Bed Sores or Pressure Ulcers in Nursing Homes: A Serious Problem

In addition to the emotional torment that a neglected resident in a nursing home experiences, severe physical damage can also occur. Bed sores or pressure sores (also known as decubitus ulcers) are painful sores that often take place in nursing homes when proper care and treatment is missing. When left untreated, a bed sore can be fatal. Read below to find out the basics of what a bed sore is, how to avoid it, and who to call if it happens.

What is a bed sore? A bed sore is the result of constant heat, moisture, and pressure on a certain area. It is painful and can cause severe damage to your bones, muscles, and tendons if not treated.

Where can it be? It is most commonly seen on bony areas of the body where there is less cushioning, including: on the tailbone, spine, buttocks, and the heels. They may also appear on the shoulders, elbows, ankles, and between the knees where the legs rub together.

How does it happen? It occurs when patients remain in one spot for long periods of time. When a patient is not repositioned, heat and moisture build. Mix those with the constant pressure on that area and the sore starts to form.

What does it look like? There are different stages in bed sores. At first, it starts as a change in skin color and temperature. Then it can progress to an abrasion or blister, and, lastly, to an infection resulting in damage to your muscles, bones, and tendons. Below are the various stages that medical staffs recognize and use as a scale for severity:

Stage 1- With lighter skin tones, skin is persistently red; in darker skin tones, skin color changes to a red, blue, or purple hue. The sore may be itchy, uncomfortable, and warmer than other areas of the body.

Stage 2- The top layer of your skin is broken, and creates a shallow, open sore. Clinically, it presents as an abrasion, blister, or shallow crater.

Stage 3- The sore deepens and breaks through the subcutaneous tissue and fat tissue. It may also extend down to, but not through, underlying fascia (the connective tissue covering or binding together body parts such as muscles and organs). Clinically, the sore presents as a deep crater.

Stage 4- In the most severe stage, your skin is gone, tissue necrosis takes place (cells die in a tissue or organ), and your muscles, bones, tendons, or joints may be damaged.

How can it be avoided? There are several ways to avoid a bed sore or decubitus ulcer. The patient should be repositioned often. By doing this, pressure will be exchanged to different parts of the body, alleviating the pain that comes with long term pressure on one area. The patient should eat a healthy diet. Make sure the patient is getting protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and zinc. These are very important nutrients for healthy skin. Lastly, maintain good hygiene. Heat and moisture cause bed sores to form. Regular bathing and keeping the area is clean and dry, will lessen the chance of a sore.

Nursing homes are responsible for the care of their patients. Bed or pressure sores are easily avoided, but are also easily obtained if a patient is being neglected and abused. If you or someone you know has been the victim of this painful injury, report it immediately online to, which is the Arizona Department of Health Services site. DHS will investigate the nursing home regarding your complaint. Also, you should give the nursing home negligence lawyers at Knapp & Roberts a call. Your loved one has rights and deserves to be safe in a nursing home. Let us help.