One of the biggest problems among patients who live in nursing homes is the development of bed sores or pressure ulcers. The medical profession identifies these as decubitus ulcers. These ulcers commonly occur on the feet, backs and buttocks of ill or elderly patients who spend many hours lying in bed.
Family members can help identify problems at nursing homes by noting the position of the patient they are visiting. Is the patient always in the same position? If so, this could result in a bed sore. If the patient is diabetic or has a skin wound of some type, the danger of a bed sore is even greater. Patients should be rotated in bed every two hours at a minimum. Massage can also increase blood flow and help reduce the danger of a bed sore.
Family members should also check to see that their loved one’s bed sheets and diapers are frequently changed. A patient allowed to lie in his or her own urine or waste is much more likely to develop a bed sore. Also, maintaining a healthy diet and regular hydration helps patients avoid bed sores.
Patients who spend many hours in bed need adequate padding around their bones, including the hips, feet, back and ankles. Nursing homes provide aerated mattresses, which often known as “egg cartons” because of their reticulated surfaces. Others use gel mattresses or a foam mattress overlay. If these are not available, simply placing a pillow under a patient’s knees can help avoid bed sores.
Once a patient develops bed sores, it is often quite difficult for them to heal. This is especially true among the elderly because their circulatory systems are slowed down, and any condition is slow to heal. The sores continue to be abraded in the bed as the patient lies there over many hours. A nurse – often identified as a wound nurse – must be summoned to treat the bed sores properly. Antibiotics are frequently used in conjunction with topical care.
It can also be very expensive to treat a bed sore. A Dutch study found that costs associated with the care of pressure ulcers were the third highest after those for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The study also found that almost one-third of nursing home patients experience bed sores.
What is important, however, is that visiting family members note their loved one’s condition. Don’t hesitate to move the patient to see that he or she does not have bed sores. Often family members will need to ask for the assistance of a nurse or other employee to check for bed sores. If you notice red spots, report these to the nursing supervisor on duty. Your warning may prevent the development of a bed sore.
The seriousness of bed sores cannot be overstated. If a sore is allowed to progress, it can grow so deep that the bone may even be visible. This can lead to bacterial infection, sepsis and even death. Don’t allow your family member to suffer neglect in a nursing home and develop bed sores or other complications. If you suspect your relative is not receiving proper care and oversight, you should speak to the nursing home management. If you are not satisfied by the response your receive, be sure to contact an attorney who has experience in this area of medical care. Your help can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Cook County nursing malpractice cases and for individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Burbank, Harwood Heights, Chicago’s Logan Square, Naperville, and Markham.
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