Nursing homes are very complex to manage and operate, mainly because of how many patients they typically care for and how many individual employees are usually staffed. Many nursing home injuries and accidents typically result from a staff member who simply lost track of time or accidentally skipped a patient, which apparently happens more often than one would think.
What is a Pressure Ulcer?
Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, are open wounds that are caused by long-term, unrelieved pressure to the skin. They can occur in nursing homes, hospitals, or even in the home environment. The most common cause of a bed sore is extended bed rest – which is common in any of the abovementioned environments – without alleviating the pressure on the location of the skin.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011 approximately 2.5 million people were affected by bed sores. The National Nursing Home Survey in 2004 found that, of the 11 percent of nursing home patients affected by them, stage 2 bed sores were the most common.
Typically, pressure ulcers develop near bony areas of the skin, as the pressure of a person’s body can cause the bone to compress underlying soft tissue and actually cause skin cells to gradually die off. Typically, areas around the head, shoulders, sacrum and heels are the more common areas for developing bed sores because those are the common pressure points while a patient is lying down.
Surprisingly, the CDC says that nursing home patients under the age of 65 were more likely to suffer from bed sores than those 65 and older. However, some statistics can be misleading because there are multiple stages of bed sores, ranging from mild to extreme.
Four Stages of Bed Sores
According to the CDC, the most common system used to rank the severity of bed sores is based on the level of damage to the soft tissue areas resulting from the pressure of the bone. They are defined by stages, ranging from Stage 1 to Stage 4, with Stage 4 being the most severe.
Stage 1 bed sores are identified by persistent redness of the skin, changes in temperature and tissue consistency or painful sensations around the skin. Typically, there is very little of an open wound in this stage and more of a warning of the potential development of a more serious bed sore.
Stage 2 is the most common form of pressure ulcer in nursing home patients, according to statistics published by the CDC. In this stage, the skin is beginning to die off and create a blister or crater look to the wound. The next stage, Stage 3, is just an exaggerated version of the second stage, where the skin continues to die and turn black, and the crater of the wound grows quite significantly and could potentially even reveal some bone mass.
Finally, a Stage 4 bed sore involves more extensive destruction to the skin and can begin to cause damage to the bone, tendons and other supporting components of the body. Here, bone and tissue is much more visible through the open wound and looks quite disturbing.
NOTE: We did not want to visually alarm our readers by posting pictures of these disturbing injuries directly on the blog.