Bedsores in Nursing Homes: Just How Big Is This Problem?

Bedsores, and medical complications from untreated bedsores, are far too common in the U.S. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 159,000 U.S. nursing home residents had bedsores in 2004. Residents over 64, those with nursing stays of less than a year and those with recent weight loss were more likely to develop pressure ulcers. Unfortunately, bedsores are a sign of neglect and are completely preventable with proper nursing care.

What Causes Bedsores?

Bedsores, or pressure ulcers, are wounds caused by constant pressure on the skin, primarily immobility. They usually develop over a bony area such as the heel, elbow, hip, shoulder or back of the head. A prolonged sedentary period, without regularly moving the patient around, can lead to lesions and skin abrasions that are difficult to heal.

There are usually warning signs for a bedsore that develop before an open wound. A bedsore may first present as a rash or the skin may change temperature or color and swell. The depth and severity of the pressure ulcer determines its stage and complications can develop from more advanced bedsores. Potential problems include cellulitis, an infection of the skin and soft tissues; bone and joint infections; sepsis or even cancer for long-term nonhealing wounds.

How Can I Prevent Bedsores?

You can prevent bedsores through frequent repositioning and good skin care.


  • Shift your weight frequently, at least every 15 minutes if you are in a wheelchair. If you can’t move on your own, ask for help.
  • Look into a specialty wheelchair. Some wheelchairs will allow you to tilt, which can relieve pressure on the skin.
  • Try to lift yourself. If you have the strength, do wheelchair push-ups by lifting yourself off of your seat with the arms of the wheelchair.
  • Adjust the elevation of your bed: Don’t raise the head of your bed more than 30 degrees. This will help prevent skin friction or shearing as you slide down the mattress.
  • Use cushions. Don’t use a donut cushion, as this puts too much pressure on the surrounding soft tissues. Rather, use cushions to position yourself and relieve pressure.

Skin Care:

  • Keep your skin clean and dry.
  • Inspect your skin daily. Watch for warning signs of a pressure sore, including a rash or skin color or temperature change.
  • Protect your skin. Use talcum powder at friction points and be sure to use lotion to moisturize dry skin.
  • Watch out for irritating clothing. Buttons, fasteners and wrinkles in the sheets can cause friction and pressure.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a nursing home, home care or hospital, let the skilled litigators and bedsore lawyers at Petro Accident & Injury Attorneys help. Contact us now for a free consultation at (256) 533-5000.