According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, pressure sores, which are also commonly called bedsores or decubitus ulcers, are very common among residents in nursing homes. These sores result from unrelieved pressure on the patient’s skin, and are a common sign of nursing home neglect or abuse. In fact, nearly 11 percent of nursing home residents across the United States have experienced one or more pressure ulcers, and these ulcers are extremely common for nursing home residents who are 64 years of age and older.
In the majority of cases, pressure ulcers develop in areas like the hips, heels, elbows, back, and shoulders. They may also appear on the back of a person’s head. These ulcers appear in various stages, ranging from Stage One through Stage Four. Of these stages, Stage One pressure ulcers are the mildest type of ulcer, while Stage Four pressure ulcers are the most severe.
A Stage One pressure ulcer typically manifests itself as red skin. In Stage Two, the sore may appear as a crater, blister, or abrasion. Stage Three pressure sores appear like a deep crater on the skin. Finally, Stage Four ulcers are so serious that they can expose part of the patient’s bone or muscle.
The appearance of pressure sores on a nursing home resident’s body is often a measure of the quality of care (or lack thereof) that the nursing home resident receives. It may mean that the resident cannot turn in bed and that nursing home staff are not turning the resident regularly. It might also mean that nursing home staff are failing to bathe or clean the resident regularly. Whatever the case, pressure sores among nursing home residents are a serious problem that should not be happening in the first place. Moreover, bedsores can lead to infections and other types of life-threatening illnesses and injuries.
When some individuals enter a nursing home—especially those who are bedridden or confined to a wheelchair—they may already be suffering from bedsores. However, when nursing homes fail to provide their residents with the quality medical attention and care which they deserve, these sores will rapidly become worse, potentially leading to other serious health difficulties and problems.
If someone that you love is a nursing home resident who is currently suffering from pressure sores (or from some other manifestation of nursing home abuse or neglect), contact a nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your jurisdiction as soon as possible. A nursing home abuse lawyer can investigate what is going on at the nursing home can file a claim or lawsuit against the nursing home for damages.
If you yourself are bedridden or confined to a wheelchair, one of the best things that you can do is to take steps to prevent bedsores before they ever begin to form. In many instances, an individual will not notice a bedsore until the sore has already developed. At that point, medical treatment is often necessary to heal the sore before it becomes much worse. Some steps that you can take to prevent bedsores from occurring include:
Inspect Your Skin Every Day
Elderly individuals should make it a regular practice to thoroughly inspect their skin for pressure sores and other bumps and abrasions. When inspecting one’s skin, the skin should be both dry and clean. Individuals should also make sure that if they are wearing a bandage or dressing, that they change the dressing every day. If a wound appears to be infected, or if there appears to be skin damage or a bad smell, they should seek prompt medical attention from a doctor as soon as they possibly can.
Exercise Every Day
When it comes to health and well-being, exercise provides a way to stay—and feel—youthful. Not only does exercise significantly increase a person’s blood flow throughout his or her body, it also makes a person feel better and improves daily mood. Exercise and daily movement are also extremely important for individuals who reside at a nursing home or extended care facility. Nursing home residents may also consult a physical therapist who works on site, to develop a daily exercise regimen and avoid sitting for lengthy periods and possibly developing a pressure sore.
Changing One’s Position Regularly
Individuals who are confined to a wheelchair or who otherwise suffer from limited mobility issues should attempt to try and move around—or at least change their position in some way—approximately every 15 to 20 minutes. Nursing home residents who are bedridden should be turned to a different position after approximately two hours. In addition, nursing home patients should try and avoid lying down for long periods of time directly on their hips. Likewise, nursing home staff should ensure that a patient’s head is not raised to an angle of more than 30 degrees.
Concentrate on Nutrition
Being malnourished can lead to many health problems and illnesses, including bedsores. Nursing home residents and other elderly people should ensure that they are taking in the proper levels of protein, calories, vitamins, fats, and minerals. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities often employ dietitians to look after residents’ varying nutritional needs. A dietitian can get a nursing home resident on the right track for avoiding bedsores and other serious medical conditions and illnesses.
Monitoring Various Body Parts for Bedsores
The prevalence and location of bedsores among nursing home residents depend upon a variety of factors, including a particular resident’s ability to move around. For residents who are confined to a wheelchair all the time, bedsores are more likely to develop on the resident’s tailbone, buttocks, backs of the arms and legs (specifically, the parts that rest against the wheelchair), shoulder blades, and spine region.
However, nursing home residents who are bedridden often experience pressure sores in different areas. For these individuals, pressure sores are more prevalent on the back and sides of the head, lower hips, lower back, shoulders, heels, knees, and ankles. In addition, pressure sores on bedridden patients may develop on earlobes—especially around the rim.
The majority of patients who suffer from bedsores get them because of friction and continued pressure on a certain part of their body. However, nursing home staff must check patients’ bodies for bedsores on a regular, even daily, basis—especially those residents who are at the highest risk of developing these sores. Nursing home staff should still check residents who exercise and turn them regularly to prevent bedsores.
