It is difficult to track precise statistics on elder abuse, simply because many seniors hesitate to speak up about experiencing mistreatment or neglect. However, the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) cites studies reporting that as many as one in 10 seniors experienced abuse during a one-year period. Abuse can take the form of physical violence, like hitting and kicking, or intentional neglect, in which seniors are deprived of basic needs like food, water, clothing, and sanitation. Neglect can also occur due to understaffing, which is a problem at as many as 54% of nursing homes in the United States.
Bed sores, or pressure ulcers, are one of the most common injuries which result from neglect. Pressure ulcers are not a natural effect of aging, but on the contrary, are normally preventable with basic hygiene measures. If your mother or father is developing bed sores, there is a high likelihood that their bedsheets are not being changed regularly, or that they are not being repositioned frequently enough in their bed.
Bed sores tend to develop on the boniest areas of the body, such as the hips, ankles, and wrists. They may take weeks or months to develop, depending on the individual. In addition to being extremely painful, bed sores can also lead to serious medical complications, including:
- Cancer – Chronic wounds that never heal, called Marjolin’s ulcers, can develop into an aggressive type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
Cellulitis – Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection capable of spreading rapidly and causing death.
- Osteomyelitis – Osteomyelitis is a bone infection which typically requires surgical treatment to remove the infected bone.
- Sepsis – Sepsis occurs when bacteria from open bed sore wounds passes into the bloodstream, potentially leading to organ failure and death.
Broken bones are also highly common. While it’s true that older adults are more susceptible to fractures due to factors like reduced bone density and difficulty balancing, that still doesn’t excuse or explain a preventable injury, especially since nursing homes are supposed to monitor residents who are known to have a high risk of falling. Hip fractures – over 95% of which are caused by accidental falls, according to the CDC – are an especially major concern due to the life-threatening complications which can result. According to one recent medical study, the mortality rate within one year of fracturing a hip increases anywhere from 14% to 58%.