If a parent or another elderly relative is in a nursing home or experiencing a long hospital stay, family members should be mindful of the dangers of bedsores. Immobility, prolonged unconsciousness or loss of sensation are all risk factors. Sometimes, bedsores occur because a patient receives substandard care. Although this is not always the case, it does warrant further investigation.
Alternative names for bedsores include decubitus ulcers and pressure ulcers. They result from pressure on the skin that cuts off blood supply. When this occurs for at least two to three hours at a time, skin cells begin to die. As this happens, the skin turns red or purple and becomes painful. In the absence of treatment, the skin can tear. Doctors refer to the resulting opening in the skin as an ulcer.
Bedsores can range in severity based on their depth. A mild pressure ulcer may not seem like something to worry about at first, but bedsores can be dangerous for the following reasons.
Bedsores can take a long time to heal
This is especially true in the presence of conditions that affect circulation, such as diabetes. Even with surgical treatment to help accelerate the process, a pressure ulcer may not heal for months or even years. For these reasons, it is better to take steps to try to prevent bedsores from forming in the first place.
Bedsores can cause life-threatening complications
An opening in the skin, such as a decubitus ulcer, can leave the body vulnerable to bacterial infection. Bedsores can extend deep beneath the surface of the skin, meaning that bacteria could reach the bones and joints, potentially restricting function and damaging tissues. Such infections can spread out of control, and antibiotics may not be sufficient to treat them.
Bedsores may indicate neglect or malpractice
Proper skincare and good nutrition help to guard against bedsores. Prevention also involves appropriate patient positioning and frequent turning or repositioning. The formation of one or more bedsores may indicate that the patient is not receiving the level of care he or she deserves.