A nursing home neglect lawyer knows that one of the biggest risks for patients who are bedridden or confined to wheelchairs is the development of pressure sores, which are also referred to as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, or bedsores. Elderly people are most susceptible because of the way our skin thins out as we age, combined with their often lack of mobility due to age and/or illness.
What Are Pressure Sores?
Pressure sores develop in areas where the skin has continued pressure from the constant pressure of the contact with a bed, recliner, or wheelchair. When a patient is in the same position, without movement for long periods of time, blood flow and oxygen to that part of the body are greatly reduced. As the cells are deprived of oxygen, they begin to die. This causes the surrounding skin to also begin to die off.
Areas where bedsores generally develop are the area near the tailbone, the buttocks, hips, shoulder blades, elbows, and the heels. Wheelchair-bound patients also can develop bedsores on the back of their arms and legs because of the way the skin rubs against the wheelchair.
A person who is bedridden and at risk for bedsores should be repositioned every two hours. Otherwise, the sores will develop. There are even patients whose skin is so delicate that they can begin developing pressure sores even after just a few hours. If these bedsores are left untreated, dangerous infections can develop and the patient can die.
What Are the Different Stages of Pressure Sores?
When a nursing home is short-staffed, bed-ridden patients are often overlooked and this is how a patient can develop these horrific infections. There are warning signs that bedsores are an issue. Nursing home staff doing their job should not miss these signs.
- Stage I: When a bedsore first begins to develop the skin in the area often becomes red and warm. The skin may also become either hard or soft. At this point, the skin has not been torn, so recovery should be quick if the patient is taken care of and pressure is relieved.
- Stage II: The skin around the wound has now opened and the top layer of the skin is gone. The bedsore is now pink or red and leaves an open welt on the skin.
- Stage III: The damage has now gone deeper through the top layer of skin and may now be deep enough that fat is exposed. The wound color has now gone from pink or red to yellow.
- Stage IV: Much of the tissue around the wound has died. Joints, muscles, tendons, and bones may now be visible. The dead tissue turns black and at this point, infections will likely develop and spread. If the infection enters the patient’s bloodstream, the result can be fatal.