Pressure ulcers, which are more commonly known as bedsores, are potentially debilitating injuries that are caused by pressure on the skin that restricts the flow of blood and hampers the delivery of crucial nutrients like oxygen. Thousands of people in New Mexico and around the country develop bedsores each year, and many of them are nursing home residents. When pressure ulcers are not treated promptly, patients can develop serious and possibly fatal conditions like cellulitis and sepsis.
Bedsores are often seen as a sign of nursing home negligence because they are preventable and respond well to treatment when they are diagnosed in a timely manner. Nursing home residents are especially prone to bedsores because they often stay in the same position for lengthy periods, which means they should be checked regularly for signs of tenderness, swelling and changes in skin color or tone. When bedsores are common in a long-term care facility, it suggests that the treatment being provided is inadequate.
An underreported issue
The federal government’s Nursing Home Compare tool provides the public with information about long-term care facilities, but it relies on self-reported data. When researchers from the University of Chicago studies the amount of bedsore cases reported to Nursing Home Compare, they discovered the cost of this lack of oversight. The researchers concluded that pressure ulcers are ”substantially underreported” by nursing homes, and they said alternative approaches are needed to improve the care provided to residents.
Bedsores almost always develop on bony areas of the body, such as the shoulders or hips, that are not well protected by fat or muscle, which means preventing them involves little more than regularly examining the skin. This is something that even a person with minimal medical training should be able to do, but it is a task that is often overlooked. Better data is needed to tackle this problem, and nursing homes should be held accountable when they fail to provide even the most basic levels of care.