Bedsore Causes

Elderly people who suffer from diseases or injuries that limit their mobility are susceptible to bedsores. A bedsore is a painful sore that develops when someone remains in the same position for an extended period. The official scientific name for a bedsore is a decubitus ulcer.

Bedsores are normally found on bony areas of the body, such as the tailbone, buttocks, lower back, hips, ankles, or heels. These areas are more likely to have the most pressure exerted on them. 

If you’re caring for an elderly person as a medical worker, family member, or friend, you need to be alert to what a bedsore is and what it looks like. You should also know how to prevent them. 

Bedsores can be extremely painful for those who are susceptible to them and may lead to other, more serious conditions. The development of bedsores in an older person is almost always preventable, and when they appear, especially as they advance to the later stages, it may be a sign of elderly abuse. Ensure that you keep a close eye on your older loved one for signs of bedsores, as well as other potential issues.

What are bedsores?

Bedsores are fairly common in elderly people, especially those who have mobility problems. As people age, the skin generally grows thinner, leading to the potential for greater injury. Those who are limited in their movement or are not appropriately taken care of are the most likely to develop them. 

There are four stages of bedsores, with varying degrees of complexity and medical risk.

Stage 1 Bedsores

A stage 1 bedsore may have the appearance of a bruise or a red spot at a bony point of the body. The elderly person may experience a sensation of itching, pain, tingling skin, or numbness. The surface of the skin may change texture, moving from firm to soft. In some cases, the patient may not even realize that they have a bedsore.

Stage 2 Bedsores

If a stage 1 bedsore is allowed to progress, it may become a stage 2 bedsore. At this point, an open wound will develop at the site of the original bruise or red spot. 

Stage 2 bedsores are generally treatable without needing surgery. Treatment should occur over an eight-week period. If there are any signs of infection, such as a bad odor, then antibiotics and regular disinfection and cleaning will be required. Stage 2 bedsores should be closely monitored to ensure that they don’t progress further.

Stage 3 Bedsores

A stage 3 bedsore is very serious. It involves deep ulceration of the skin and may grow in size. The ulceration can potentially expose tendons, muscles, and bones. 

If antibiotics and removal of dead skin are not effective in stopping an infection, then surgery may be required. This surgery may result in the removal of the dead skin and any dead bone tissue. During the procedure, a skin graft may be required to close the wound.

Stage 4 Bedsore

Stage 4 bedsores may lead to life-threatening complications and infections such as sepsis. The skin may be seriously damaged, along with a bone infection and lack of skin sensation. It is possible that tendons, skin tissue, and muscles at the site of the infection may be unusable. 

A stage 4 bedsore is the most serious type of bedsore. There is a high risk of infection, and surgery will be required to treat it. Those who receive surgery may require physical therapy to return to normal.

Are bedsores preventable?

Bedsores are preventable in most cases. Caregivers must take an active role in ensuring they don’t develop, especially in cases where an elderly individual has very limited mobility. 

Methods to prevent bedsores include:

  • Repositioning the patient regularly to avoid pressure on one area of the skin
  • Keeping skin clean and dry
  • Eating well and drinking plenty of water
  • Managing stress
  • Exercising daily

Taking appropriate care of an elderly person can help prevent bedsores from developing.

Common Causes of Bedsores in Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Residents

There are five main causes of bedsores. These include the following:

1. Pressure

Pressure is one of the most common causes of bedsores. Bedsores can develop when there is a constant weight on one part of the body. This pressure leads to the lessening of blood flow to the tissues. 

Without the transfer of blood flow, nutrients are stymied from passing through to areas that need them, leading to possible skin and tissue death in the affected areas. Commonly affected areas are locations that don’t have a lot of muscle and fat and lie over a bone, such as the spine, shoulder blades, hips, heels, and elbows.

2. Friction

If the skin rubs against clothing or bedding often, it can become vulnerable to injury and lead to the development of bedsores. This is particularly true in cases where the elderly person may lie in bed but moves certain body parts frequently, such as the elbows or heels.

3. Shear

If the elderly person is subjected to movement in the opposite direction often, they may develop a sore in that area. Common examples of this include being elevated in a bed but sliding downwards due to the angle. As the tailbone moves down, the skin over the bone may stay in place, essentially pulling in the opposite direction.

4. Moisture

Moisture can be a problem, especially if an elderly person suffers from incontinence. If the patient is unable to maintain control of their bladder or stool, they may develop moisture in the area, which can severely irritate the skin. 

In these cases, it’s extremely important for nurses and caregivers to ensure that the elderly patient is properly looked after. 

5. Malnutrition

If elderly people do not receive the fluids, calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals they need in their daily diet, they may become more susceptible to bedsores. When not enough nutrients are available, it can result in less healthy skin and bone.

Are bedsores the result of nursing home neglect?

Yes, they can be. Caregivers and nurses who don’t adequately ensure that patients are cared for appropriately — especially when they’re at risk for bedsores — may commit abuse through their neglectful inaction. It’s important for all individuals who have a relationship with the patient to monitor their care and ensure they aren’t neglected.

Some laws protect the elderly from neglect as residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. If you suspect that a patient may be experiencing neglect, you can reach out to a nursing home lawyer for help. They can assist in recovering compensation for medical costs incurred as a result of bedsores that develop from neglect.

How do I report suspected nursing home neglect or abuse?

There are many resources for reporting suspected nursing home abuse. Each state has a nursing home ombudsman program that was developed under 1972’s Older Americans Act. The ombudsman resolves issues concerning health and safety. 

You can find your state’s ombudsman through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center

You may also report nursing home abuse through your state’s Adult Protective Services. Phone numbers for local branches can be found on the National Adult Protective Services Association website.

Resources for Family Members of Nursing Home Residents

Family members of nursing home residents should pay close attention to the health of their loved ones. If you believe that a loved one is being harmed, note any possible signs when your suspicions are raised. You can do so by keeping notes as documentation and taking photos of any evidence of abuse. 

Talk to doctors and staff to notify them of your concerns. If action is not taken, you may need to seek help through your state’s long-term care ombudsman resource center or the adult protective services association.

The more involved you are with your loved one at the nursing home or long-term residential facility where they’re staying, the better their chances are for a higher quality of life and care. Additionally, you can help ensure their safety and make improvements or find fast solutions to problems as needed. 

Lastly, a nursing home abuse lawyer can help you determine if legal action is an option. Contact us for a free consultation to determine if you’re eligible for compensation.