Bedsores or pressure ulcers, which are physical wounds that develop due to limited mobility, have a strong association with living in a nursing home facility. Although people think of bedsores as an inevitable consequence of spending most of one’s day in bed or a chair, most bedsores are preventable with the right support.
More importantly, early-stage bedsores do not have to get worse as long as the staff at a nursing home intervenes. More advanced bedsores are possible warning signs of ongoing neglect.
The earliest stage of bedsore development is easy to overlook. It is often just a red or pink area of skin with inflamed tissue underneath. People may report feeling burning or itching. The tissue may also have a different consistency than the rest of the body.
Once the injury affects more than just the top layer of skin, the bedsore has reached the second stage. At this point, the skin will often break, causing an open wound. Other times, the skin remains intact but a blister develops. The entire area around the wound will be warm and inflamed. It can take as long as three weeks for a stage two pressure ulcer to clear up after someone receives proper treatment.
When a pressure ulcer moves into the fatty tissue below the skin, it has reached the third stage of development. The sore will usually be large and noticeable at this point. It may smell, which is a warning sign of infection. It may produce drainage and be hot to the touch. Oftentimes, the tissue in the sore or directly around it turns dark, which can be a sign that the tissue is now dead. The treatment necessary often includes the removal of dead tissue and antibiotics. It can take between one and four months for a stage three pressure ulcer to fully heal.
Someone will typically have remained in the same position for a long time without adequate support, rotation and cushioning for a bedsore to reach the fourth stage. At this point, the damage can extend to the musculature under the fat and even the connective tissue. The wound will usually be visibly obvious and quite painful. In some cases, stage four bedsores are so deep that it is possible to see the bone or tendons inside someone’s body. Stage four bedsores often lead to severe infections and long recoveries and may necessitate surgery.
Family members concerned about the development of bedsores, especially late-stage bedsores, may need to take action against a care facility that has ignored a loved one’s symptoms. Understanding the different stages of bedsore development can help loved ones be better advocates for older adults in a nursing home facility.