Bed sores are often called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers. These sores originate at points of pressure caused by bony protuberances against the tissue of the body. They develop inside-out, so that once the wound opens through the outer layer of skin, it is a full blown ulcer and very susceptible to infection. These wounds range in severity from mild such as skin reddening to severe which are deep craters that go down through the muscle to the bone.
Bedsores can develop quickly and treatment is often difficult – especially among elderly patients. These ulcers tend to be very difficult to heal, requiring a continuous effort to relieve the pressure between the bone and the exterior of the body. Unfortunately, nursing home residents with limited mobility, who are confined to the bed or chair, are uniquely at risk for suffering these injuries. Other risk factors include the loss of bowel or bladder control causing the skin to be irritated from friction caused by the bed sheets, moisture, poor nutrition, and decreased mental awareness or dementia.
When nursing home residents suffer bedsores, it is often as a result of negligent or abusive treatment on the part of staff members or nursing home administrators. In many cases, untrained or incompetent nursing home employees simply overlook the symptoms such as skin discoloration, tenderness and pain in the affected area. Often times, many older persons are unable to verbalize that they are either uncomfortable in a certain position or are experiencing pain.
When these sores are not properly treated, complications such as wounds that may not heal can develop or worsen. If your family member is in a nursing home, it is important that you are able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a bedsore that may be developing. The signs include: skin that does not get lighter (blanching) when you touch it and apply pressure and then release this pressure. This blanching means that the skin is being starved of nutrients and oxygen due to the prolonged pressures. When the skin is deprived of nutrients and oxygen for too long, the tissue dies and a pressure ulcer begins to form.
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