Bedsores and Pressure Sores: A Preventable Nursing Home Problem
The advanced age and lack of mobility of many elderly patients put them at a heightened risk of developing what’s known as bedsores, or pressure sores. Staff members at nursing home facilities are entrusted with repositioning immobilized individuals and examining them for signs of bedsores.
When the skin undergoes constant pressure for a long period of time, it becomes difficult or impossible for the blood to carry oxygen to cells in the pressurized area.
What is a Bedsore?
Bedsores are injuries to skin and underlying tissue resulting from extended pressure on the skin. These sores are most likely to develop on heels, ankles, hips, tailbone, mostly bony areas of the body and can be extremely painful. The pressure caused by a patient’s constant contact with his or her bed creates blockages to this skin’s natural blood flow. This weakened blood supply and lack of nutrients cause the skin’s cells and the underlying tissue to wear, which in turn causes a wound to form.
Despite being difficult to treat, these injuries are completely preventable, if patients receive proper care from the facilities trusted with their care.
Bedsores are one of the first signs your loved one may be abused or neglected in their nursing home.
Bedsore Risk Factors
Roughly 25% of nursing home residents experience bedsores. In some cases, these wounds can lead to infection and even death.
Warning signs of pressure sores:
- Unusual changes in skin color or texture
- Puss-like substance draining from wound
- An area of skin that feels cooler or warmer to the tough than other regions
- A foul-smelling odor
- Tender areas
Stages of a Nursing Home Bedsores
Bedsores fall into four basic categories. The number assigned to each category reflects the severity of the bedsore damage, with four being the greatest level of damage.
A first-stage bed sore is a reddened skin area or discoloration that does not fade within 30 minutes after pressure is removed. The sore can be large or small and may be irregular in shape. As soon as bedsores begin to develop, it is essential that the patient gets treatment immediately.
A stage two bed sore is a shallow open sore in the upper layer of skin. The bedsore may look like a blister, abrasion (scrape), or shallow crater.
A stage three bed sore occurs when a full layer of skin is destroyed. The bed sore extends into the underlying subcutaneous fat or tissue layer and reaches, but does not go through, the muscle. Nonviable (dead) tissue may be present. This tissue may appear black in color but sometimes looks to be hardened red or white tissue. The nonviable tissue, called eschar, must be removed from the sore before healing can occur.
A stage four bed sore occurs when there is full thickness skin loss with extensive destruction. Tissue necrosis occurs, and damage extends from the bedsore to the muscle, bone, and supporting structures (such as tendon or joint capsule). When a bedsore reaches this stage, the result can be fatal.
Bedsore Quality of Care
While bedsores are a serious medical condition, they are also a good measure of the quality of clinical care in nursing homes. With proper care, nursing home bedsores are entirely preventable.
If bedsores develop or worsen, this may indicate negligent and inadequate care on the part of the nursing home staff.
Steps to Take if a Bedsore Develops
Success in treating elderly bedsores depends on several factors. An individual’s health and stage of bedsore are strong indicators of the rate and success of healing.
Stage I and stage II sores will heal if they are cared for. Stages III and IV may take a longer time to recover. It can take years for a severe bedsore to heal. If you notice any signs of a bedsore developing, make sure you or your loved one, change position to relieve the pressure on the area. After doing so, if you do not see improvement in 24-48 hours, contact a doctor. If signs of infection appear, such as drainage from a sore, increased redness, or a fever, seek immediate medical care.
How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
In many instances, nursing home staff fails to provide the required standard of care set in place to minimize bedsore risk or damage. When nursing home employees engage in negligent behavior, it can lead to serious injury and premature death. These nursing home facilities need to be held accountable for their actions.
Residents or family members of residents who believe that they may have grounds for a bedsore lawsuit against a nursing home should speak with a skilled and experienced nursing home attorney as soon as possible. A qualified nursing home abuse attorney can help the family navigate through the often complicated claim.
In some cases, the nursing home may offer a bedsore settlement in exchange for taking the case to court. The attorney can help the family to decide if settling is in their best interest.
In other cases, the substantial evidence against the nursing home facility may exist, and a trial might be in the best interest of the resident or family.
Contact The Carlson Law Firm for a free initial consultation with a nursing home abuse attorney. We care, we can help.
- Written by Jill Fowler