If your loved one has developed a bedsore while residing at a nursing home, you should immediately report your observation to the nursing home staff. You should also contact a lawyer to determine if you have the option of bringing a legal claim against the nursing home.
What Can Happen to Nursing Home Residents Who Suffer From Bedsores?
Pressure sores can result in a whole host of complications for a nursing home resident. This is especially true if these sores are not identified and treated promptly. In some instances, these pressure sores can develop into a form of cancer. When that happens, the nursing home resident must undergo surgery to correct the condition.
Pressure sores can also result in tissue inflammation, otherwise known as cellulitis. If a nursing home resident suffers from cellulitis, he or she may develop meningitis. Meningitis affects the fluids that surround an individual’s brain and spinal cord.
Moreover, an untreated pressure sore can lead to an infection of the joints or bones. In addition to damaging tissue and cartilage, these bone and joint infections can limit an individual’s ability to move.
Finally, an untreated pressure sore can result in sepsis. Sepsis occurs when bacteria gets into a nursing home patient’s bloodstream by way of a pressure sore that remains open. The dangerous thing about sepsis is that it can spread quickly throughout a nursing home resident’s entire body. Widespread sepsis can also lead to failure of an organ or a group of organs, resulting in a patient’s untimely death.
Treating Bedsores in Nursing Home Patients
If you recognize that your loved one has suffered a bedsore while residing in a nursing home, the first step is to make sure that you let the nursing home staff know. This will allow the staff to initiate the necessary medical treatment right away.
The level of treatment that a pressure sore requires depends largely upon what stage the pressure sore is in at that time. If the pressure sore is only in Stage One, cleaning solutions and some antibiotics can successfully treat the sore. Moreover, nursing home staff should turn residents who are suffering from a pressure sore on a more regular basis.
Individuals who are suffering from a more advanced pressure sore may require surgery to correct the condition. Once a doctor completes the surgery, nursing home staff will need to clean the wounds regularly and must continually apply new bandages. Healthcare providers may also prescribe a regimen of antibiotics and pain medications to help the patient with his or her pain levels.
Following pressure sore treatment, patients should also stick to a healthy diet and make sure that they are doing everything they can to avoid new pressure sores. Nursing home staff should also be more vigilant with inspecting the patient’s body for new pressure sores, cleaning the patient, and making sure to turn the patient regularly.
Taking Legal Action Against a Nursing Home for Neglect or Abuse
If someone that you love is a resident of a nursing home and has suffered from one or more bedsores or some other type of neglect or abuse, then you may assert a legal cause of action against the nursing home, depending upon the jurisdiction. To prove that the nursing home engaged in abuse or neglect, you must demonstrate that a nursing home employee acted unreasonably under the circumstances. In some cases, negligent or abusive nursing home employees may include doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, physical therapists, dietitians, administrators, and any other individual who works at the nursing home.
In addition, you must demonstrate, through medical testimony, that the bedsore or other injury was a direct and proximate result of the nursing home or the nursing home staff member’s negligence.
In many jurisdictions, if you can establish these elements, you have met your prima facie case. In those instances, you may file a claim for monetary damages on behalf of your loved one who resides in the nursing home. Specifically, you may seek compensation for all of the medical bills and other out-of-pocket expenses that your loved one was forced to incur.
Even if your loved one has health insurance, or if Medicare or Medicaid paid for some or all of the treatment, you can still pursue and recover monetary compensation for these bills. In addition, if your loved one had to undergo a surgical procedure or some other medical procedure to correct a pressure sore, then you may recover compensation for those costs as well.
In addition to these economic damages, you may pursue compensation for all of the pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental distress, and emotional anguish that your loved one had to suffer as a result of a pressure sore injury. These types of injuries can be painful and often require a significant amount of medical treatment to correct. All of that pain and suffering is compensable under the law of many jurisdictions.
If your loved one developed a pressure sore that resulted from nursing home negligence, and as a result, he or she developed a medical condition that resulted in his or her death, then you may be eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim against the nursing home.
To file a wrongful death claim in some jurisdictions, you may need to open an estate on behalf of your deceased loved one, after which a personal representative of the estate is appointed. In other jurisdictions, loved ones can go ahead and file a claim for wrongful death directly. As part of a wrongful death claim, you may pursue monetary compensation for the loss of your loved one, as well as for all of the pain and suffering which the loved one was forced to endure up until the time of his or her passing.
Call an Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Attorney About Your Legal Matter Today
Contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your jurisdiction who can review the facts and circumstances of your claim, and can assist you with filing that claim. If you ultimately decide to file a lawsuit, the case can still settle at some point along the way.
You can rest assured that a knowledgeable nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer in your case will explain all of your legal options to you in clear and easy-to-understand terms and help you decide on the best legal course of action for your case.
Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Duluth, GA 30096