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How Should Bedsores Be Treated?

Bedsores are a significant health risk in nursing homes, with as many as 1 in 10 nursing home residents experiencing bedsores according to the CDC. Bedsores—also called pressure wounds—are wounds caused by unrelieved pressure against vulnerable skin, a problem for those who are bedridden or in wheelchairs. Immobile patients are unable to change their position for long periods of time. Persistent pressure cuts off the blood supply to the skin, causing skin cells in the area to begin to die. A pressure wound develops and deepens in four stages. First, the skin reddens and then turns deep purple. If left untreated, the damaged skin breaks into an open sore in stage 2 and then deepens to the layer of fat in stage 3. If left untreated, the wound reaches the bone in stage 4. By stages 3 and 4, bedsores often become infected. In some cases, untreated infections can lead to sepsis and death. 

An estimated 60,000 people die from bedsore complications each year. According to medical experts, in cases of bedsores that end in fatal sepsis, over 55% of victims die within 6 weeks after the sore develops while those with sores lasting over six months have a mortality rate of over 75%. 

Preventing the Development of Bedsores

Predicting and preventing bedsores in immobile patients is the best way to combat a serious health risk. Patients with limited mobility are most at risk of developing bedsores from laying or sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Bedsores are most common in the following areas of the body:

  • Buttocks
  • Hips
  • Tailbone
  • Shoulder blades
  • Heels
  • The back of the head
  • The back and/or sides of the knees

The areas of the body with the greatest pressure against a mattress or cushion are most at risk. Though bedsores can occur in immobile individuals of any age, the thin, aging skin of seniors puts them at the greatest risk of developing bedsores and more prone to deep, rapidly progressing, and infected sores.

Caregivers can prevent bedsores by:

  • Keeping immobile patients or nursing home residents clean and dry
  • Assisting bedridden seniors in changing positions every 2 hours and individuals in wheelchairs every 15-30 minutes
  • Providing soft padding such as medical-grade sheepskins in seat cushions and under pressure points in beds
  • Providing good nutrition and hydration to immobile patients or residents

Patients with infected bedsores may feel significant pain and experience fever, chills, and rapid heartbeat.

Treating Bedsores in Immobile or Low-Mobility Patients or Nursing Home Residents

Once a medical provider diagnoses bedsores, it’s essential to treat them in the earliest possible stage since stage three and four bedsores can take several months or more to heal. Treating bedsores requires:

  • Frequent repositioning to relieve pressure
  • Adding soft padding under pressure points
  • Keeping the sore clean, dry, and disinfected
  • Debriding the wound (removing infected or dead tissue)
  • Covering the sore with medicated gauze
  • Treating with antibiotics to prevent sepsis and cure infection
  • Applying negative pressure wound therapy to draw out fluid and infection
  • Ensuring good nutrition and hydration
  • Transplanting healthy skin (skin grafts) for open bedsores that resist healing
  • Treating pain with medications as needed

Treatment may vary depending on the size, depth, and number of bedsores, but relieving the pressure and keeping the wounds clean and dry are the key to preventing fatal complications such as sepsis in elderly patients or residents with bedsores. A nursing home abuse lawyer in Phoenix can help navigate a potential legal case.

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