Is it a ‘given’ that bedsores just come with the territory for nursing home patients?
Absolutely not! Bedsores, also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are almost always preventable. The frequency of bedsores in nursing home patients speaks more to the diminished level of care that exists today, rather than an expected or casual relationship to the aging and frail.
Nursing home patients often have mental or physical health conditions that limit their ability to stand, walk, or even turn themselves in bed. For some, it may be the physical limitations of being confined to a wheelchair.
Long durations of time spent in the same position will cause tissue damage from prolonged pressure and friction on the skin. Bedridden patients who are incontinent are at high risk of forming bedsores and require added due diligence from staff, maintaining a clean, dry environment. The inability of a patient to reposition themselves (for whatever reason) should be addressed within a patient’s comprehensive care plan and updated as necessary with clearly written instructions.
While bedsores are typically easily treated through proper hydration, hygiene, wound care (including removal of the dead skin) and antibiotics, if left unattended, ulcers can become infected quickly and lead to acute sepsis, amputation and even death.
Prevention is key and requires that nursing home staff be vigilant in patient management; repositioning patients at risk every two hours and ensuring proper hygiene. Sadly, many facilities fail to provide adequate staffing numbers or training necessary for such care.
Bedsores are a warning sign; a high-flying red flag that a patient’s comprehensive care plan needs to be evaluated and changed. Special mattresses are available to help the bedridden patient, but added care to hygiene, repositioning every two hours and aggressive oversight of early ulcerations are a must.