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Pressure Sores Must be Timely Treated in Order to Maximize Chances of Patient Recovery
By Nursing Home Law Center
Pressure sores (also known as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, and bed sores) are a common problem for residents of long-term care facilities. Residents with limited mobility and other co-morbidities are at increased risk for bed sores.
In most cases, pressure sores are a preventable problem. Pressure ulcers are a very painful and embarrassing condition, and all efforts should be taken to reduce the potential for developing sores.
These areas depend on whether you are bed-bound or use a wheelchair. If you use a wheelchair, these areas include the buttocks, should blades, and backs of arms/legs.
If you are bed-bound these areas include your buttocks, back of your head, back of your ears, shoulders, backs of knees, ankles, and heels. Any areas where there is a thin layer of tissue covering bone are more susceptible to bed sores. Any time prolonged pressure prevented adequate blood flow to the tissue, a patient is at risk.
There are many factors that lead to the development of bed sores. Some easy steps that can help prevent decubitus ulcers include:
- Ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition
- Keeping residents dry and clean (this is especially important for patients without bladder/bowel control)
- Turning/repositioning patients
- Performing skin checks (especially for patients with decreased sensation or mental awareness)
- Using pressure relieving devices
Pressure relieving devices include pressure relieving mattresses (air alternating mattresses, cushions), joint protectors heel pads, and wheelchair cushions. These devices help redistribute pressure from places that are more susceptible to developing pressure sores. Mattresses can inflate/deflated to reduce pressure on different areas of the body. It is important that long-term care providers are adequately trained in using these devices, so they can take advantage of their full benefits.
Attention should be given to distribution of weight, posture, alignment, stability, and relief. Pressure relieving devices are a helpful tool for long-term care providers, especially for residents who would otherwise require frequent turning, but they are not a substitute for quality care.
If you do develop a pressure sore, it is important to continue using pressure relieving devices, maintain a healthy diet, keep the wound clean to prevent infection, properly dress the wound, remove damaged tissue if the pressure ulcer is severe, and take antibiotics if the wound is infected. If the pressure sore is severe enough, it might even require surgery.
Early detection is the most important step in treating pressure ulcers. It is important to remember that each and every resident requires an individualized care plan that can determine what prevention treatment, if any, should be used. The hope is that with adequate care, pressure sores can be prevented.
- MayoClinic: Bedsores
- Medline Plus: Pressure Sores
- AHRQ: Pressure Ulcers in the Long-Term Care Setting
- Bed Sore FAQ: Are bed sores on the heels common?