Bed Sores are Possible Sign of Nursing Home Abuse

Jacky Gale | July 19th, 2013

nursing home abuse lawsuitBed sores, also called decubitus ulcers or pressure sores, are a potential indicator of hospital or nursing home neglect, which may form the basis of a nursing home abuse lawsuit. These are physical injuries to the skin and soft tissues underneath that occur as a result of pressure exerted on a particular area for a long period of time. Bed sores have the potential for rapid development and potentially life-threatening complications. When you visit your loved one in a nursing home, check for signs of bed sores, which typically appear on the ankles, heels, spine, shoulder blades, and hips.

Causes of bed sores

When pressure is exerted on an area for a long period of time, it reduces the circulation to the skin and soft tissues. With sustained pressure, the cells no longer receive the nutrients and oxygen they need, causing tissue necrosis. Bed sores due to sustained pressure typically occur on bony areas, or areas in which the bone is close to the skin. This may occur when a patient is confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed.

A patient in an elevated hospital bed is at risk of bed sores due to shear motion. As the bed is elevated, the patient moves downward. However, the skin pulls upward, rather than readily sliding downward. Small blood vessels and soft tissues can sustain damage and become more susceptible to bed sores.

It is imperative for nursing home employees and other healthcare professionals to handle patients with care when moving their position or transferring them from a bed to a wheelchair. Patients with delicate skin are particularly susceptible to sustaining damage from friction, which contributes to bed sore development. If your loved one was handled improperly and suffered other signs of elder neglect, you might consider filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

Stages of severity

There are four stages of severity for bed sores. In the first stage, the skin presents with discoloration, and the area may feel firmer or softer, or warmer or cooler than the surrounding skin. The patient likely experiences pain, which can grow increasingly worse as the condition progresses. In the second stage, the bed sore becomes an open wound. At the third stage, the wound deepens, appears similar to a crater, and exhibits dead tissue. The fourth stage involves large areas of tissue death, and muscles, tendons, and bones may be exposed.

As the bed sores worsen, the patient is at risk for potentially fatal complications. These include sepsis, bone and joint infections, and cellulitis. Squamous cell carcinoma, a type of aggressive cancer, can also develop.

Prevention measures

Nursing home aides and other healthcare professionals should follow stringent safety protocols to protect patients from bed sores. Physical therapists should be consulted regarding the proper placement of cushioning devices. Patients may benefit from using pressure-released wheelchairs, which automatically redistribute pressure and provide repositioning aid.

Patients who are confined to wheelchairs or hospital beds should be repositioned at least every hour. However, self-repositioning every 15 minutes is recommended in addition to assisted hourly repositioning. Furthermore, those in a hospital bed should be raised at no more than a 30-degree incline. Healthcare providers should closely monitor patients for signs of bed sores to prevent the condition from progressing.

Consulting New York medical malpractice attorneys

Bed sores are among the most preventable life-threatening conditions. If your loved one exhibits any indicators of bed sores, it means he or she is not receiving the care the hospital or nursing home is required to provide.  You could consult an attorney about filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit to compensate your loved one for pain and suffering, physical injuries, and any related medical expenses, such as surgical intervention.

The compassionate legal team of The Sanders Firm understands the devastating effects of medical neglect and elder abuse. If someone you care about has suffered at the hands of medical neglect, contact us today for a free consultation by calling 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.