If your loved one lives in a nursing home, you may be wondering how to tell if they are receiving quality care. One sign that standards of care may be lacking is the presence of decubitus ulcers.
What Is a Decubitus Ulcer?
Decubitus ulcers are more commonly known as bedsores, and are sometimes referred to as pressure sores or pressure ulcers. According to StatPearls, they most commonly form on the buttocks, heels, hips, elbows, shoulders, ears, and back of the head. Decubitus ulcers present as:
- Cracked, scaly, broken or blistered skin.
- Open sores on the skin, or in tissue under the skin.
- Yellowish stains on clothing, sheets, or other fabric. Stains may also be tinged with blood.
- Tender or painful pressure points
- Red pressure points that do not go away after pressure is removed (this may be a sign the skin is about to die or break down).
What Causes Decubitus Ulcers?
Decubitus ulcers are caused by excessive or prolonged pressure on an area of the body. This pressure blocks blood flow to the area, killing the surrounding skin and causing injuries to it and the tissue underneath.
Many of the health conditions common to nursing home residents also increase the risk of getting decubitus ulcers, such as medical problems that cause limited mobility. According to the Mayo Clinic, other risk factors for developing bedsores include:
- Incontinence. Extended exposure to urine and bowel movements makes the skin more vulnerable.
- Lack of sensory perception. Spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders can result in a loss of sensation. The inability to feel discomfort may make patients unaware of the warning signs of decubitus ulcers and the need to change positions.
- Malnourishment and dehydration. Good nutrition, the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals, and adequate fluid intake are needed to help maintain healthy skin.
- Health problems that affect blood flow. Any other health conditions that affect blood flow, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, also increase the chances of skin and tissue damage.
Do Decubitus Ulcers Cause Other Complications?
Decubitus ulcers can lead to an infection of the skin and soft tissue called cellulitis. Bedsores can cause serious bone and joint infections, such as septic arthritis, which can lead to cartilage and tissue damage. Bone infections may also result in reduced mobility in the joints and limbs.
Long-term, non-healing decubitus ulcers can develop into a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Rarely, bedsores can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by the body’s extreme reaction to an infection.
Prevention and Treatment
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), frequent repositioning is the most important method of preventing decubitus ulcers.
How Can Caregivers Help?
Nursing home staff should encourage residents to move around as much as possible. If residents cannot move or reposition themselves, staff should ensure that this is done. If a resident is bedridden, they should be turned at least once every two hours, according to the ACS.
If a resident has difficulty controlling their bowels or bladder, soiled diapers or clothing should be changed immediately to prevent bedsores. Residents should be checked often for signs of developing pressure ulcers, and if pressure areas begin to develop, efforts should be made to keep pressure off the area as much as possible.
Maintaining good skin care can also help with prevention, according to the Mayo Clinic. Skin should be kept clean and dry and protected with moisturizer. Nursing home staff should inspect the skin daily for warning signs of decubitus ulcers and make sure clothing and bedding are changed frequently.
How Are Decubitus Ulcers Treated?
Minor decubitus ulcers are treated by cleaning and bandaging the area. More serious bedsores may require a procedure called debriding to remove damaged tissue by
cutting it away or flushing the sore out with water. Some decubitus ulcers may need to be treated with more aggressive surgery. Drugs may be prescribed to help with pain.
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Nursing Home Abuse
If your loved one developed decubitus ulcers while in a nursing home, it could be a sign of more serious nursing home abuse. Decubitus ulcers are a possible indication your loved one may not be getting needed mobility assistance, may not be receiving help with toileting or changing, and could even be suffering from malnourishment and dehydration.
What Are Other Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?
Other signs of nursing home abuse may include:
- Excessive instances of falls and accidents.
- Unexplained cuts, bruises, or other injuries.
- Poor hygiene.
- Changes in behavior, such as acting withdrawn or depressed or being violent and aggressive.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Abuse?
Nursing home abuse is wrong, and it is against the law. If you suspect abuse, you should file a complaint with the nursing home administration immediately. You may also wish to file a report with law enforcement.
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How Can Ben Crump Law, PLLC Help?
An attorney with Ben Crump Law, PLLC can help you seek compensation for your loved one. For more information, call our offices at (800) 959-1444.