Do you have an elderly loved one who spends most of the time bedbound or sitting in a wheelchair? If so, he or she may be at risk of developing bedsores. Formed when the weight of the body cuts off the blood supply to the skin, making it susceptible to forces of friction and shear, bedsores also go by the names decubitus ulcers and pressure ulcers. In the absence of treatment, they can become bigger over time, potentially exposing deeper tissues such as bones or muscles. This puts the body at greater risk for serious infection. 

The main cause of bedsores is pressure on the skin. However, other factors may increase your loved one’s risk of developing pressure ulcers. 

1. Age

It is easier for bedsores to form on fragile skin. Because of the tendency of skin to become weaker with age, decubitus ulcers are more likely in people aged 85 or older, although younger people can get them too. 

2. Decreased sensation

People who have neurological conditions can be more at risk of developing bedsores. Because they may not experience sensations normally, they may not feel the pain of a pressure ulcer and therefore not realize that it is forming. 

3. Exposure to moisture

Since moisture can cause the skin to soften with prolonged exposure, the combination of pressure and moisture can put a patient at greater risk for bedsores. People who are incontinent and do not have soiled undergarments or bedding changed often enough may be at increased risk. 

4. Poor nutrition

Minerals, vitamins and protein in the proper amounts help to fortify the body against injury. If your elderly loved one does not receive proper nutrition, the risk for decubitus ulcers can increase. 

Some of these risk factors are largely beyond anyone’s help. For example, you cannot do anything to decrease your loved one’s age. However, other risk factors may stem from nursing home neglect, and your loved one should not have to endure such treatment. If your loved one has bedsores, ask the staff and administration of the nursing home for an explanation, and prepare yourself to obtain a second opinion if this is not satisfactory.