Bedsores: A sign that your loved one is in trouble

When you chose a nursing home for your loved one, it was with care and concern for his or her health. You knew you wanted to place your family member in a facility with adequate staffing and where professional care is provided.

You recently noticed a sore that has become infected. The bedsore, the doctor tells you, is simply from a lack of movement. Something isn't right.

Why do patients get bedsores?

Most elderly people get bedsores because they are unable to move enough to take pressure off the sensitive areas of the body. Bedsores develop when there is prolonged pressure on the skin, specifically over bony areas of the body like the knees, elbows and heels. These "decubitus ulcers" can develop very quickly, leading to swelling, changes in the texture or color of the skin, drainage, tenderness, and the warmness or coolness of the skin in contrast to other areas of the body.

While pressure sores can form quickly, it usually takes a few hours, at least, for one to begin developing. The circulation getting cut off from the skin and pressure on the skin causes the damage, but with just a few motions, pressure is released and eliminates the risk. If your loved one suddenly has a pressure sore, you need to ask how it's happening.

Residents in wheelchairs might develop bedsores as a result of sitting in one position for too long. Usually, staff members who notice signs of a bedsore developing can stop the progression of the sore by changing the resident's position and relieving the pressure on the area. If a serious bedsore develops, the damage may need medical intervention.

Bedsores are a risk to anyone who is immobile or who cannot sense pain in an area. Friction, shearing and pressure all cause bedsores, particularly in elderly patients who have skin with less elasticity.

What are the complications of bedsores?

Complications include sepsis, which could be fatal, as well as joint and bone infections, cancer or cellulitis. If your loved one develops a bedsore, get medical help immediately. You should have a discussion with the nursing home to determine how to prevent another sore from developing and consider transferring your loved one to a nursing facility that provides better care.

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