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Are bedsores a sign of West Virginia nursing home neglect?

West Virginia health care facilities sometimes employ too few staff members to attend to the needs of patients. Repositioning hospital or nursing home residents to prevent bedsores might be a low priority task on a busy day.

Bedsores, also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers, don't sound serious but for sick patients and older people, they can damage the body enough to require surgery or cause death. The painful condition is caused by a lack of movement. The skin responds by erupting with ulcers, which can become severely infected.

Bedsores first appear as red or bluish patches of skin that itch or cause pain. In the second stage, the pressure sore is open and may look like a blister. The ulcer can develop into a difficult-to-treat wound that damages tissues and, if left untreated, can attack bones, muscles, joints and tendons.

Pressure ulcers may appear on different areas of the body, starting within 12 hours of complete immobility; symptoms show up more quickly among the elderly and sick. Nursing homes have the highest rate of bedsores among health facilities, with studies showing up to 28 percent of nursing home residents suffer from pressure sores.

Prevention takes vigilance. Bed-ridden patients should be repositioned carefully every two hours or more frequently, when possible. Wheelchair patients should change positions every half hour. Specially-made beds and beddings also can reduce the chances for bedsores to form.

Treating pressure ulcers can be complicated by thin skin – a product of aging – and other medical conditions, like diabetes. Continued immobility can reverse the effects of treatment. Family members may be able to assist, but it's important to note whether a nursing home is providing the needed care.

Pressure ulcers are preventable, when staff members in nursing homes take the necessary steps. Liability claims may be filed for nursing home neglect when residents are harmed by poor treatment.

Source: A Place for Mom, "Bedsores and Personal Care Services" Jeannette Franks, PhD, accessed Feb. 13, 2015

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