New “Smart Bandage” Can Detect Bed Sores Before They’re Visible, Could Help Prevent Worst Elder Abuse
Engineers at the University of California have developed a new type of bandage that they call a “smart bandage,” which can detect the presence of bed sores before they become visible. These new bandages, which detect tissue damage below the surface, could help prevent some of the worst physical symptoms of elder abuse and neglect.
“We set out to create a type of bandage that could detect bedsores as they are forming, before the damage reaches the surface of the skin,” said Michel Maharbiz, a UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences and head of the smart-bandage project. “We can imagine this being carried by a nurse for spot-checking target areas on a patient, or it could be incorporated into a wound dressing to regularly monitor how it’s healing.”
Smart bandages detect electrical changes when healthy cells begin to die. Testing on rats showed that the device is able to detect a variety of changes in tissue consistently. This early warning system could help busy nurses and nursing aides in skilled nursing facilities know when to move bed-ridden or sedentary patients. It is too easy for overworked nursing in nursing homes to forget these simple duties, which can lead to charges of elder abuse or neglect.
Bed sores are one of the most common forms of physical elder abuse, and can quickly become large or infected, or open wide enough to expose bone. These sores can be painful, but for elderly patients who are immobile, suffering dementia, or are in a coma, they may not be able to notify nurses that they are in pain.
“By the time you see signs of a bedsore on the surface of the skin, it’s usually too late,” said Dr. Michael Harrison, a professor of surgery at UCSF and a co-investigator of the study. “This bandage could provide an easy early-warning system that would allow intervention before the injury is permanent. If you can detect bedsores early on, the solution is easy. Just take the pressure off.”
“The genius of this device is that it’s looking at the electrical properties of the tissue to assess damage. We currently have no other way to do that in clinical practice,” said Harrison. “It’s tackling a big problem that many people have been trying to solve in the last 50 years. As a clinician and someone who has struggled with this clinical problem, this bandage is great.”
Bedsores as a Sign of Elder Abuse
Immobile or bed-ridden patients must be turned and moved so that pressure on certain areas of their body is alleviated to keep blood flowing properly, and if this is not done, sensitive skin, bruises, and welts can develop. Those welts can develop into sores, which can become infected. Once infected, the sores require aggressive treatment, including regular washing and even antibiotics. If a patient with bed sores does not receive proper treatment, the sores can lead to gangrene, exposure of bone and organs, and bone infections.
One of the most common forms of elder abuse is simple neglect – when a caregiver neglects the patient’s needs, from food to movement to medication. If you believe your relative or loved one is suffering this type of elder abuse, you may need to consider legal involvement.
The Strom Law Firm Protects Victims of Elder Abuse
If your loved one has suffered elder abuse from a caregiver, nurse or nursing aide, facility, or even another relative, you may feel lost and alone. However, a South Carolina elder abuse attorney can help protect you and your family. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm offer free consultations to discuss the elder abuse incident and what can we do to help. 803.252.4800