Pressure Sores in Nursing Homes: Extremely Common and Highly Preventable

Stephen M. Garcia
Garcia, Artigliere & Medby

Pressure sores affect more than 1 in 10 nursing home residents, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Pressure sores – or bed sores or decubitus ulcers – occur when the skin is damaged because a resident is left lying or sitting in one position for too long. They frequently form on the elbow, heel, hip, shoulder, back, and the back of the head, but they can be found anywhere on the body.

Pressure sores are serious medical conditions that can be the gateway into the body of serious, life-threatening infections. They are one of the most important measures of the quality of clinical care in nursing homes.

Stage 3 and 4 pressure ulcers are considered a “never event” by the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A “never event” is a term introduced by the former chief executive officer of the National Quality Forum in reference to particularly shocking medical errors that should never occur.

According to an article in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, University of Toronto researchers have found that hospitals can reduce the development of pressure sores by providing pressure-reduction mattresses for elderly patients in their emergency departments.

Suggesting a direct cost savings that should motivate many long-term care facilities and hospital emergency departments, the researchers found that hospitals and nursing homes would save per pressure-ulcer incidence if they had pressure-reduction mattresses available.

Other studies have found that nursing home residents are less likely to get pressure sores if they speak English, are involved with and are often visited by their families, and live in a nursing home with adequate staffing.

The average cost of treating a bedsore during an acute care hospital stay is $43,000 per stay. Medicaid and Medicare, MediCal in California, does not reimburse the treatment cost for bed sores.

Pressure sores are easily prevented by:

Keeping the skin clean and dry
Changing the resident’s position every two hours
Using pillows, mattresses, and other products that relieve pressure
If your loved one has developed serious bed sores in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, contact an experienced elder abuse attorney at Garcia, Artigliere & Medby for a free, no-obligation consultation.