For individuals who are confined to bed for long periods of time, bedsores can be a very real, and sometimes even deadly problem. Bed sores, sometimes called pressure ulcers, are open sores on the skin that result from prolonged pressure on a bony area of the body, such as the hips, elbows, shoulders, or knees. When left untreated such ulcers can develop into open wounds, startlingly large and deep, and in extreme cases can lead to the patient’s death.
Sadly, such deaths and health complications are not so rare these days, as hospitals and nursing homes are sometimes poorly equipped to give each patient the treatment or preventative care that’s needed to fight bedsores. Recently, there have been several cases of bed sores getting out of hand in which the patient or their family has actually sued their caregivers for neglect, malpractice, or even abuse!
Don’t let it come to this. If you or a loved one are in a position where there’s a risk of developing pressure ulcers, it’s important to know the warning signs, how to treat and prevent them, and what to do if you feel you’re not receiving adequate care.
The development of bed sores can be divided into four stages.
- The skin is reddened and painful, and does not lose color briefly when you press your finger to it (as it would in a healthy person.) The skin temperature is often warmer.
- The skin breaks open or forms a blister, which expands into deeper layers of the flesh. It can resemble a scrape, blister, or shallow crater.
- The sore worsens, extending to the tissue beneath the surface layer of skin, and forms a small crater. A layer of fat may be visible, but not muscle, tendon, or bone.
- The sore deepens, reaching into the muscle and even bone, causing extensive damage to the deeper tissues, tendons, and joints.
Once the severity of pressure sores gets even to the second stage, some of the tissue damage may be irreversible, and so it’s extremely important to catch and prevent early. To do this, ensure that you or your loved one have access to the following things:
Since bed sores develop from sustained pressure on a single area, it’s important to make sure that the patient’s position in bed is changed frequently. This can be done by using a trapeze bar for the patient to pull themselves up and reposition, or by ensuring that the hospital or nursing staff are diligent in shifting the patient’s position frequently.
In addition to making sure the patient is moved regularly, adjusting the kind of bedding their lying on can both prevent and treat pressure sores. Extra cushioning can help protect bony areas susceptible to bed sores. These come in foam, sheep skin, polyester, and often include pressure or air pumps with the purpose of redistributing pressure over the body. These pumps are also designed to change the patient’s position in order to prevent new sores and give the old ones a chance to heal.
Many of the lawsuits carried out over bed sores cite hospital or nursing home neglect as one of the primary complaints. To avoid this, make sure that the facilities and staff wherever you or your loved one happen to reside are attentive, caring, and knowledgeable. If you feel they aren’t providing adequate care, don’t wait until it’s too late to tell someone!
There’s no question that bed sores can be a very serious and painful condition, and leaving them untreated is no joke. But with constant vigilance and proper care, you can avoid the pain and tragedy that has affected so many who were unprepared.
About the Author: Elena Watson is a blogger for pressure prevention supplier JustHomeMedical.com and a student at Bard College. She spends her time researching and writing about health care, particularly child and senior wellness.