- Bedsores can happen to anyone, but they are often seen in elderly patients who must have help to change positions.
- In nursing homes where staffing levels are not adequate, or caretakers are not well-trained, patients may not receive the proper care of being turned, shifted, and moved often enough, and bedsores are likely to occur.
- If the nursing home is found negligent, it may be responsible for paying for the costs of damages to the elderly resident or their family.
Bedsores, also called pressure wounds, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers, are the result of trauma to the skin from staying in one position for too long. These wounds are often seen on elderly individuals with limited mobility or who are confined to a bed or wheelchair.
When there is constant pressure on any part of the body, it limits the blood flow and causes the skin to begin to break down, which can lead to these injuries. Bedsores are often easily preventable with the proper care and attention, but those left unattended for long periods are at high risk of these injuries developing. This is a particularly common problem in nursing homes that are understaffed or have undertrained caretakers.
If a loved one has suffered from bedsores that have gone untreated at a nursing facility, it could be a sign of abuse or neglect. Here’s what you should know about bedsores in the elderly and how you may hold a negligent nursing home accountable.
The Stages of Skin Deterioration From Bedsores
Bedsores begin to develop when the skin’s blood supply is impaired for an extended period. This typically occurs when the elderly individual remains in the same position for too long. Common areas where bedsores develop include the back of the head, heels of the feet, hips, shoulder blades, elbows, and knees, where the weight of the body may rest.
According to the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, there are four stages that can help determine the severity of bedsores:
- Stage 1 – The affected area appears red and feels warm to the touch. With darker skin, the site may appear to have a blue or purple tint. The patient may complain of pain or discomfort in the area, including itching or burning. When steps are not taken to alleviate the pressure, the reddened area may turn purple.
- Stage 2 – The area begins to look injured. There may be a blister, a scrape, or an apparent sore. At this stage, the patient may complain of substantial pain and the skin around the wound may appear bruised or discolored.
- Stage 3 – In this stage, there is damage below the skin, and the entire area may appear to sink in or develop an apparent divot. When a bedsore goes untreated, it can become infected, which can make its way into the muscle and bone.
- Stage 4 – The area will appear obviously damaged. At this point, the surrounding muscles, tendons, bones, and joints may be affected, and infection is a critical risk. Bedsores that reach this stage can become life-threatening, and surgery may be necessary to help the healing process.
A nursing home with well-trained staff will know the signs to look for so that the proper steps can be taken to prevent or minimize bedsores in patients who are unable to move freely.
However, if staffing levels are not adequate or the staff is not well-trained, patients may not receive the proper care of being turned, shifted, and moved often enough, and bedsores are likely to occur.
How Bedsores Can Impact Elderly Residents
Elderly patients may suffer various consequences from bedsores if they are left untreated. Bedsores can severely impact a person’s quality of life due to the following:
- Pain – When bedsores begin to set in, one of the first warning signs can be pain near the affected area. However, not all patients feel the pain of bedsores. People who suffer from diabetes often lose sensation in their extremities and may not be able to feel the pain of bedsores on their feet, legs, hands, or arms. People who are wheelchair-bound because of spinal cord injuries may also be unaware of the painful sensations. This can lead to more serious problems because pain helps to call attention to the situation.
- Lengthy healing time – When a bedsore isn’t cared for promptly and properly, it will become worse. Severe bedsores can take months or even years to heal, extending the pain and difficulty over time.
- Infection – When bedsores make their way into the joints and bones, infection may be likely. Infections can lead to fevers and chills. Patients may become confused or have difficulty communicating, making intervention and proper care challenging.
- Life-threatening conditions – In very severe cases, ongoing infections can lead to deadly outcomes. Wounds that do not heal can lead to squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, or sepsis.
Steps in Healing Bedsores
Nursing staff or doctors may take the following steps to alleviated or treat bedsores in elderly patients:
- Shift, turn, and move the patient’s body often to relieve pressure.
- Protect any wounds with bandages and topical medication.
- Keep the wound clean.
- Emphasize good nutrition and monitor the patient at mealtimes to ensure a healthy diet.
- Remove the damaged, infected, or dead tissue as necessary.
- Graft healthy skin to the wounded area.
- Use negative pressure wound therapy, a process by which fluid and infection can be pulled from the wound using a special, gentle vacuum extraction.
- Prescribe medications or antibiotics to keep infections at bay.
Bedsores Can Signal Nursing Home Abuse
Bedsores can happen in even good, well-staffed nursing homes; however, well-run and conscientious long-term care facilities train their staff to always be on the lookout for signs of skin trauma that can lead to larger issues. Like almost all other debilitating conditions, early identification followed by serious intervention can lessen the risk of infection or long-term secondary problems.
Sadly, some nursing facilities have an insufficient number of experienced staff members needed to catch bedsores in the early stages and take steps to ensure a quick recovery for patients and residents. If a nursing home fails to meet its responsibilities, the owners could be held liable or penalized in a court of law.
What to Do If Your Loved One Is Suffering From Bedsores in a Nursing Home
If someone you know or care about is a nursing home resident, it’s imperative that you carefully monitor their condition. Speak to the nursing home staff about the potential for bedsores if you have any concerns that your loved one may be at risk. Remember, these injuries can develop in a matter of hours and lead to long-term suffering if proper care is not provided quickly.
If you are concerned your family member is not receiving the proper care, voice your concerns with the staff or the facility’s on-site ombudsman, who can ensure your concerns are addressed.
You may also want to consider keeping a log of your loved one’s daily condition. This log may prove useful if your claim must go to settlement or court. Your lawyer may also require the nursing home to provide their daily charts and schedules in order to prove neglect.
If nothing is done to resolve the patient’s condition, it is possible that there is evidence of nursing home neglect or abuse. You may wish to move your loved one to another facility. It is certainly appropriate to speak to a personal injury lawyer to help manage extra costs that are caused by the neglect and abuse.
The Millar Law Firm Can Help Hold Nursing Facilities Accountable
When there is evidence of abuse or neglect, we encourage family members to make an appointment with one of our personal injury attorneys. Our qualified lawyers will help you decide the best course of action and what evidence will be needed to prove your case.
At The Millar Law Firm, we offer a free first consultation. This no-obligation meeting can help you learn your rights and how to best protect your loved one from suffering at the hands of negligent nursing home staff.
Make an appointment with our nursing home abuse specialists today by calling 770-400-0000. Let us help you protect the ones you love.