Are Bed Sores Only Found in Nursing Homes?

By Nursing Home Law Center

Bedsores are frequently found in nursing homes. It is a problem that is more widespread than people realize, and caregivers and family members need to be alert for signs that they are developing.

But they are not restricted to nursing homes. Long-term care facilities, hospitals and other medical facilities see more than a few. Bedsores can even develop in patients who remain at home.

What is a Bedsore?

A bedsore, also known as a pressure sore or a decubitus ulcer, is a wound that forms on a body part where the skin and tissue have gradually died. When a part of the body is subject to continuous pressure, the blood flow is cut off. The resulting lack of oxygen kills the tissue.

There are four stages to a bedsore.

  • Stage I. The skin is red but not broken. It may be swollen, hot and hard to the touch. Later, it may become purple.
  • Stage II. A shallow wound has formed where the outer layers of skin have worn away and died. There will probably be abrasions and there may be blisters. The risk of infection increases in stage II.
  • Stage III. The third stage becomes quite serious. The underlying tissue is exposed as the skin above it has died. Infection becomes a major risk.
  • Stage IV. The critical stage, here the patient’s life is in danger. The underlying tissue is now gone, exposing the muscle and bone underneath. Infection is almost a guarantee and swift treatment is necessary.

Why Do Bedsores Form?

There are three main situations that lead to bedsores.

  • Pressure. When pressure is constantly applied to an area, the body cannot deliver oxygen through the blood and the tissue dies. When the tissue dies, a wound forms. This is the bedsore.
  • Traction. A patient who is sitting up in bed can still get a bedsore. The pull of gravity against the surface of the bed creates the same problem for any body part continuously exposed to it.
  • Friction. Repeated friction to the same area can also wear away the skin and lead to a bedsore. This can happen against a bedrail, for instance.

Who is at Risk?

Typically, there are four conditions that perpetuate the formation of bedsores.

  • Paralysis. A paralyzed patient suffers from decreased mobility. A quadriplegic cannot move any of his or her limbs, while a paraplegic may find moving his or her legs a challenge. A paralyzed patient will require help from a caregiver to relieve pressure on affected parts of his or her body.
  • Diabetes. A diabetes patient has a reduced capacity to heal, which means that when a bedsore gets started, they will have more trouble healing than most. Also, many diabetics suffer from neuropathy, or deadened sensation in their limbs. This may mean that their body cannot signal them something is wrong, which prevents them from shifting position to relieve pressure on an endangered area.
  • Coma. A patient in a coma has no consciousness. Unlike a normal person who is sleeping, they will not turn or roll over. If not turned by his or her caregiver severe risk of developing a bedsore is imminent.
  • Weakness. Some patients are very sick and lack the energy to move themselves. Elderly patients often suffer from this problem as well. If a patient is too weak to move, they will require the help of a family member or professional caregiver to prevent bedsores from forming.

Nursing home patients are often bedridden and lack energy, and nursing home staff are not always as attentive as their jobs require them to be. For this reason, people associate bedsores with nursing homes. The type of situation in which a bedsore can form is not restricted to nursing homes.

Bedsores can occur anywhere an immobile person is staying. They can happen in hospitals and even at home. Home health care aids are trained to prevent bedsores, but nevertheless they still develop in this setting.

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