What Are Bed Sores?

January 25, 2021

Bed sores are a painful injury that as many as one in every 10 nursing home residents suffer, according to data collected by the CDC. However, bed sores aren’t caused by accident, like slips and falls. Bed sores are typically a sign of neglect by nursing home staff.

If someone you love currently lives in a nursing home or other assisted living facility, it’s important to know what bed sores are, how they happen, and how to recognize them, so you can learn if your loved one is being cared for properly or is instead being dangerously neglected by nursing home staff.

When left undiagnosed and untreated, bed sores can become exceptionally dangerous injuries, especially for elderly or disabled individuals.

What Causes Bed Sores?

Bed sores, also called pressure ulcers, are caused by skin rubbing against a surface continually or when blood flow is cut off from constant pressure against the skin or limb. This is usually from residents spending long hours at a time lying in a bed or in a wheelchair without moving.

Because some elderly and disabled people are unable to move without assistance, when they are neglected by caretakers, they can develop bed sores. Residents who are already experiencing neglect, such as malnourishment or dehydration, may even be more at risk of developing bed sores faster.

What Do Bed Sores Look Like?

Bed sores will look different depending on how long they’ve been left untreated. “Stage One” bed sores can appear after only a few hours, and may not look too different from a bruise. But when left untreated for days at a time, bed sores can progress through stages of severity. By the time they reach “Stage Four,” bed sores may never heal properly, and can even be fatal.

Stage One Bed Sores – These will be a discolored patch of skin on a part of the body that presses up against the bed or wheelchair, such as the backs of arms and legs, heels of the feet, the tailbone, shoulders, and back of the head.

It may appear red on lighter skin or purple on darker skin and won’t turn lighter when pressed. It may feel warm, swollen, or hard, and your loved one may complain that it’s painful or itchy.

Stage Two Bed Sores – At this stage, the sore breaks the surface of the skin. The spot will look like a bad blister or an open wound and may ooze pus or a clear fluid. This stage is very painful.

Stage Three Bed Sores – At this stage, the sore has broken through all layers of the skin and is now affecting the fat tissue. It will look like a crater in the skin, and the skin around it may begin to change color.

The wound may be hot to the touch and smell bad.

Stage Four Bed Sores – At this stage, the sore has broken through both the skin and fat tissue and is beginning to erode the muscle tissue and bone, which may even be visible through the gaping wound. The skin around the wound may begin to die and turn black, and the inside of the wound may turn brown, black, green, or yellow.

At this final stage, bed sores may require surgery to treat, and can become fatally infected.

How Are Bed Sores Treated?

Bed sores can be prevented by making sure the nursing home resident is moved at least every two hours, but if a bed sores forms, it’s important to treat it as soon as it’s noticed.

If in stage one, bed sores can be treated by moving the patient so the affected spot is no longer pressed against the mattress or wheelchair. If your loved one can’t be moved out of their bed or wheelchair, you can try to change their position by propping the affected body part with foam pads or pillows.

The affected area should also be gently washed with mild soap and warm water.

If the nursing home resident is moved often and the sore is allowed time to heal, it should fade in a matter of days.

Once the sore breaks the skin, it will need to be kept clean at all times and dressed with medical gauze to prevent infection. If tissue around the affected spot dies, the dead tissue may need to be removed, and healthy tissue grafted on. The patient may also need to be prescribed antibiotics to keep the wound from becoming infected. 

Bed Sores Are Usually Evidence of Neglect

Bed sores can form in as little as two hours, and when spotted and treated early, are not very harmful. But an unfortunate truth is that many nursing homes under-hire and under-train staff to save money, which means residents who need help moving from their bed or wheelchair aren’t given the help they need often enough, and when bed sores form, they aren’t noticed.

When nursing homes residents are left neglected for days and weeks at a time, allowing bed sores to develop and become painful and dangerous to the residents’ health, the nursing home should be held liable for their neglect.

If you visited your loved one in their nursing home recently and found untreated bed sores, report the problem to the nursing home immediately. Your family may also be eligible for compensation for the nursing home’s neglect and what your loved one suffered while their wound was left untreated.

At Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers, we care deeply about the health of our elderly loved ones, and we know how scary and stressful it can be to try to get them help. A lawsuit may be able to get your loved one the compensation they need and deserve for their injuries. If you’d like to explore your options, contact our firm today for a free consultation.