Interesting concept!

Bedsores can be a serious problem for the elderly, but a University of Cincinnati study aims to curb them at Kentucky nursing homes with the help of music.

Every two hours, music plays over a loudspeaker, prompting caregivers to stop what they’re doing and make sure residents are re-positioned to keep bedsores from forming.

Researchers are partnering with Signature HealthCare to conduct the study at 10 of the company’s Kentucky homes, including two in Louisville.

“We love it,” said Kelly Thompson, administrator of Signature HealthCARE of East Louisville, which is part of the study group. “They let you pick your music … and everybody knows it’s time for moving.”

“Repositioning people is not something new; what’s new is the prompt,” said Pam Larimore-Skinner, director of nursing at Signature HealthCARE of Trimble County in Bedford, Ky., which also is participating. “I think it makes people more conscious of the two hours because time can get away from you.”

Bedsores, also called pressure sores or pressure ulcers, are damaged areas of skin caused by staying in one position too long. People who are bedridden or use wheelchairs are at greater risk for these sores, which can lead to serious infections that can even be life-threatening. The problem is on the rise nationally.

Medical guidelines say patients should be moved at least every two hours. But nationally, “we know that the compliance of staff is frequently not what we want it to be,” said Elaine Miller, a UC nursing professor.

Researchers from the UC College of Nursing got a two-year, $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to look at whether a simple audio reminder can prompt a nurse-led team to make sure patients move or get moved. The Cincinnati team competed with more than 100 other applicants for the funds.

In the study, four nursing homes used the program since the spring, while another four “comparison” homes were observed for months, then began using the program in November. Two others had problems with intercoms and have been used as comparisons throughout.

“The study involves the ambulatory residents, who can get up themselves, and the bedridden, who need to be turned with the assistance of staff,” said Assistant Professor Tracey Yap, principal investigator on the study. “The musical prompt is a reminder for patients that ‘you need to get up’ and for staff that this is the time to move those who cannot do so themselves.”

Local nursing home officials said their entire staffs are involved in the project, from nurses to administrators to housekeeping workers. Anyone who needs hands-on assistance gets help from the nursing staff, Yap said, while other employees can give verbal reminders to those who don’t need such help.

“It’s a team project,” Yap said. “That’s the innovative part of it.”

Officials said they vary the music so it doesn’t get repetitive or easy to tune out. Larimore-Skinner said her nursing home has played small bursts of everything from classical to country to holiday music.

Thompson and Larimore-Skinner said their facilities are doing well when it comes to pressure sores, and the study program may be one reason. Larimore-Skinner said none of her 49 residents have developed sores in the home, and Thompson said her facility, which has 115 residents, does better than the national average on pressure sores.

Both women said their homes may continue the practice after the study ends in April.

“If it works,” Larimore-Skinner said, “don’t fix what’s not broken.”