Your parent may have lost considerable mobility since becoming a resident at the nursing home. Now, he or she requires assistance to move from the bed to a chair and back again.

Such limited mobility puts the elderly at risk of developing bedsores.

Pressure ulcers

You may hear people refer to these wounds as pressure ulcers. Most of them do begin because of pressure against the skin. Blood does not flow as easily to the tissues that press against the mattress or chair because of the body’s weight, and this leads to damage. If no one helps your parent shift by turning from back to side in the bed or to a chair or other position, the tissues could eventually die from the loss of blood flow.

Signs of damage

WebMD explains that most commonly, people develop bedsores in locations where the skin is trapped between the bone and the bed or chair. The tailbone, shoulder blades or elbows are often locations where bedsores appear. Heels, ankles, hips and knees are also places to check regularly for signs of damage. There are four stages of damage:

  • Stage 1: Your parent may complain of burning or itching in the area if the sore is only in the first stage. There may be redness or discoloration in the area, a slightly different texture or a different temperature from the surrounding skin.
  • Stage 2: The skin breaks open or appears as a pus-filled blister as the sore moves deeper below the skin’s surface. You may see swelling, redness and oozing fluids.
  • Stage 3: The sore has affected the fatty tissues below the second layer of skin. It may look infected and smell bad. Black areas around the sore indicate dead tissues.
  • Stage 4: The structures beneath the sore — tendons, muscles and bones — have likely suffered damage and may even be visible through the open wound. Black skin, pus, heat and drainage indicate that this wound needs immediate medical attention.

Questions of neglect

Is a bedsore always a sign of neglect? It generally can be. If a nursing home has adequate staff, all residents should get the attention they need, even if that means staff members must reposition each person several times a day.

Understaffed nursing home facilities may not intentionally neglect residents, but suffering an injury because no one was around to provide care is still unacceptable. Nursing home owners and managers have the responsibility to make sure that every resident has adequate care.