No, they cannot. However, this new implementation of old technology does bear further examination.
Canadian research scientists have recently developed a device with the goal of eliminating bed sores in patients who have been confined to a bed or a wheelchair due to disease or spinal cord injury.
It’s called the Smart-e-Pants (get it?) system, and it consists of a pair of large shorts with two conductive pads sewn into the cloth. Each pad would cover one side of a user’s buttocks and provide a minor shock every 10 minutes.
According to a CBC article, the researchers began by asking themselves why people who work in an office (or any situation where they sit for long periods of time) don’t develop bed sores. They concluded that healthy people constantly fidget while they sit, and this fidgeting is what prevents bed sores from developing.
The initial pilot program showed some positive signs. 23 people took part in a one month feasibility study, and none of the participants developed a bed sore. One of the researchers, Robyn Rogers, made this claim, “Pressure ulcers can be terribly debilitating. Their incidence has not changed since the 1940s, indicating that the current methods of prevention simply are not working…”
But we must be sure to temper a small sampling of good results against sensationalism.
There’s absolutely no way to know what the rate of bed sore incidence was in the 1940s, or the 1950s, or the 1960s. In fact, this 2001 article published in the journal Advances in Skin & Wound Care couldn’t even definitively determine the rate of bed sore prevalence between 1990 and 2000 in the United States alone.
In addition, bed sores are caused by more than a simple lack of fidgeting. Dehydration and malnutrition are critical factors in the development of bed sores. Another major factor in bed sore (also known as pressure ulcer) development is dampness. Residents who require wheelchairs or are bed bound are almost always incontinent. As an Illinois bed sore lawyer I’ve seen dozens of cases where nursing home residents were left in sodden clothing for hours. The hazards related to dampness with regard to these electrical devices was never addressed.
Bed sores are not confined to the buttocks or tailbone by any means. It is common to find bed sores developing on the feet, ankles, and head as well.
Anyone who has ever seen a bed sore knows that they are truly horrible injuries, and I support any effort seeking to reduce their prevalence.
But we know how to effectively prevent bed sores: good, quality, consistent care. Nursing homes need to employ enough trained staff to ensure that all their residents are well fed, given adequate water, kept clean and dry, and adjusted every two hours.
I grow fearful at the idea that nursing homes will try to employ these devices in lieu of providing the care that has proven to work. Experts agree that this cannot be a stand alone solution. Dr Peter Carter, is chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing in London, said “All care settings need to make a concerted effort to make pressure ulcers a thing of the past, and if new technology can help and is cost effective then nurses will welcome that. However, this must not be a substitute for having the right number of well trained staff on a ward.”
If you or your loved one have developed a bed sore in a nursing home. Please contact our Chicago nursing home lawyers or download our nursing home abuse and neglect book to answer any questions you may have.