Bedsores are injuries to the skin that occur from constant pressure. They are called bedsores because they are common in people who are confined to their beds for long periods of time, such as hospital patients or nursing home residents. As healthy, mobile people, we take for granted that we roll around and adjust our position as we sleep. Some people cannot move or adjust their position, and as a result, painful sores develop. That is why they’re commonly referred to as bedsores, but they’re called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers in the medical community. Hospitals, nursing homes, and at-home caretakers must physically move these bedridden individuals on a regular basis to avoid bedsores.
Here are 5 things you might not know about bedsores.
1) Some parts of our bodies are more susceptible to bedsores.
They are most common in areas that support most of our weight, especially boney areas of the body where there isn’t much muscle or fat to provide cushion. See the illustration below for the some of the most common sites on the body for bedsores.
2) Bedsores don’t just happen in beds.
They also happen to people who spend a lot of time sitting, such as those who need wheelchairs. The Mayo Clinic lists these as the most common sites for wheelchair-related pressure ulcers.
- Tailbone or buttocks
- Shoulder blades and spine
- Backs of arms and legs where they rest against the chair
3) Bedsores can be caused by medical equipment.
The Emergency Care Research Institute (ECRI) estimates that perhaps a third of all pressure ulcers at medical facilities are caused by pressure from medical equipment and supplies, such as “face masks, tubing, and neck collars.”
4) There are stages of bedsores depending on how bad and deep they get.
A mild, early-stage bedsore might be little more than a warm spot on the skin. However, the most severe bedsores can be nasty, infected gaping holes where you even can see exposed muscle and bone. The longer the person goes without being moved, the worse and deeper the injury can get. So, the medical community has given them stages, based on the severity.
- Stage 1: At the mildest stage, bedsores only affect the uppermost layer of the skin. The skin can be red, itchy, inflamed, or hot, and it may feel different from other areas on the body (either firmer or softer.)
- Stage 2: When bedsores remain unnoticed and untreated, they dig deeper below the surface of the skin, creating an open wound or blister. The area will be swollen and red and possibly oozing clear fluid or pus, and even with immediate treatment, it could take up to 3 weeks to heal.
- Stage 3: At this point, the bedsore has delved into the fat layer beneath the skin tissues, bringing signs of infection such as bad odors and drainage. It will often look like a crater and have red or black edges where the tissue has died. A Stage 3 bedsore typically requires antibiotics and up to 4 months of healing.
- Stage 4: Stage 4 bedsores affect the muscles and ligaments underneath the body’s fat layer and can take over a year to heal after treatment. These wounds will be very deep and show black edges, and you may be able to see muscle or bone. Seek emergency medical attention right away for these injuries.
5) Almost all bedsores are the result of negligence.
A pressure ulcer is what the medical community calls a “never event,” meaning there is never a justifiable reason for it to happen. Hospitals and nursing homes have a duty to regularly move, adjust, or roll people in their care who lack the mobility to do it for themselves to prevent bedsores. When they do occur, it is almost always due to a lack of poor training, a lack of attention to detail, or because of understaffing. Understaffing is a growing problem, especially in nursing homes, where the facility does not hire enough caregivers to meet their patients’ needs, and it is motivated by greed (keeping costs lower by hiring fewer people).
Although it is not common for bedsores to create a life-threatening situation, all bedsores are extremely painful. Bedsores represent a cruel injustice to our dignity and humanity when we are at our most vulnerable. If you or a loved one developed bedsores, it’s important to take action against the nursing home for their neglect. Holding the nursing home accountable will help protect future residents of the facility from sustaining bedsores. Contact Brown & Barron today for a free consultation.