How Often Should Bed-Bound Residents Be Repositioned?

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Elderly and infirm residents of nursing homes and other facilities sometimes suffer from limited or restricted mobility due to deteriorating health conditions, leaving them confined to a bed. Often, the same mobility problems and overall frail condition make it difficult or impossible to change positions without help from a caregiver. Many nursing homes are critically understaffed and the caregivers are overburdened and overwhelmed. Position changes for immobile residents are not considered high-priority tasks when staff members are responsible for caring for far more residents than they can care for adequately.

How often should caregivers reposition bed-bound nursing home residents, and what happens when repositioning doesn’t occur frequently throughout the day?

The Importance of Repositioning Bed-Ridden Residents

To inexperienced onlookers, it may not appear to be of primary importance to reposition a nursing home patient if they are in bed and seem comfortable. However, when a person with limited mobility remains in one position for a long time, the unrelieved weight against the skin at pressure points such as over bony areas doesn’t allow the proper blood flow and tissue oxygenation required for the area to remain healthy and resilient. Instead, the oxygen-starved cells begin to die off, first creating a reddened, inflamed area, and then an open sore. These pressure sores—or bed sores—begin at the top layer of the skin but when left untreated advance through the layers of skin and fat, eventually exposing muscle and bone. Open, ulcerated pressure sores commonly become infected by bacteria. When left unchecked, the infection sometimes triggers a chain reaction in the body that causes sepsis and death.

How Often Should Caregivers Reposition Bed-Bound Patients To Prevent Bed Sores and Other Negative Health Consequences?

Repositioning bed-bound residents is a mandatory policy in most nursing homes and hospitals. Scientific consensus agrees that caregivers should reposition or “reposture” immobile patients every two hours to relieve pressure points and restore blood circulation. This prevents cell death and keeps pressure sores from developing.

Changing a resident’s position every two hours also prevents pneumonia, urinary tract infections from catheters, and other dangerous health conditions associated with immobility.

Properly Repositioning A Bed-Bound Patient

If nursing home residents can safely sit upright, transferring the resident from bed to chair for a portion of the day helps to minimize consistent weight on the same pressure points. For residents confined to beds, medical professionals instruct caregivers on the proper way to reposition elderly nursing home residents every two hours in a manner that’s safe for the caregiver and comfortable for the resident. Once the resident has been repositioned, the caregiver should take time to ensure that the resident’s knees, ankles, wrists, or elbows aren’t resting on top of each other and that their head and neck are aligned with the spine. The resident’s arms should not be under their body.

What If a Nursing Home Doesn’t Have Enough Staff for Regular Two-Hour Repositioning?

Chronic understaffing and high employee turnover rates are a continual problem for the majority of nursing homes. Many caregivers are stretched thin caring for far more residents than prudent or safe. However, when a nursing home accepts a resident into its care, the staff has a duty of care to treat the resident at the level of care established by the medical community. Failing to care for a resident at the industry-accepted level of care is an actionable breach of duty if it causes harm to the individual, including bed sores, infections, sepsis, and other adverse medical conditions caused by immobility. Contact the Louisville nursing home abuse attorneys at Gray & White PLLC to get justice for your loved one. We offer free case consultations.