Everyone has heard complaints about how nursing homes take care of patients. While not all nursing homes are negligent in their treatment of residents and patients, there is no denying how commonly issues like bedsores show up. Since nursing homes and their staff are under constant scrutiny these days by the families of residents and the public in general, it is important that they take extra precautions to avoid unnecessary patient suffering, illnesses, disease and neglect.
Preventing bedsores is one area where nursing homes could excel in their treatment of patients. Bedsores are a challenge for any long-term care facility because they are not always easy to prevent. By looking more closely at the way they take care of patients and the options they have for avoiding more common and relatively minor health issues for those patients, nursing homes can improve their image and better serve their patients.
What Causes Bedsores?
The main cause of bedsores is lack of mobility in patients. Normally, humans move around regularly while sleeping—and they tend to only lie in bed for 8 hours or so a day. When the time spent in bed increases dramatically, it becomes much more difficult to move around enough to avoid bedsores. The lack of movement and increased time lying down puts pressure on certain points, usually the bones of the hips, the buttocks, the tailbone and lower back.
Lying down constantly is not the only cause of bedsores, though. Any constant pressure can lead to bedsores because it is the pressure that squeezes capillaries shut and deprives the skin of oxygen. They can form where shoes are not taken off on patients in wheelchairs, for example. The lack of blood and oxygen leads to the accumulation of wastes in the skin and surrounding tissues. The accumulation of these wastes, along with the pressure on the skin, can eventually lead to a pressure ulcer.
Some estimate that bedsores lead to nearly 10,000 deaths a year—most of which would be preventable with proper care.
5 Bedsore Prevention Ideas for Nursing Homes
- Take advantage of pillows and other cushions.
Putting a pillow under any point where pressure is constant and significant can help redistribute some of the weight and lessen the pressure on that point. You can put pillows under the hips of patients, for instance, to keep the pressure on the hip bones less than it would be otherwise. There are pillows designed to keep pressure off of tailbones as well, which means you can mix specific cushioning tools with general cushions to create a safer situation for patients.
2) Help patients change positions regularly.
Lying or sitting day in and day out can be exhausting. Patients may not have the energy or the motivation to change positions as often as they should. An ideal goal would be for patients to shift their weight around every few hours. Try incorporating a timer and scheduling system to ensure that every patient is shifted at frequent intervals.
3) Increase the amount of exercise patients get.
Exercise can seem like a daunting proposition for patients who are bound to the bed or to a wheelchair. Fortunately, they have the nursing home staff to help motivate them and keep them exercising regularly. Even the simplest exercises can encourage blood flow throughout the body and lead to shifts in positions and muscle tone that can help prevent bedsores.
Range of motion exercises like arm lifts, leg lifts and ankle rotations are all simple, effective types of exercise that can achieve the goal of preventing bedsores—while being easy enough that you can get most patients to engage in them.
4) Regularly clean and dry the skin of patients.
Bedsores are less likely to develop if the skin is kept clean and dry. Regular washing for patients, aided by nursing home staff, can do a lot to help patients avoid bedsores. Not only does it feel good for patients to get clean and dry, but the washing will also limit the growth of bacteria on the skin and will encourage shifts in position.
5) Maintain good nutrition.
Studies are not conclusive, but it is believed that maintaining good nutrition can help prevent bedsores. Make sure patients get a balanced diet and that they consume enough food to maintain good nutrition on a regular basis.
- Harvard Health Publishing – Preventing bedsores
- CMS – BED SORES CAN BE STOPPED WITH PROPER CARE IN NURSING HOMES MEDICARE PROJECT SHOWS
- Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses. – Chapter 12 Pressure Ulcers: A Patient Safety Issue