Bed sores, or pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin that develop as a result of prolonged pressure upon the areas that remain in constant contact with other surfaces. The injuries impact those who must remain in the same position in a bed or a wheelchair for long periods of time because they cannot shift positions to alleviate the pressure on their own. These already vulnerable patients are at serious risk for pressure ulcers and their ugly complications.
Some patients are at a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers. Those who have little or no sensory perception in certain areas of the body can suffer from complications of these injuries to a greater degree. Spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders that cause lack of feeling or sensation can complicate such injuries since there is little or no pain to report to care-givers. (Of course, care givers should be alert to any changes to the skin tissue in their patients, but they sometimes don’t care or cannot take the time to treat them due to understaffing.) Patients who suffer from diabetes mellitus are also sometimes unaware of pressure ulcers on their extremities due to diabetic nerve damage or neuropathy. But, these folks are not alone.
Bedsores can develop in a matter of hours in those who are otherwise compromised. They can happen in the best of facilities because of deficiencies in the daily intake of fluids, calories, protein, vitamins and minerals can lead to pressure ulcers since all of these factors must be present in order to maintain healthy skin and prevent the breakdown of tissue.
Bedsores are a fact of life in any nursing facility including good hospitals and nursing homes. The deadly difference is in the level of treatment these patients receive. These injuries become more problematic when remedial steps are not taken immediately to alleviate the condition. This requires, among other steps, changing the patient’s position regularly – at least every two hours. Steps to encourage blood flow to the injured area are also common steps in helping to heal bed sores. These treatments must be ongoing and aggressive if the injury is to heal properly.
In a nursing facility that is cutting financial corners, this care may not happen. Thus the injuries become worse. Such pressure injuries can become infected and lead to complications such as;
- Cellulitis is a skin infection that can also affect the connected soft tissues. It can cause the area to develop redness, swelling, and feverishness in the affected area.
- Bone and joint infections can happen when a neglected pressure sore burrows into joints and bones. Infections such as septic arthritis can result in damaged cartilage and tissue. Osteomyelitis, infections of the bone, can reduce the mobility of joints and limbs.
- Cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, a cancer, can develop when wounds do not heal over time.
- Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of infection can develop in un-treated or poorly treated skin ulcers.
- Death can come when timely, proper care and wound treatment is neglected.
In one case in a neighboring state, a patient who had been severely burned in an automobile crash opted to stay at home after he was released from the hospital. He arranged for in-home care. If ever there was a case where highly skilled and constant care was necessary this was it. Sadly, this man hired unskilled and untrained people to help care for him. He developed severe bedsores in several areas of his body and experienced wide-spread sepsis. In the end was forced to undergo the amputation of his left leg – the only limb left to him after the accident and the burns had done their grizzly work. Bed sores are deadly serious.
Bedsores almost always respond to treatment. When that treatment does not come quickly enough, or is haphazardly done, deadly complications can arise.
At the first indication of a bedsore, conscientious care-givers should take steps to alleviate the breakdown of skin tissue. Proper treatments of pressure ulcers include but are not limited to:
- The first step is improving the nutrition and hydration of the patient. These factors not only cause bedsores, but they can also prevent such injuries from healing properly.
- Remove the pressure from the sore by adjusting the patient or by using foam pillows and pads to prop up parts of the body.
- Allowing air to circulate around the injured areas.
- Cleaning the wound and keeping it clean. The wound should be gently washed with water and soap. Open sores need to be washed with a saline solution every time the dressing is changed.
- Removing the dead tissue or debriding the wound. A wound does not heal well if dead or infected tissue is present.
- Appling clean dressings regularly to protect the wound and accelerate healing.
- In very serious wounds, vacuum therapy is applied. (This technique is also called negative pressure wound therapy.) By attaching a suction tube to the wound, moisture is drawn from the wound resulting in significant improvement.
- The use of oral antibiotics or topical antibiotic cream will help treat an infection
- Surgery is necessary in some severe cases. The surgery cleans the sore, treats the infection and lowers the risk of further complications. Occasionally a pad of muscle, skin or other tissue is grafted over the wound and to act as a cushion for the area. This is known as flap reconstruction.
As you observe the treatment(s) given to your loved one, take careful notes of the steps taken and the attention paid to the results. Make note of how often the dressings are changed and the patient’s position is changed to relieve pressure. Also note what the nursing assistants say and do about the treatment – take names, times, and dates. Such notes may be invaluable if you must eventually bring a court action.
Ask to see the logs nursing staff keeps of what your resident ingested each day. If there isn’t a marked increase in diet and fluid consumption, ask why. Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial to the body’s ability to heal. If your patient isn’t eating or drinking enough, perhaps there is not enough encouragement going on – just more evidence that your patient isn’t getting the care he or she needs.
We recognize that real people have real lives. It may be impossible for you to visit daily or spend many hours with your loved ones. This isn’t your fault. In the time you have at the nursing home, use your camera to document not just the treatments but also the healing process.
If you don’t see improvement, make lots of noise. Complain. There is an old adage about the squeaky wheel getting greased – we urge you to become a squeaky wheel. Commit your complaints to paper and mail them to the hospital administrators via certified mail, and always keep a copy for your file. Such documentation is essential in proving neglect.
Talk to family members of other patients. These others may be able to corroborate your observations of negligence and could become witnesses in court.
Assuming your careful documentation, testimony of experts and other witnesses can prove that neglect has occurred, you and your loved one suffered from a wrongful death a settlement may be offered or a judgment issued. The amount of damages will be determined by the lawyers, the court, and/or the jury. They will consider a number of factors.
How long your loved one was forced to suffer before proper steps resulted in healing will play an important part in the determination. If your loved-one dies as a result of the improper care, your own suffering will come into the final decision in addition to the length of time the patient was forced to endure the pain and suffering. Whether or not this is an isolated incident will factor into the decision as well. If the facility has a history of neglecting patients, this evidence may be admissible in a court of law, and could have the effect of increasing the settlement or verdict. When all the evidence and injuries are weighed, a decision will be made.
Because many nursing homes in Georgia routinely cut corners in their hiring and staffing policies dreadful consequences happen every day. A study done by a watchdog organization, Skilled Nursing Facilities, found that 44 percent of Georgia nursing homes have ratings of two stars or less. This is totally unacceptable in a society that claims to care for their elder citizens. Unfortunately, pressure wounds and their complications are just one example of how nursing home neglect can shatter people’s lives. We think that this is abominable.
If you’ve been forced to watch helplessly as a loved one suffered a long and painful death as the result of the carelessness or neglect in an extended care facility, you most likely have damages that should be reviewed by a personal injury lawyer.
At the Millar Law Firm, we are dedicated to the practice of personal injury law. We don’t take criminal cases or do contract law. We are totally committed to finding justice for those whose lives have been shattered by the negligence of others – particularly those who should be held to the highest standards.
At the Millar Law Firm, we carefully evaluate the facts in each case brought to us. We review these on a case by case basis at no cost to the client in order to be fully aware of what obstacles might lie ahead. Before we agree to accept a case we review the facts and help that client to determine what can and should be done to hold negligent others to account for their actions. We believe in justice and spend every day striving to see it done.
Before you choose a legal firm to represent you, think about what our experience can mean to you and your case. We pride ourselves on being in the top tier of personal injury practitioners in the entire state of Georgia. We’re on the cutting edge of this field and our winning record proves it. Why would you entrust your case to anybody else? Call us today.