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Nursing homes for elderly or infirm loved ones are an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary, reality. Many family’s come to discover that as their loved ones age, they require care that their family simply cannot provide. Our parents and grandparents may all come to a stage in life where they need constant, qualified medical supervision and treatment. When this happens, nursing homes are one of the few options available to families to get their loved ones the care required.

With this in mind, it is important that the friends and family of vulnerable individuals in nursing homes understand the danger of pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcers are more commonly known as bed sores. Bed sores are patches of dead skin which can become large and very painful over time and which, if left untreated, can ultimately become infected and threaten a patient’s life.

Pressure sores are caused by a lack of movement. In essence, a pressure sore develops when pressure is placed on a single spot on the body over an extended period of time. The constant pressure cuts off blood flow to the area which suffocates the tissue beneath the skin. Over time, the tissue begins to die and corrode. Eventually the skin pulls away from the area and dead tissue withers exposing the muscle, flesh, and bone beneath.

As you can imagine, pressure sores are extremely painful. They are often called bedsores because they frequently develop on patients who are bedridden due to age or illness. Because these folks cannot turn or reposition themselves, they cannot relieve the pressure on the affected areas and the ulcers develop and ultimately worsen. Pressure sores pose serious health risks in addition to being incredibly painful. For that reason, pressure sore prevention is critical.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, take a moment and review this powerpoint (download required) to learn more about pressure ulcers and their prevention. In addition, here are some things to remember:

Make note of the condition of your mother, father, uncle, or aunt when they go in to the facility, preferably with pictures. If their skin was clear and sore-free when they were admitted, then any later wounds are likely the healthcare provider’s fault.

Moisture causes pressure sores to worsen. Moisture can be prevented using topical creams such as Xenaderm. It is critical that loved ones who may be incontinent are changed regularly. Contact with feces, urine, or any other moisture for extended periods can accelerate pressure sore development. Additionally, contact with feces can quickly lead to infection since pressure sores are open wounds.

Friction aggravates pressure sores. It is important to ensure that your loved ones are not positioned in a way that places additional pressure on their sores or in ways that will cause there to be friction against the affected area.

Patients with pressure sores need to be TURNED AT LEAST EVERY TWO HOURS! It is the responsibility of the care provider to reposition a resident at least this often to prevent pressure sores from getting worse. Make sure that the nursing home has enough staff to safely reposition your loved one.

Your loved one should be provided with special pressure relieving pillows, mattresses, and other devices designed to ease the force pressing against the wound.

A facility needs to inspect your loved one’s pressure sores on a daily basis and keep an accurate log of the development of the sores. Ask to see the log if you’re concerned. If the pressure sore is getting larger, something is likely wrong.

If you believe that you or a loved one may be a victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, it is critical that you get involved and engage the care provider in discussions about the treatment they are providing. If you are not sure whether a loved one is being abused or neglected, contact an attorney who handles nursing home cases. Most states heavily regulate nursing homes and an experienced nursing home abuse attorney can help you understand the rights that you and your loved ones have.

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