Bedsores -- also known as pressure sores and decubitus ulcers, are one of the most common neglect-related health problems that arise in nursing homes. Our Philadelphia nursing home negligence attorneys frequently hear stories about them from victims of abuse and neglect at nursing homes, or victims' families. However, we find that many people who have never cared for someone with mobility problems don't realize bedsores exist and don't know how to detect them. This can be a problem, because it can delay the family's realization that their loved one is not being properly cared for, allowing the problem to worsen.
Bedsores develop when someone who is bed-bound or wheelchair-bound spends too long in the same position, especially on a bony part of the body. Fully mobile people don't develop them because they can simply shift position when they're uncomfortable. The pressure of the patient's own body weight, gravity and friction eventually cut off blood flow to the area, damaging and eventually killing the tissues. Excess moisture, lack of sanitation, poor nutrition and some underlying medical conditions can worsen the problem. At first, bedsores may look like a reddish (in light-skinned people) or darkened, blue or purple (in dark-skinned people) patch of skin. But as time goes on, they start to look like increasingly serious ulcers. If left untreated for too long, bedsores can create holes in the skin reaching down to muscle or bone. At their most serious, bedsores can cause potentially fatal infections, gangrene, anemia or kidney failure.
Despite the seriousness of the problem, preventing bedsores is simple. The accepted standard of care is to simply turn the patient every two hours (or sometimes more frequently). Some patients also use special pressure-relieving seating and mattresses. Nursing homes are easily able to do this -- but frequently, turning patients falls by the wayside due to poor training, lack of caring or understaffing and overwork. Patients who can't leave their rooms or tell someone about the problem may suffer for weeks without relief, until the problem is so serious that they need hospitalization. This is one reason pir Pennsylvania nursing home neglect lawyers believe it's essential for families, especially families of patients with communication problems, to understand how to spot and fix bedsores.