What Causes Bedsores in Nursing Homes?

by Aaron Gartlan

March 30, 2021 | Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing homes are supposed to offer residents compassion and quality care while giving family members peace of mind that their loved one’s medical needs are being addressed. Unfortunately, for both Alabama nursing home residents and their family members, that isn’t always the case, and even the smallest wound can signal big problems for residents.

Bedsores may be one of the first signs that nursing home abuse or neglect is hurting a cherished loved one. These sores may be indicative of poor medical care, caregiver neglect, or abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that more than one in ten nursing home residents have some form of a pressure ulcer. Even more shocking, estimates as recently as Spring of 2019 show that 10 to 18 percent of high-risk patients at many Alabama nursing homes are affected by bedsores.

How are bedsores caused, and what can be done to prevent them? Nursing homes and caregivers who are not taking the steps needed to prevent patients from developing sores may be committing neglectful acts. For more information on nursing home neglect and abuse, or if you suspect a loved one’s bedsores are being caused by neglect, contact a Dothan, Alabama nursing home abuse lawyer at Gartlan Injury Law today.

What Causes Bedsores in Nursing Homes?

When a person remains in a sedentary position for too long, the resulting pressure can cause the skin to break down and painful sores to develop.

These wounds are commonly known as bedsores or skin ulcers. They tend to occur on areas of the body that cover bony protrusions, such as the ankles, hips, heels, and tailbone.

Common Bedsore Causes in Nursing Homes

While the most common cause of bedsores tends to be pressure placed on an area of the body for too long, other sources can also result in ulcers. Some of the most common causes of bedsores in a nursing home setting include:

  • Intense pressure
  • Consistent pressure
  • Friction or rubbing
  • Shearing (surfaces moving in opposite directions)
  • Poor wound care management

Bedsore Prevention

Nursing home residents who suffer from conditions that limit their mobility may be confined to a bed or wheelchair for extended periods of time. They are at greater risk of developing bedsores. Trained caregivers must take the steps necessary to prevent nursing home residents from developing bedsores including:

Frequent and Regular Movement

To help prevent the formation of bedsores, patients who are confined to a bed or wheelchair need to be frequently repositioned so that their body weight is not concentrated in one position. While timeframes vary depending on whether a patient is wheelchair-bound or bedridden, many medical studies recommend that patients change positions every 30 minutes to two hours to prevent pressure ulcers and sores.

Keep Skin Clean

Cleanliness is extremely important when it comes to preventing bedsores from getting worse or becoming infected. The skin should be washed with a mild cleanser and patted dry gently. Soiled bed clothes should be changed. This helps limit the skin’s exposure to moisture and germs, which can contribute to bedsores or make existing sores seriously infected.

Daily Inspections

Skin can become thinner and much drier and more fragile with age. This makes it much more prone to developing bedsores.

However, daily skin inspections are a powerful tool to catch and prevent the early symptoms of bedsore development.

Special attention should be given to areas where intense pressure is applied to the body, such as the tailbone, buttocks, and the backs of the arms and legs. Attention should also be paid to areas where there are skinfolds or creases.

Proper Nutrition and Physical Activity

Proper nutrition, hydration, and physical activity are the hallmarks of any healthy individual. In nursing home residents, these factors become even more crucial as vitamins, minerals, and proper hydration help the body maintain a strong immune system.

Physical activity and frequent movement also help increase blood flow and prevent any one area from being under excessive pressure.

How Nursing Home Neglect Can Cause Bedsores

One bedsore itself may not always be indicative of a larger problem. However, multiple bedsores, untreated ulcers, or frequent reports of bedsores may be signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.

Nursing home caregivers have a responsibility to attend to residents’ health and safety. This can include frequently altering the position of immobile residents, inspecting patients for signs of bedsores and infections, and properly caring for and treating any emerging signs of wounds or ulcers.

When caregivers fail to fulfill these duties, the results for elderly residents can be life-altering, even life-ending. Infected bedsores and ulcers can lead to tissue necrosis, sepsis, loss of limbs, and even death.

Overworked or overwhelmed nursing home caregivers may contribute to the development of bedsores by failing to thoroughly clean a patient, inspect their skin, or move them regularly. While unintentional, this behavior is still considered neglect, and caregivers and nursing homes may be held accountable.

A pressure sore may also develop as a result of an improperly trained caregiver attending to elderly residents. While a caregiver may not be intentionally neglecting a resident, the nursing home itself is responsible for conducting the background screenings to ensure that those hired to work with residents are qualified and have the proper education and credentials. The nursing home is responsible for training its caregivers in the proper protocol for addressing a resident’s medical needs.

Unfortunately, some caregivers may intentionally choose to neglect and abuse nursing home residents out of spite, anger, dissatisfaction at work, or cruelty. These caregivers may intentionally choose to ignore wounds or the warning signs of ulcers to punish difficult patients.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Loved One Is Being Neglected in Alabama

Though they may begin as a small wound, bedsores can be an indicator that there is a larger problem at issue. Elderly nursing home residents at risk for developing significant bedsores may not be able to effectively communicate that they are being mistreated, abused, or neglected.

If you have a family member or elderly patient who is experiencing bedsores or has infected ulcers, those issues may be the result of nursing home abuse or neglect. If you suspect elder abuse or neglect in the Dothan area, do not wait. Call the team at Gartlan Injury Law today. We are committed to investigating your claims and holding those responsible accountable for their actions.

Contact us for a free consultation about your legal options, and let’s work together to help your loved one out of a painful situation.


Aaron Gartlan is a graduate of Troy University and the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law who focuses his practice exclusively on representing those injured by the wrongdoing of others. He is member of the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal practice, Aaron teaches Business Law as an adjunct instructor at Troy University’s Sorrell College of Business and serves as a field artillery sergeant in the Alabama National Guard.

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