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Pressure Sores - Who's at Risk?

Pressure Sores are a sign of negligence
Parent has pressure sore in hospital
Parent has pressure sore in hospital

Pressure Sores in the Elderly

Older people are at greater risk of developing pressure sores, particularly if they have difficulty moving due to injury, severe illness or sedation. The NHS estimates that up to 70% of elderly patients with mobility problems in the UK will develop pressure sores and unfortunately, it often does not take long for them to develop.

Elderly people are more at risk of developing these wounds because they have thinner skin. This means that they are much for vulnerable to the damage caused by minor pressure, and if this pressure is continuous, it will not take long for the pressure sore to develop. In addition, elderly people are often underweight, so there will be little padding around their bones to protect from the damage caused by a constant pressure. Very elderly patients can suffer also problems with poor nutrition, which can affect the quality of their skin and blood vessels, resulting in less effective healing.

Medical experts warn that even if a very patient is well nourished and in good overall health, they may still take much longer to heal when compared with younger people.

Also at greater risk of developing pressure sores are those with long-term spinal cord injuries. The reason for this is because the nerve damage they have suffered is very often permanent and as such, compression of the skin and some of the skin tissues is constant. Damaged skin, coupled with poor circulation can increase the risk of damage, therefore lowering the likelihood of effective healing. Patients with long-term spinal injuries have reduced sensation too, so they often don’t receive the standard body signals that would make them change position, such as discomfort and pain. As a result the pressure sore will only get worse.
Any patient suffering with restricted movement may be at a greater risk of developing a pressure sore. This risk is increased if the patient:

  • Is not detecting pain Like with spinal cord injuries, there are certain diseases that can reduce or eliminate a person’s sensation of pain. If a patient is not feeling pain then they cannot take the necessary steps to relieve it and so may not feel the pressure sore developing.
  • Has lost weight If a patient has lost weight as a result of their suffering, they can be more prone to developing pressure sores because the loss of fat and muscle means the bones are more exposed to damage.
  • Is suffering with an illness Sufferers of diabetes and vascular diseases affecting circulation are sometimes at a higher risk of tissue damage because blood is not flowing properly to certain tissues.
  • Is not eating properly This is due to a shortage of vitamin C, protein and zinc.
  • Is a smoker If the patient is a smoker, their blood circulation could be affected as it is known to be undermined by nicotine. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, which has a negative effect on a person’s healing.
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