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When is a Nursing Home Patient at Risk for Developing Pressure Sores?

Published on May 28, 2019 at 3:00 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Pressure sores are localized damage to the skin. They typically form on the body around bony areas. Unfortunately, pressure sores are not an uncommon sight in nursing home facilities. In many cases, they are a sign of neglect.

It’s important to understand that pressure sores and their complications, in most cases, are entirely preventable. While there are certain nursing home patients who are more at risk for developing sores, nursing home staff should be well aware of the risks so they can take precautionary measures to avoid serious issues.

Risks Factors Associated with Developing Pressure Sores

There are a number of factors that put nursing home patients at risk of developing pressure sores. It’s crucial for the attending nurses and staff members to be aware of which residents are at risk, so they can actively work to prevent complications. If your loved one has any of the following risk factors, you’ll want to ensure they receive the proper care they need to avoid any skin damage:

  • Immobility. This is the biggest risk factor associated with the development of pressure sores. When a patient is unable to change positions independently, they are at an increased risk because pressure exerted in an area for extended periods of time reduces blood flow to the tissue.
  • Compromised Blood Flow. A person’s blood flow may be compromised for a number of reasons. Common ones include peripheral arterial disease, shock, and venous insufficiency. When blood is unable to flow properly throughout the body, tissues in the body can start to deteriorate.
  • Malnutrition. When a resident has poor nutritional status, their body is unable to heal and move properly. This can result in immobility and thinning skin.
  • Skin Color. If nurses aren’t vigilant, they may miss pressure sore signs on residents with darker skin. Additionally, patients with skin conditions like bruising, eczema, and dermatitis are at an increased risk.
  • Incontinence. When a resident experiences incontinence and is unable to clean themselves or staff members are negligent, the areas of wet skin are at risk for pressure sores.
  • Pain. When a patient experiences pain, they may be unable to move. Additionally, too much pain medication can sedate a patient to the point they don’t move as often as they should.
  • Support Surfaces. It’s important that residents move frequently. Laying down in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair for extended periods of time is dangerous because of the pressure it puts on the skin.

The Consequences of Untreated Pressure Sores

Pressure sores develop in stages. A mild one may only result in reddening of the skin, but severe sores can lead to infections in muscles and bones. Understanding the four stages of pressure sores can help nursing home employees recognize when a resident needs help early on.

When a pressure sore is in the first stage, the sores are not open wounds. The skin is likely to be painful and red. Additionally, the location may be warmer temperature-wise than the rest of the skin. Sometimes, the sore will feel softer or firmer than the area around it. At this stage, the sores can be maintained and treated effectively.

At stage two, the skin starts to break open and an ulcer forms. Visually, the sore might look like a scrape or blister. The sore will start to expand into the deeper layers of the skin if not taken care of. Some skin may be damaged beyond repair and start to die.

Stage three involves the sore extending even farther into the tissue. A small crater will start to form. In some cases, fat will be visible. As stage four hits, the sore can reach into the muscle and bone. This can result in extensive damage that may require amputation, depending on the location of the sore. The tendons and joints may also be damaged. While stages one and two are painful, a patient may feel very little pain in stages three and four because of the tissue damage.

If the pressure sore remains untreated through stage four, the consequences can be deadly. Eventually, the sore will be impossible to treat, and the patient is likely to die from related complications.

If you believe your loved one developed pressure sores because of their nursing home’s negligent actions, you can take legal action on their behalf. Recover from pressure sores can be long and difficult. Your loved one deserves compensation to aid in their recovery. To learn more about the benefits of filing a nursing home abuse claim, contact us today.