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Pressure ulcers (a/k/a bedsores or pressure sores), which have been used as an indicator of quality of care, are a widespread problem in long-term care settings.  A study by Gosnell and VanEtten finds that pressure ulcers affect approximately 1 million Americans each year.  Pressure ulcers are serious medical conditions.  They can result from prolonged periods of uninterrupted pressure on the skin, soft tissue, muscle, and bone.  Vulnerable patients include the elderly, stroke and diabetic patients, those with dementia, circulatory diseases, dehydration, and malnutrition.  Pressure ulcers predispose patients to osteomyelitis and septicemia, and are strongly associated with longer hospital stays and mortality.

The highest percentage of people suffering from pressure ulcers are in nursing homes.  The number of nursing home residents with pressure ulcers varies from facility to facility, but anywhere from 3 to 28 percent of the people in a nursing home may have pressure ulcers.  Some residents have pressure ulcers when they arrive at a nursing home.  Residents without pressure ulcers on arrival may develop them later on.  Factors that may increase the risk of getting pressure ulcers include:

  • Sitting or lying too long in one place
  • Sitting in wet clothing or a wet bed
  • Not getting enough food and water
  • Having many chronic conditions at one time
  • Using multiple medications that cause drowsiness, confusion or loss of appetite
  • Using physical restraints

If untreated, pressure ulcers can deepen and even expose the bone.  Deeper ulcers may be hard to heal or may not heal at all.  Sometimes, pressure ulcers can lead to serious medical complications and even death.  It is extremely important that family members be involved with their loved one’s care plan.  Some of the ways to accomplish this are:

  • Go to the care planning meetings.
  • Inspect your loved one’s skin when you are helping with care.
  • Know the moving or turning schedules and support the staff in carrying them out.
  • Let staff know if your loved one is wet, thirsty, hungry or in pain. If the loved one has dementia, tell the staff how he or she communicates discomfort.
  • Be familiar with the medications your loved one is receiving.

When a person enters a nursing home, staff members have a legal obligation to protect residents from all types of neglect.  If you have any questions about your loved one, you should ask the RN or LPN charge nurse on the unit or the doctor in charge of your loved one’s care.  If you have further questions, you can go to the director or assistant director of nursing or speak with the facility’s medical director.

Feel free to call us at 866-327-2952 if you suspect your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect…we may be able to help.

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