According to a pamphlet from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), one of the most prominent “red flags” of nursing home neglect is the presence of untreated pressure ulcers, which are also known as “bedsores.” According to a news release from the University of California, Berkeley, engineers at the university are working to develop a type of bandage technology that actually might make the presence of bedsores known to a patient and/or her family before they become visible to healthcare professionals.
While we want to take steps to prevent nursing home abuse from happening in the first place, being able to quickly spot the signs of neglect might be able to help California seniors in these facilities to avoid severe and even life-threatening injuries. What should we learn about the developing bandage technology?
“Smart Bandages” Can Detect Tissue Damage Caused by Bedsores
As the news release suggests, bandages are not just devices that help to prevent bleeding from a cut or a scrape. Certain bandages can actually make use of “electrical currents to detect early tissue damage from pressure ulcers, or bedsores, before they can be seen by human eyes—and while recovery is still possible.” In other words, bedsores begin forming underneath the skin, at which point a patient (or a family member visiting) cannot see the signs of this potentially deadly ailment. However, even though bedsores in their early stages are not visible to the human eye, they do involve the dying of healthy cells beneath the skin. When cells start to die, they produce an electrical change that can be detected by the bandage technology.
How did the researchers develop this technology, and how do they imagine it working for nursing home patients? The research began by testing a “thin, non-invasive bandage on the skin of rats, and found that the device was able to detect varying degrees of tissue damage consistently across multiple animals.” The engineers involved in this research believe that nurses and other staff members at facilities for the elderly could use this technology to ensure that patients do not suffer injuries as a result of nursing home neglect. In other words, the technology could be used as a preventive tool by nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in San Diego and throughout the state.
At the same time, the bandage might be able to signal that a patient is not receiving an adequate level of care if bedsores are in their early stages of formation. While early signs of a bedsore might not always indicate that nursing home neglect is a problem, evidence of treatable pressure ulcers may provide evidence that a facility is understaffed.
Understanding the Impact of Bedsores on the Elderly
How big of a problem are pressure ulcers, or bedsores, among the elderly? In brief, the news release describes bedsores as a “health problem that affects an estimated 2.5 million U.S. residents at an annual cost of $11 billion.” These injuries often tend to impact the elderly at a disproportionate rate, given that they are linked to patients who either have mobility problems or are entirely bedridden.
Bedsores occur “after prolonged pressure cuts off adequate blood supply to the skin,” and according to one of the study’s co-investigators, “by the time you see signs of a bedsore on the surface of the skin, it’s usually too late.”
If you have concerns about nursing home neglect and your elderly loved one’s safety, a dedicated San Diego nursing home neglect attorney can help. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to discuss your case.
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