Nursing Homes Can’t Leave Immobile Patients Alone Without Risk of Pressure Sores

By Nursing Home Law Center

Immobile Patients

Nursing homes lately have been under attack for their lack of care and management with their elderly and immobile patients. Elderly patients, particularly those who have been immobilized due to a debilitating disease, require much care and regulation. Nursing staff are trained professionals who are capable of dealing with the elderly who are ill and immobile.

Neglect in Nursing Homes

The issues arise when immobile patients are neglected in nursing homes. It is understood that a patient cannot be monitored every minute of every day, but an immobile patient cannot be left alone for more than 2 hours.

As immobile patients are usually unable to do anything for them, their needs are harder to attend to, and nurses must be vigilant in checking up on them throughout the day to ensure that their needs are being met.

Much of the time, nurses in hospital and nursing home settings tend to do the bare minimum for these patients, not realizing that the neglect of immobile patients can lead to serious complications. Staff will change the dressings, help them use a bedpan or change their urine bags, and give them their appropriate meals. However, this is not enough.

Complications Resulting From Prolonged Immobility

1) Mental Effects
An immobile patient must be shifted around once in a while to prevent a number of ailments from occurring, and human contact and care is essential to the mental health of the patient as well. A study conducted in 1988 found that immobile patients were at a higher risk than mobile patients from suffering mild to moderate forms of dementia. As the popular adage implies, no man is an island. People, especially the elderly, require human contact to help them cope with issues of loneliness, pain and feelings of abandonment.

2) Cardiovascular and Respiratory Effects
If the patient is unable to move around for long periods, the blood circulation within their body will decrease. Loss of blood flow has many side effects. Organs will not work as efficiently, especially the kidneys, and will decrease the amount of urine output. Blood clots can form which in many cases with immobile patients can prove to be fatal.

Decrease of blood flow to the lungs will cause less oxygen to flow throughout the body, causing organ deficiency and eventual failure. The lungs will also not be exercised to their full capacity, which can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs leading to life threatening infections.

3) Pressure Sores
Pressure sores, otherwise known as bed sores, are the most common ailment found in immobile patients. Bed sores develop rather quickly, and if left untreated, can progress to more serious and difficult to treat stages. Pressure sores are also highly infectious and these infections can be the beginning of other serious complications, some of which can be life threatening.

How Nursing Homes can Help Reduce the Incidence of Bed Sores?

It is understood that nursing homes cannot monitor all patients every minute of every day. However, with immobile patients in particular, monitoring should be recorded with a strict schedule. Nursing homes can devise a system where the nursing staff must write a quick summary of the patient’s activities and health during every checkup, which should occur every two hours. No matter how minute the details, it is imperative that any changes should be noted during the monitoring checks. This will ensure that any changes such as the beginning of pressure sores or kidney failure are noticed immediately.

Another very important and simple task that nursing staff can practice with immobile patients is turning over the patient occasionally or shifting the patient’s position every two hours. This will increase blood flow to areas that have been neglected due to lack of mobility.

Many of the complications listed can be treated if they are discovered at an early stage. Therefore, monitoring an immobile patient and adhering to a strict schedule is imperative in the managing of proper care of patients in nursing homes.

Related Information

Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources

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