symptoms, including severe pain and rapid swelling of the skin. Surgical debridement is necessary, and amputation may be needed.
How Can Pressure Sores Be Prevented in Long-Term Care Facilities?
Nursing home employees know about the dangers of pressure sores and how to prevent them. Unfortunately, irresponsible facilities neglect their patients’ needs. If you are concerned about your loved one developing pressure sores, ask the facility’s caretakers about the following preventative measures:
- Change positions frequently. Residents who are incapable of moving themselves should be repositioned every couple of hours. This will help to redistribute the pressure.
- Keep skin clean and dry. The cleaner and drier skin is, the less likely sores will develop. Residents who have incontinence issues should be checked on frequently.
- Use a pillow. Pillows put between parts of the body can reduce pressure. They can be beneficial when placed under the tailbone, shoulders, heels, and elbows.
- Encourage exercise. While every resident’s condition is different, it’s important that staff encourage and assist with movement and exercise. Even performing a few range of motion exercises in bed can reduce the risk of pressure sores.
- Provide proper nutrition. Eating a balanced diet can prevent skin damage and assist with the healing process.
If your loved one has been abused or neglected, our Atlanta nursing home abuse lawyers are prepared to help you relocate them to a safer location and seek compensation from the negligent facility to aid with recovery. For more information on how you can take legal action on behalf of your loved one, scheduled a free consultation with us at your earliest convenience.