One of the most difficult decisions a family can ever make is whether to place a family member in a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home. As our population ages, more and more families are having to make this decision. Once the decision is made, all of us expect our family member to be provided with adequate care. Many nursing homes face understaffing issues, apathy among staff members, or have to deal with untrained or undertrained staff members to care for the patients in their facility.
Because of the concerns about adequate care in some facilities, it is imperative that the care of the loved one be followed on a routine basis. The family member can oftentimes spot problems and avert more serious problems by simply observing the patient. One of the most common issues that arise in nursing homes is decubitus ulcers, known as bedsores or pressure ulcers. Decubitus ulcers commonly appear on the feet, backs and buttocks of patients who may be required to spend hours in bed.
When family members visit their loved ones at long-term care facilities, it is important to note if the patient is in the same or a similar position on each visit. For bedbound patients, it is important that the nursing staff turn or rotate the patient to a different position every two hours. For patients with diabetes, skin wounds, or other serious health conditions which might compromise the skin, verifying that the patient is being turned every two hours becomes even more critical. Also, massaging of the skin can promote healthy blood flow and decrease the risk of bedsores.
It is also very important that the patient’s bed covers and diapers be changed frequently. Patients who are allowed to lie or sit in their own waste or urine are at a much higher risk of developing decubitus ulcers. Adequate hydration and nutrition are also imperative to maintaining quality skin care. Patients who do not receive adequate fluids or who are not fed appropriate amounts in a timely manner tend to be much more likely to develop bedsores.
It is also extremely important that the greatest pressure points for an immobile patient, such as where the bones are located (such as ankles, hips, and the like), be properly padded or cushioned. The absence of adequate padding can increase skin problems and the development of bedsores. Many nursing homes use gel mattresses or mattresses with air circulation, but something as simple as a pillow under the knees can be beneficial to reduce the risk of bedsores.
Once a patient develops bedsores, curing the bedsores can be very difficult and, in some cases, a long-term and seemingly impossible fight. In most cases, the patient’s wounds should be cleaned and dressed routinely by a nurse who is properly trained in wound care. The patient may also need to be on antibiotics and other medications. We recommend that family members closely monitor their loved ones, which may include having a nurse to assist with moving the patient for you to inspect the skin in places most likely to develop bedsores. If there are red or irritated spots seen, these spots must be given immediate attention to alleviate the possibility of decubitus ulcers forming.
In some of the cases our firm has reviewed, the bedsores have evolved to such an extent that bone can actually be seen. Bedsores greatly increase the risks of bacterial infection, and can lead to sepsis and other potentially deadly conditions. Lawyers in our firm continue to review cases involving possible nursing home abuse or neglect. Feel free to call on us with any questions. You can contact Ben Locklar, a lawyer in our Personal Injury Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com.
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