Nursing Home Bedsores Risk May Be Reduced by Use of Foam Mattress

The use of new high-density foam mattresses may help reduce the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening bedsores suffered by elderly residents in nursing homes and other bedridden patients, according to the findings of a new study.  

Researchers from the U.S. and Canada published a study in the October issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that indicates nurses may be able to reposition patients who sleep on high-density foam mattresses less frequently, without an increased risk of bedsores developing.

Also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores, bedsores can develop in a nursing home or other long-term care facility as a result of a lack of blood flow to an area of the skin that is caused by prolonged pressure on one area of the body.

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According to the findings of the new research, certain high-density foam mattresses put less pressure on the body than traditional spring coil mattresses. Researchers looked at data from 960 nursing homes, including 29 in the U.S. and Canada rated as high bed sore risk facilities which had turned to high-density foam mattresses.

Bedsores pose a serious health risk for patients, as they can develop into open wounds that can become infected. The injuries most commonly develop in places with prominent bones beneath thin layers of skin, such as the heels, elbows and tailbone. Residents with limited mobility, who have trouble or are unable to move independently, face the greatest risk of the painful and potentially life-threatening pressure ulcers.

Most medical organizations consider bedsores to be a preventable condition that can be treated if detected early through proper diligence on the part of medical staff and care providers. Failure to prevent, identify, or properly treat bedsores can result in life-threatening infections that enter the bloodstream, known as sepsis.

In many cases, nursing home negligence lawsuits are filed on behalf of residents who develop bedsores as a result of the staffs failure to identify early signs of the sores and prevent the development of more serious decubitus ulcers.

Traditionally, caretakers in nursing homes are advised to reposition patients every two hours to prevent bed sores. However, the researchers discovered that there was no significant difference in the rate of bed sores whether nurses turned patients sleeping on foam mattresses every two, three, or four hours.

“This finding has major implications for use of nursing staff and cost of [nursing home] care,” the researchers concluded.

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