Anyone who has known the agony of being placed on restricted bed rest knows full well the boredom that ensues, along with the mental anguish of not being able to move for days on end.
Though long-term bed rest is often reserved for those who’ve suffered serious injuries, this is also common with elderly patients and some residents of nursing homes, which is why it’s important to look at all aspects of long-term care before moving your loved one into a care facility.
While sometimes our bodies require significant rest to recuperate from injury, sometimes this immobile state can cause significant damage to our bodies as well. Such is the case for individuals who are placed on bedrest who develop pressure ulcers, otherwise known as bedsores.
Bedsores, as they’re commonly referred to, can become infected and even cause death if they’re not properly treated. This is often the case in nursing homes, and one of the primary cases that result in legal action due to improper care at nursing facilities.
While bed-ridden patients are already dependent on care, the exacerbation of injury due to bedsores can largely be avoided altogether as long as frequent and proper care is provided. Here, we’ll explore how bedsores occur and how to properly prevent them.
What Are Bedsores?
Bedsores (pressure ulcers) occur when you lie or sit in one position for too long. This occurs because the weight of your body cuts off the blood supply to a centralized location, and these are common injuries as a result of prolonged bed rest and are also associated with those who are confined to wheelchairs.
Pressure ulcers are also often known to appear and go through stages of development. If left untreated these stages will continue to progress.
This is the mild stage, where mild discomfort normally occurs and the bedsore only affects the top layer of the skin. Some of the symptoms associated with a Stage 1 bedsore might include the following:
- Mild pain
- Burning ‘
- Localized sensitivity
- Warm or cool sensations
- Skin may become softer or more firm
A Stage 2 bedsore becomes more painful if left untreated. This is the point where the sore deepens into sub-dermis levels and may ooze pus or fluid. Some symptoms associated with a Stage 2 bedsore include:
- Broken skin around the sore
- Pus-filled blisters might form
- Swollen and red
- Moderate to severe pain
- Warm sensation around the area
This stage is one that persists if no care for the sore has been provided, and it is the point where the sire protrudes into the fatty tissue under the skin. Some of the symptoms regarding Stage 3 include:
- The sore forms a crater
- You notice a foul odor around the sore
- Redness around the sore
- Pus or fluid leakage
- Black tissue may form around the sore if the tissue is dead
This is one of the most severe of the stages and can result in significant damage if left untreated. A Stage 4 bedsore is often the first telltale sign of improper care at a nursing facility, and is generally grounds to consider a lawsuit. Symptoms of a Stage 4 bedsore include:
- The sore is visibly deep
- The crater widens
- Edges of tissue are black and red
- Foul odor
- Severe drainage including blood and pus
- You may be able to see tendons and bone within the crater
A Stage 4 bedsore is responsible for infections that can lead to amputation and/or death in the most severe cases. If the sore is treatable through conventional surgery and antibiotics, it may take up to several months to heal completely.
Joint Health as Related to Prolonged Bed Rest
In addition to the forming of bedsores, you can also develop significant problems with joint health due to decreased activity. Our bones and joints need movement to remain healthy, and if you’re placed on a prolonged bed rest regimen, this greatly decreases the mobility you’ll have when normally using your joints and muscles.
The same holds true for those bound to a wheelchair. In addition, wheelchair users may also suffer from joint pain from rolling the wheelchair around. This is often similar to those who develop Tennis elbow, or other arthritic symptoms.
If you or a loved one begin to feel numbness, pain, or fatigue in the joints, you should consult a doctor immediately.
How to Care for Bedsores
If you or a loved one have a prolonged bedsore, you should begin preventative care immediately. As always, consult your doctor prior to performing any care regimen, but some universal care methods also will apply.
Begin by cleaning the sore thoroughly with mild soap and water. A salt water solution is sometimes used, but keep in mind that this can also cause pain on sensitive skin. If you have an open sore, topical antibiotics and healing creams may be needed after cleaning the sore.
Ideally, you’ll want to limit surface contact or any pressure on the sore. Switching positions if possible is recommended to mitigate any further irritation or pressure to the affected area.
Additionally, you can also take vitamins and supplements that might aid in skin health such as Vitamins A and C, and eat a high protein diet to help in healing the skin.You should note, however, that bedsores that are in advanced Stage 3 or in Stage 4 may require surgery to remove dead tissue and employ a treatment of antibiotics as prescribed by a physician.
How to Prevent Bedsores
While being bedridden is typically advised for patients who suffer extreme injuries and a patient might have limited ability to move his or her body, some motion is necessary to reduce the development of bedsores.
If possible, ensure that the patient moves or shifts positions every hour, and has breathing room around areas that are under pressure from body weight.
In addition to movement, regularly checking on the patient is the best defense against the forming of bedsores. If your loved one is in a nursing facility, visit them frequently and visually check over their body to ensure that no sores are forming.
Though care for immoble patients is being provided, you’ll want to ensure that this care is being provided properly, no matter if they’re in a hospital setting or a resident of a nursing home.
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