Families are often shocked to learn that bedsores that their loved one has developed in the nursing home have put their lives in danger or even killed them. The term sounds less harmful than it is. In reality, bedsores are a serious injury responsible for countless deaths in nursing homes each year. What is even more upsetting is that they are entirely preventable. If your loved one has been injured by bedsore, your family may be entitled to financial compensation.
Bedsores are also known as pressure ulcers. In simple terms, they happen when a certain part of the body is pressed against a surface for too long. The skin breaks down, and it can damage the subcutaneous tissue. In severe cases, the infection can go all the way to the bone. Severe bedsores can lead to sepsis and even death.
Bedridden and Immobile Residents Are Bedsore Risks
Your loved one in a nursing home may spend most of their day in their bed or a wheelchair. Most nursing home residents are no longer fully mobile. This does not mean that they can sit and lay down in the same position all day long. This is when they are at the most risk. Bedsores happen in many more places than just a bed, although there is the highest risk.
Certain parts of the body are more vulnerable than others to bedsores. Any area pressed down against a hard surface when the senior is sitting or lying down can be at risk of a skin breakdown. Bony parts of the body are in even more danger. This includes:
- The base of the spine
Pressure ulcers can form quickly. All it takes is one morning or afternoon of sitting in the same position to impact the skin. Bedsores do not become life-threatening infections right away. It happens over time when the nursing home fails to do its job. They will develop as slight discoloration, and they can progress over time to a severe infection, often due to the nursing home’s negligence.
The Stages of Pressure Ulcers
Here are the four stages of bedsores:
- Stage I – The skin begins to change color, but it is not painful to the touch. It is not yet an open wound. Residents can make full recoveries from Stage I bedsores when they are promptly discovered and treated.
- Stage II – The skin breakdown progresses, and it begins to form an open wound. Here, the damage starts to become painful. However, it does not reach too deeply into the skin.
- Stage III – The sore has already eaten away into the skin, and it begins to form a crater into the underlying tissue. It has not reached the bone yet, but some fat may be visible. The senior may not even feel pain because the tissue has already been destroyed.
- Stage IV – This is where the pressure ulcer becomes it is most dangerous. It may reach down to the muscles and the bone as it has already destroyed both the skin and subcutaneous tissue. This causes extensive damage from which the nursing home may never recover.
What Happens When Bedsores Become Severe Infections?
There is a high risk of sepsis from bedsores that reach Stage III or higher. Like any severe infection, the senior can go into septic shock with the following symptoms:
- Low blood pressure
- Confusion or disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cold and clammy skin
- Very high fever
Eventually, they could die from septic shock. In fact, up to half the people who go into septic shock will die. The rate could be far higher for nursing home residents because of the already weakened state of their bodies. If they have been neglected enough to develop sepsis from bedsore, the chances are that they have numerous other conditions that could combine with sepsis to kill them.
How Nursing Homes Should Prevent Pressure Ulcer Injuries
The obligation of preventing pressure ulcers falls squarely on the nursing home. Federal nursing home regulations specifically address pressure ulcers. There is an entire section under the heading “skincare” that directs nursing homes to do the following:
- Take measures to keep their residents from developing pressure ulcers unless they were completely unavoidable
- Treat pressure ulcers with the care necessary to promote healing
In practice, there is no reason why a nursing home resident should develop bedsore. Each nursing home should have a pressure ulcer prevention plan after assessing the resident for their risks. Seniors who are bedridden or confined to wheelchairs are the ones who are prime candidates for bedsores.
Pressure ulcer prevention plans will usually involve moving a resident and shifting their position. Since bedsores can develop in as little as a few hours, the recommended time for changing the position can be intervals of two hours or less. If the resident is sitting in a wheelchair, the staff should rotate both their elbows and their heels to keep them from pressing on the same point of their skin.
Another part of bedsore prevention is ordering a special mattress with a softer surface and controlling the level of inflation. This reduces the pressure that is exerted on the skin simply from laying in bed.
If there are any signs of bedsores, the nursing home should treat them as follows:
- Cleaning the skin gently with mild soap and water and patting it dry (this helps Stage I ulcers)
- Putting bandages on the affected area to keep it moist
- Changing the bandage regularly
- Improving hydration and nutrition
- Debridement to remove dead tissue or skin
- Surgery to treat severe cases
The first thing that the nursing home does is notice the skin breakdown to begin to treat this. If you are reading this page, the chances are that the nursing home where your loved one lives completely failed to spot the signs of a skin breakdown and provide prompt treatment.
How Nursing Homes Are Negligent
While this sounds like something that every nursing home should be vigilant about, some facilities do not prioritize resident care. They either do not care or are trying to boost their profits at the expense of resident care. Many nursing homes are chronically understaffed, not because they cannot find the workers, but because they are not spending the money it takes to care for their residents. They just want to keep as much of their Medicaid reimbursement as possible at the risk of jeopardizing their residents’ health.
The lack of bedsore prevention is an example of nursing home neglect. Many residents are already at an elevated risk of bedsores because the nursing home is not doing their job in other ways, including:
- Not properly hydrating and feeding the residents, weakening the skin and leaving it more vulnerable to a breakdown
- Not keeping the skin clean and washed leaving it more vulnerable to developing an infection
- A general failure to provide medical care, increasing the risk that the senior could get sick
When a Bedsore Injures Your Loved One
If your loved one has been injured by bedsore, you need legal help immediately. Bedsores are a sign of nursing home abuse and neglect, and the facility that injured your loved one could be made to pay for it. You could file a lawsuit on behalf of your loved one or family seeking financial compensation. However, the nursing home will often fight you in court to save money and keep the truth about what happened to you.
The first thing to do is hire a nursing home neglect attorney to go after the facility whose negligence harmed your loved one. If your loved one has been injured or has died, they may make it difficult for you to obtain records and learn what happened. You should have an attorney the second you realize that your loved one has been injured. If your family member is still alive, your lawyer will tell you how to deal with the nursing home and where to file a complaint.
Charleston Nursing Home Bedsore Lawyers
If your loved one has been injured by nursing home neglect, the attorneys at David Aylor Law Offices can help you take legal action against the so-called skilled nursing facility where they lived. Call us today at (843) 744-4444 or contact us online to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your possible lawsuit against the nursing home. We believe in fighting for justice when the nursing facility you trusted neglects to care for your family members.