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Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers, more commonly known as bedsores, affect more that 2.5 million people in the United Stated every year. Pressure ulcers are injuries to skin and underlying tissue that result from prolonged pressure. Seniors may be at risk for developing bedsores because skin becomes more fragile with age making it more susceptible to damage. Risk is heightened if the senior is limited in mobility. It is important to know how to prevent, recognize, and treat pressure ulcers as they can lead to extreme discomfort and complications. If a senior is a resident or patient at a facility that does not take adequate preventative measures, the senior may be at risk for bedsores or pressure ulcers. A facility that neglects its senior patients and residents to the point where they contract bedsores may be committing physical elder abuse.

Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers – Prevention

The key to preventing pressure ulcers is frequent position changes. Position changes must avoid stress on the skin, and position the body in a way that minimizes stress to vulnerable areas where the skin is thin over the bone (e.g. tailbone, shoulder blades, and knees).

For persons confined to a wheelchair or bed, added cushions and/or devices that elevate parts of the body may help reduce stress on the skin. Additionally, it is important to keep the skin clean and free from excess moisture. Urinary or bowel incontinence should be managed to prevent moisture and bacterial exposure to the skin. Nutrition and daily activities may help prevent pressure sores and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Bed Sores/Stage-3 or Higher Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers or bedsores can develop in patients with limited mobility who are confined to a bed or a wheelchair. When a patient who cannot move freely sits or lays in the same spot for long periods of time, the constant pressure from laying in the same position can damage the skin and the tissue underneath the skin.

There are different stages of pressure sores depending upon the extent of damage to the skin and tissue. With stage 1, sores develop but no open wounds are visible. By stage 2, the skin breaks open or an ulcer forms. Both stage 1 and stage 2 can be painful for seniors.

In stage 3, the pressure sore has progressed and is no longer just a superficial sore with an open ulcer or wound. The tissue underneath the skin is damaged and a small crater is formed. Fat may be visible within the sore. If the problem continues to progress to stage 4, the opening will further deepen and muscle and bone will be affected. Deep tissue, joints and tendons can also sustain damage.

While a senior may experience less pain in stages 3 and 4 because the tissue is dead, the risk of permanent damage and life-threatening infection is significantly greater once the pressure sores have reached this stage.

Holding Caregivers Accountable for Stage 3 or Greater Pressure Sores

With proper caregiving, pressure sores should ideally never develop and should never progress to stage 3 or greater. Seniors should be rotated or helped to move frequently by nursing home staff or other caregivers to avoid staying in the same place for too long.  Special pressure-reducing furniture and equipment is often used as well to try to fight the development of pressure sores.

Once these sores begin to form, nursing home staff or caregivers should seek prompt medical attention for a senior to stop the progression of the bedsores. A failure to either prevent bedsores or secure medical aid can be clear signs of negligence that could result in civil liability. A nursing home lawyer at the Evans Law Firm, Inc. should be consulted for help in pursuing a civil action for damages resulting from a caregiver and nursing home’s lapse of reasonable care that caused the advanced pressure sores to develop.

Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers – Recognition

Pressure ulcers are categorized into four stages.

Stage 1 and Stage 2 pressure ulcers may be difficult to detect.

  • Stage 1 ulcers are often signified by redness but the skin remains intact. If skin appears red, there may be a pressure ulcer if the skin does not briefly lighten when touched or if the site of the sore feels more differently (e.g. more painful or firm) than other parts of the skin.
  • Stage 2 ulcers are characterized by the appearance of damage to the skin. Sores may appear as a reddish basin-like wound. Pressure ulcers at this stage may be mistaken for a ruptured fluid-filled blister.

Stage 3 and Stage 4 pressure ulcers are easier to detect because of the severity of damage to the skin.

  • Stage 3 sores are deep crater-like wounds that may expose fat cells.
  • Stage 4 ulcers exhibit total loss of tissue possibly exposing muscle, bone, and tendons.

Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers – Treatment

Stage 1 and Stage 2 pressure ulcers normally heal within weeks with appropriate care. If you or a loved one has symptoms of pressure sores, notify a healthcare professional immediately. Avoid applying pressure to the ulcer and keep the area clean and free from moisture that sits on the skin. Medications for pain management may also be necessary.

Pressure ulcers in Stage 3 and Stage 4 require more intensive care under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Again, treatment begins by relieving the pressure that caused it. Treatment for these sores may include the removal of dead or infected tissues. Removal can be done surgically, with a medical device (e.g. a pressurized irrigation device), or by using natural or chemical enzymes to break down the tissue. Antibiotics and/or pain medications may be prescribed to keep the sore free of infections and keep the senior comfortable.

Schedule a Free and Confidential Consultation if You Think You are a Victim

The Evans Law Firm focuses on elder abuse litigation in California. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered from bedsores due to neglect or lack of care, contact the lawyers at the Evans Law Firm toll free at 1-888-50EVANS for a free and confidential consultation, or email info@evanslaw.com.

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