Residents in nursing homes are often vulnerable. Nursing home populations are especially prone to suffering from wounds. These wounds may result from illness or injury. When they occur, proper wound care is critical.
Wounds that nursing home residents may experience
Here are some types of wounds that nursing home residents may experience:
- Diabetic ulcers: People with diabetes may develop ulcers on their feet and legs. They may become deep and infected
- Lacerations: A laceration occurs when something sharp cuts the skin
- Burns: A burn may occur in the kitchen or from household appliances
- Blisters: A blister is the result of fluid between layers of skin. They can happen anywhere, but they are most common on the feet and hands
- Post-surgery wounds: Surgical incisions may be necessary for a medical procedure. While the treatment itself may be beneficial for the resident, a wound may be left that needs proper treatment
- Skin ulcers: Ulcers are sores on the skin. Layers of skin may be lost, and the ulcer may be inflamed with a reddish appearance. Ulcers are commonly painful, and they may ooze fluid
- Bed sores: Bed sores are a type of ulcer that result from prolonged pressure. When a resident has ongoing pressure on an area of skin, bed sores may develop
- Scrapes: A scrape may occur as the result of a fall or from touching an abrasive object
The size and location of a wound may vary. Whatever the type and cause of the wound, a nursing resident needs proper treatment and care.
Signs of improper wound care
Proper wound care requires several steps. Any ongoing bleeding must be stopped. The wound must be cleaned, and an antibiotic applied if appropriate. The wound should be covered and dressed, and dressings must be changed regularly. A tetanus shot may be necessary.
Here are some signs of improper wound care:
- A lack of progress in healing over a reasonable period of time
- Failing to change dressings regularly
- Blood and pus seeping through a dressing
- Lingering pain
- Redness that does not subside
The healing process depends on the type of injury, the injury’s severity and the patient’s personal history. Many factors impact the time and process of recovery. If wound care is improper, the wound fails to heal properly and puts the patient at risk for medical complications and additional harm.
Complications of mistreated nursing home wounds
If a wound is not cared for properly, complications are more likely to occur. These complications may include:
- Infection: Skin protects the body from things that can cause harm. When there is an open wound, the body does not have a natural barrier to protect against infection. Infection can be painful, and a fever may develop. Infection may disrupt the proper functioning of the body.
- Drainage and pus: A wound may ooze liquids. Purulent discharge is a sign that the wound is infected. It may contain white blood cells and bacteria, and it may smell foul.
- Swelling, irritation, and redness: While swelling may be part of the healing process, redness or pain may be signs that the wound is not healing properly.
- Prolonged sores without healing: Over time, a wound should show signs of improvement. Scar tissue may develop and then decline. With proper care, a scar can be minimized. When a sore persists for an unusually long period of time, it may be a sign of improper care.
- Black tissue: If black tissue appears in a wound, it may be dead tissue that can no longer heal. It may be a sign of a very grave condition, and it may make bacterial infection more likely to occur.
- Strong odor: A wound that persists for a long period may smell foul because of dead and decaying body tissue.
Steps for families to hold the nursing home accountable
Providing proper wound care is a part of adequate care in a nursing home. A resident should be given attention to determine the nature of the wound and a proper course of care. The treatment must be carried out, and any signs of complications must be addressed.
If this fails to occur, the nursing home may be accountable. They may be responsible for nursing home neglect. A victim who suffers medical bills, physical suffering, and emotional anguish may bring a claim. They may hold the home accountable and seek financial compensation.
Mayo Clinic, Cuts, and scrapes, first aid
Medline Plus, Wound care centers
The University of Wisconsin, Best wound care
WebMD, How to care for wounds
WebMD, What is an ulcer?