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Exploring the Social and Psychological Effects of Pressure Ulcers

Unfortunately, pressure ulcers are preventable, yet common conditions which arise in elderly individuals who reside in nursing homes and other healthcare settings. Not only do these severe wounds cause physical discomfort and pain, but a study published in Wounds delved into the social and psychological effects of pressure ulcers which contribute to a reduced quality of life. For example, studies have shown that those who have pressure ulcers for six or more months are more likely to suffer from pessimism, which may affect their nutrition, susceptibility to depression, and ability to heal.

Pressure ulcers are known to impact general physical health, as complications and even death may occur. Additionally, pain almost always accompanies the presence of a pressure ulcer, and studies have shown that 84% of those with pressure ulcers have reported pain even while they are at rest, with some expressing their pain to be at an excruciating level. In addition, many have expressed experiencing fatigue due to sleep disruptions because of the presence of the ulcers. Thus, because of these ongoing factors, patients already experience a diminished quality of life.

Pressure ulcers create physical restrictions for patients which impose lifestyle changes as well. For example, one’s living arrangements must be altered to accommodate the presence of a pressure ulcer. As a result of these restrictions, social and psychological implications arise. Research has found that physical limitations may severely restrict an individual’s social life, sometimes resulting in social isolation. Some have expressed that their relationships have been impacted. Those with pressure ulcers are often very dependent on others for care, and are affected by the perceived impact these pressure sores impose on others. For example, sufferers develop a fear of becoming a burden upon others, and develop preoccupations regarding the financial impact the pressure ulcer may have on their families. Many have expressed that they have been emotionally or psychologically embarrassed to due odors which stem from the wound, and this has also led to social isolation as a result. In addition, many have felt embarrassed requiring assistance in changing of dressings, and this has impacted relationships and quality of life as well.

Psychological implications also arise when individuals develop a preoccupation with the presence and healing of the sore. This, in turn, may impact an individual’s own perception of their body image. When one sustains an injury or wound, particularly one that is visible, it can result in emotional and psychological trauma, including feelings of shame and embarrassment. This is particularly likely in cases of patients suffering from stage IV pressure ulcers, which not only cause pain, but usually also expose muscle and bone.

Because pressure ulcers are highly preventable with proper care, monitoring, and treatment, health care providers must remain vigilant in preventing their development. This is not only to prevent accompanying physical pain and discomfort, but to avoid the distressing social and psychological effects that arise as a result of the development of pressure ulcers as well. It is much easier to prevent a pressure ulcer from forming in the first place, as treating an already developed pressure ulcer can be problematic. There are many preventative measures that can be taken, ranging from position changes to proper nutrition. If you believe your loved one is suffering from a pressure ulcer, it is important to ensure that your loved one’s nursing home facility is accurately assessing the wound for infection and providing proper care. The experienced elder abuse attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi firmly believe that the formation of preventable pressure ulcers is completely inexcusable, and will fight relentlessly for your loved one’s care and rights. Contact us today at (888) 606-3453 for a free consultation. We are located in both Northern and Southern California and serve cities throughout the state.