A senior man in bed wondering if bedsores are a sign of neglect

Are Bed Sores a Sign of Neglect?

After a great deal of deliberation, you have decided to move your loved one into a nursing home in the hopes that they will receive around-the-clock care. However, every time you visit, your loved one is suffering from a bedsore.

Bedsores are one of the most common and frequent conditions to affect nursing home residents. Because of the regularity in their appearance, lots of questions surround this painful ailment. What do bedsores really mean? Are they common or something to of concern? And, most importantly, are they a sign of neglect?

Here’s an easy break down to help with some of your most pressing bedsore-related questions.

What are bedsores?

Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure, which decreases blood flow and limits the supply of oxygen and nutrients to areas of the body.

Other factors that contribute to bedsores are friction and shear — resistance between a person’s skin and the surface on which the person is resting that is caused by gravity — moisture on the skin, reduction in physical activity, the inability to notice or communicate pain and poor nutrition.

Bedsores most often develop on bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips, tailbone, elbows as well as the back of the cranium and shoulders. People with limited mobility, especially those who cannot change positions without assistance, and people who spend time in a bed or chair are most at risk of developing bedsores.

Can bedsores be prevented?

Several steps can be taken to reduce the risk of nursing room patients developing bedsores, starting with an assessment of each patient’s potential risk factors.
Nursing home staff should reposition patients of limited mobility every two to four hours, per clinical guidelines, to ensure adequate blood flow to all areas of the body. They should minimize moisture on skin, bedding, clothing and incontinence support products to ensure patients’ skin remains dry and thoroughly examine the skin in sensitive areas. Finally, the staff should also promote regular exercise and proper nutrition.

What can happen if bedsores are untreated?

Bedsores often heal with proper medical attention, but left untreated, bedsores worsen over time and can lead to various complications, such as joint infection (septic arthritis), which can damage cartilage and tissue, and bone infections (osteomyelitis), which can limit the functionality of joints and limbs, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other complications include cellulitis, a skin and soft tissues infection that causes warmth, pain, redness and swelling, cancer and sepsis.

In the most extreme cases, complications arising from untreated bedsores can result in the need for amputation or death.

How do bedsores relate to neglect?

Neglect is classified as a lack of action or attention resulting in the failure to meet a legal standard of care that maintains an elderly patient’s health and wellbeing. Examples include not providing medicine, not helping a patient sustain proper hygiene or not sanitizing surfaces.

If a patient is not receiving the basic care necessary to prevent bedsores, whether because of staffing shortages or other facts, it can be considered a sign of neglect.