Pressure Ulcers Are Preventable And Unacceptable
A pressure ulcer is an area of skin that breaks down when you stay in one position for too long without shifting your weight. The constant pressure against the skin reduces the blood supply to that area, and the affected tissue dies. Also referred to as wounds, bed sores and decubitus ulcers, a pressure ulcer starts as reddened skin but gets progressively worse, forming a blister, then an open sore and finally a crater.
Residents of nursing homes are at high risk for developing pressure ulcers, because they may sit or lie for long periods of time in one place or position. They may be too weak or too ill to move themselves, and they are totally dependent on nursing home staff to help them reposition.
Medicare Calls Pressure Ulcers ‘Never Events’ — Conditions That Are Preventable And Should Never Happen
In fact, Medicare has put pressure ulcers on a list of “Never Events” that should never occur in a hospital or nursing home, and which indicate a real problem in the safety and credibility of a care facility.
For pressure relief, immobile individuals need to be repositioned at least every two hours in bed, and at least every 15 minutes if they are sitting in a chair or wheelchair. At poorly managed nursing homes and rest homes, residents develop pressure ulcers because they are left unattended sitting or lying in bed for long periods of time, due to staffing shortages or because staff are poorly trained.
Another red flag of poor care at a nursing home is when the pressure ulcer gets worse, and not better, progressing to the more severe stages such as stage 3 or stage 4 pressure ulcers. Signs that the ulcer is getting worse include:
- The ulcer gets wider, deeper and longer;
the ulcer develops dead tissue (usually black);
the ulcer develops “undermining” (a thin lip of tissue around the edges of the wound);
the ulcer has drainage (watch out for yellow, green or grey drainage);
the ulcer has a foul odor.
- If a pressure ulcer becomes infected, the infection can spread to the rest of the body and cause serious problems, including blood infection (sepsis) and bone infection (osteomyelitis). Either of these is a life-threatening condition.