Increased Risk of Deadly Pressure Injuries in Nursing Homes During COVID-19

Residents of nursing homes are one of the most vulnerable populations during COVID-19. And, the risk for the development of pressure injuries has increased because of the coronavirus. This is due to the reduction and quarantine of direct care staff who have contracted the virus, sequestration of direct care staff who are caring for only coronavirus patients, and the prohibition of family members from direct contact with residents. If skin integrity checks and observations are not being done as frequently, the risk of development of pressure injuries certainly rises.

The Long Term Care Community Coalition describes pressure injuries or pressure ulcers as damage to a resident’s skin or underlying tissue. Pressure ulcers are generally localized to areas of the body with boney prominences that absorb pressure from prolonged immobility, such as elbows, hips, heels, shoulders, the lower back-sacral area, and buttocks. The mandatory standards of care with respect to pressure injuries are 1) a comprehensive assessment of the resident for the risk of development of pressure injuries, 2) the prevention of pressure injuries by individualized interventions in a plan of care, and, 3) monitor, treat, and heal existing pressure injuries.
According to the latest federal data, about 85% of nursing home residents are at risk of developing pressure ulcers. Despite the special responsibility that nursing homes have to effectively monitor, prevent, and treat residents at risk, 7.3% of U.S. nursing home residents have pressure ulcers. That is over 93,000 current U.S. nursing home residents.

According to the National Pressure Injury Advisory Panel (“NPIAP’), the patient care costs for a pressure injury range from $20,900 to $151,700. The estimated total cost for treatment of pressure injuries in 2019 is $26.8 billion. And, preventable pressure sores can lead to infection, sepsis, and death. No wonder that approximately 17,000 lawsuits a year are directly related to pressure injuries that often lead to a painful, premature death according to the NPIAP.

So, be sure your loved ones in a nursing home are being frequently checked for skin issues and pressure injuries. Once families are allowed back into nursing homes, check you loved one every visit.