When it comes to medical complications that realistically pose a serious threat of disabling— or even killing– patients in nursing homes and hospitals across the country, few conditions can compare to pressure sores.
As innocent as the term may sound, when “pressure sores” progress, they should perhaps be more accurately referred to as “large open wounds” when they progress to their more advanced stages. An advanced pressure sore remains one of the indelible emblems of poor care— when the skin and tissue in the area of the wound gives way to a large opening in the body where the underlying organs and bone may be visible.
What makes pressure sores uniquely disturbing compared with other medical complications is that patients at many medical facilities are no less at risk for developing this complication than they may have been 10, 20… or even 100 years ago! Unlike other medical complications that have been drastically reduced or eradicated with the implementation of medication and technological advancements, pressure sore prevention relies primarily on the backs of the staff members whom are responsible for caring for immobile patients.
By moving a patient from their bed or wheelchair at regular intervals, the bodies natural circulatory process of bringing is allowed to operate as nature intended. Life-sustaining blood flow to brings nutrients to tissues in the body which may not have been receiving it due to unrelieved pressure on the person’s body.
Unfortunately, the anatomical differences in people combined with the unique positioning of the individual in a bed or wheelchair commonly results in situations where the first indication of the build-up of unrelieved pressure on the body— is a pressure sore in its primary stages. While, pressure sores in their early stages may be healed with timely care– too often early stage pressure sores simply progress to more advanced wounds when staff fail to make necessary interventions or in circumstances where patients are quite ill.
Without a tool to determine who needs to be moved— and when, medical facilities typcially use a one size fits all approach and (theorretically) move patients at regular intervals . While the regular “turning” may serve its purpose in terms of preventing pressure sores in a substantial number of patients, the frequency may be insufficient or impracticible for others.
Perhaps the identification of the early stages of pressure sores is about to gets a much needed gift in the form of new medical technology?
I recently read about a new product to help in the assessment of mobility (and circulation) in bed-ridden patients. The Mobility Monitor is a patient monitoring system used beneath the mattresses of physically compromosed patients, to alert staff when a patient needs to be moved– or when they can rest.
Beginning in June, the system will be commercially available to nursing homes and hospitals as a much needed tool in the arsenal of pressure sore prevention.
I look forward to seeing this promising device in nursing homes and hospitals. While the device promises to improve patient care, I would think that such a device would be welcomed by many facilities as the device appears to take much of the subjectivity associated with nursing care out of the patient-care equation and staff can focus more of their energy on actively listening to what the patient needs as opposed to worrying about adhering to a strict schedule.
Read more about the Mobility Monitor here.
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