For those of us who have had to make the agonizing decision to seek care for their aged and infirm loved ones in a nursing home or similar care facility, the primary concern is most often that the facility will take good care of our ailing loved one. It is bad enough to have to make the decision to send them to such a facility in the first place, but to learn that a loved one died in such a facility from preventable neglect is often a bridge too far that can cause profound psychological damage to a family. Unfortunately, our firm has seen this very scenario play out time and time again, with the root cause most often being corporate cost-cutting/profit-maximizing decision-making that leads to chronic understaffing of care givers in the facility. To prevent such a disaster, it is incumbent upon the family to remain actively involved in the daily care their loved one is receiving in a nursing home. That means you must engage with the facility’s caregivers, and call and visit your loved ones very often, if not daily.
While regular telephone or videoconference contact with the facility and your loved one is important, there is no substitute for visiting face-to-face with your loved and spending time in the facility itself, so you can see for yourself what is being done to care for your loved one. And there is perhaps no greater sign or symptom to look for on those visits than the presence of “bed sores” on your loved one’s body.
Oftentimes, people require placement in a nursing home because they lack the mobility to get around, walk, or even stand for any significant length of time. This means they spend a lot of time in bed at a nursing home. The problem with lying in bed for hours on end every day is that, over time, the body’s skin begins to become irritated and break down in spots due to this lack of movement. That process can ultimately lead to the development of open sores on the body that continue to get deeper, more pronounced, and more infected. From there, that infectious process can lead to a systemic infection of the blood and body, commonly known as sepsis, which can ultimately be a death sentence for your loved one.
To prevent the development of bed sores, one of the fundamental duties of a nursing home is to get your loved one up out of bed, or at least turn them often so they’re not laying on one particular spot of their bodies for hours, or days on end. Bed sores can develop from other problems unrelated to a lack of turning or movement, but most often these bed sores result from the nursing home’s failures to mobilize your loved one and leave them laying in the same spot for far too long. Therefore, it is critical that you visit your loved ones often and inspect their body thoroughly for the presence of bed sores. These sores can arise practically anywhere on the body, but often times they develop on the backside of the body. The low back, buttocks and heels of the feet are notorious areas for the development of bed sores, but you should check your loved one’s entire body, even their privates, as uncomfortable as that can be. The beginning of a bed sore can look like a red or dark spot that won’t go away, and it only gets worse from there.
If you detect even the faintest hint of a sore developing, you need to alert the facility’s care providers and insist on a plan of action that includes examination by a doctor and a plan of care to help heal your loved one and prevent the worsening of an existing sore process or the development of another one. The earlier treatment begins on a suspected bed sore, the better. Your persistence is key here in terms of dealing with the facility. Be vocal about your concerns and requirement that a doctor be involved. Ask to see the facilities’ records on who has been in contact with your loved one recently, how often your loved one has been turned or assisted out of bed, and whether there are any other developing issues or infections that the facility has been tracking. If you suspect that your loved one is developing a bed sore, acting quickly and decisively can go a long way towards staving off disaster.