The wounds people commonly called bed sores are also known as pressure ulcers. Most people associate them with the bedridden and elderly. After all, they tend to develop in areas where gravity forces contact between the body and supportive surfaces, such as a bed, chair or mobility device like a wheelchair.
Although not all bed sores are preventable, they shouldn't occur with nearly the frequency that they do among older adults in nursing care facilities. Simply put, the vast majority of bed sores wouldn't ever develop if nursing homes all adhered to standards of care that involved proper rotation, cushioning and other protective measures.
Although there are rare cases where people are simply more apt to develop these sores, most cases of pressure ulcers are an early warning of neglect in a care facility. Neglect and abuse are so common in Michigan that a 2011 report found it happened to about one in five nursing home residents.
There are simple ways for nursing home staff to prevent bed sores
When someone can't walk or move on their own without help or assistive technology, that directly limits the positions that they can take during the day. That immobility, in turn, can result in a lot of pressure on the same parts of the body. However, there are many ways to rearrange the human body so that it does not always put pressure on the same places.
Rotating people, raising and lowering their abdomen or legs and moving them from one support system, like a bed, to another, like a chair, are all ways to alleviate pressure that builds up on the same place. Additionally, there are now very impressive mattress foams and technologies that reduce the risk of pressure sores. However, both hourly nursing care and better materials and mattresses cost money.
Bed sores can happen for many reasons
Some nursing homes will simply take the gamble that bed sores don't usually form easily and cut services back to the point of near neglect. Other times, certain people on staff may be intentionally avoiding one or more of the residents in a facility, leaving those individuals at higher risk than everyone else under their care.
Regardless of why it happens, if a loved one develops a bed sore, especially if it gets beyond the early stages and into the later stages that involve significant abscesses, you should consider taking action.
Take steps to protect your loved one, as well as others
If a facility will neglect your loved one, they will probably neglect other people, too. The first thing you should do when you discover what you believe to be a sign of neglect is to address the issue with a manager, as well as the nurse on duty.
You should also document it by taking pictures with your cellphone, sending an email to a sibling or making a physical note in a journal about what happened. If you live far away, you may need to make arrangements with someone local who can follow up on the situation directly.
It is also wise to sit down with an attorney, who can help you negotiate an improve standard of care or make it easier for you to transfer your loved one to a new facility and take action against the facility that failed to provide adequate care.