Recent research has been conducted to explain why the elderly population may be at higher risk for pressure ulcer development. Our skin functions as a defensive barrier against physical and chemical trauma and disease. However, research has uncovered correlations between skin changes that occur with age which may serve as risk factors for pressure sores. This is because various changes in the skin’s structure occur with time, impacting the skin’s ability to heal wounds quickly and leaving it more vulnerable. The skin of elderly individuals has increasingly fewer epidermal cell layers thus deteriorating its ability to serve as an effective barrier. Additionally, as people age, subcutaneous fat will deteriorate. This will have the effect of decreasing support of one’s skin from underlying bone. In addition, skin will generally respond with less vasodilation when there is external pressure, furthering the likelihood for pressure sore development.
Because of these changes, elderly individuals in nursing homes are highly susceptible to the development of pressure ulcers. Despite the fact that it is highly preventable, statistics reveal that about 2.5 million people develop pressure sores every year in the United States alone. Of these individuals, up to 24% develop pressure sores in long term care facilities, while 38% develop pressure sores during their stay at acute care hospitals. Pressure sores not only diminish an individual’s quality of life but may also lead to death. Thus, early identification and treatment are critical in preventing the development and worsening of sores, and the complications that may result due to their development.
Studies have found that early recognition of pressure sores is imperative, as significant improvement generally occurs earlier in a patient’s hospital stay. Researchers also want to bring to attention the fact that pressure sores may initially appear as patches of discolored skin. Therefore, caretakers should be careful and thorough in examining for such sores during initial patient assessment, as they may be easily overlooked on those with darker skin types. Additionally, in such cases, the skin may also feel firm or abnormally hot or cold. Research is currently being conducted to implement methods, such as the use of ultrasound, to identify whether deeper tissue damage has occurred that is not otherwise visible from the skin’s surface.
In order to improve the care of elderly patients residing in nursing homes and other healthcare settings, caretakers must have an understanding of the skin changes that lead to higher susceptibility of pressure sore development. As studies have shown, caretakers must ensure they are attentive and alert when assessing the incoming patient to determine if there is an existing pressure ulcer. Then, they must take measures to ensure the ulcer does not worsen in severity, as early detection and treatment of pressure ulcers has been correlated with major improvement. Additionally, even if a pre-existing pressure sore is not found, understanding the skin changes that put elderly individuals at risk will allow for caretakers to take appropriate preventative measures to avoid pressure sores. For example, nursing homes must take necessary precautions including moving immobile patients in bed at least every hour, performing regular skin assessments, and providing patients with proper nutrition and hydration.
At the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, we understand that the development of pressure sores can lead to needless suffering and pain for your loved ones. However, we also understand that these sores are highly preventable with proper care. Thus, if you believe that a nursing home facility has breached its duties to you and your loved one in any way, we insist that they must be held accountable for their actions. We are located in both Northern and Southern California and serve cities and towns statewide. Contact us today at (888) 606-3453 for a free consultation.