The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that one in ten nursing home patients will develop a bedsore. That is a terrible statistic considering bedsores are 100% preventable given proper care.
A national nursing home patient survey conducted several years ago found:
- About 159,000 current U.S. nursing home residents (11%) had bedsores (that number has likely grown as the baby boomers continue to swell the ranks of nursing home patients)
- A shocking 8% of nursing home patients had more serious stage 2, 3 and 4 bedsores characterized by open wounds.
- Residents aged 64 years and under were more likely than older residents to have pressure ulcers.
- Residents of nursing homes for a year or less were more likely to have pressure ulcers than those with longer stays.
Bedsores are also known as pressure ulcers or pressure sores. They are caused by unrelieved pressure on the skin. In nursing homes, that means not moving the patient enough and allowing them to sit or lay for hours without movement.
Pressure ulcers are measured in severity using a four stage rating system. Stage one and two bedsores are the least severe. Stage three and four are generally recognizable because they are deep wounds. These more serious bedsores can be fatal and often involve a lengthy and painful recovery process.
What Causes Bedsores in Nursing Home & Assisted Living Patients?
Patients in nursing homes often have mobility problems. They often rely on caregivers to reposition them. When a patient sits or lays too long in the same position, bedsores can develop.
For nursing home patients confined to wheelchairs, bedsores frequently occur on the:
- Portions of arms and especially legs that are in constant contact with the chair
For bedridden nursing home patients, pressure ulcers are most common on the:
- Lower back
- Hips and thighs
- Heels and ankles
- Back of hear
If you or a loved one is suffering from a bedsore, contact a Texas nursing home bedsore lawyer as soon as possible. Make sure to take photos as well.
Stages of Bedsores
As noted earlier, there are four stages of bedsores.
Stage 1 (Early Stage Ulceration)
In a stage 1 sore, the skin at the wound site is still intact but red. The area is painful and often warm to the touch.
In a stage 2 bedsore, there is now an open wound. There may be pus or the sore may resemble a fluid filled blister.
Stage 3 bedsores are deep wounds. The sore often looks like a crater and dead skin is usually present around the edges of the wound.
A stage 4 bedsore is so advanced that tendons, muscle and bone is frequently exposed. Even with proper medical care, permanent injury may occur.
Stage 3 and 4 bedsores can be fatal. Even stage 1 and 2 bedsores are serious because they are painful and if not immediately treated, can quickly reach stage 3 and 4
Bedsores are easily preventable. There is absolutely no reason that you or a loved one should ever have to suffer from a bedsore. When they happen, and they happen way too often, the patient or patient’s family probably has a case for nursing home neglect and malpractice.
Complications from bedsores include:
- cancer (especially squamous cell carcinoma)
- organ failure (caused by bacterial infection found in the bedsore)
- necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease)
Even if life threatening complications don’t develop, permanent joint injuries and arthritis are common.
Whether or not further complications occur, bed sores that aren’t caught and properly treated in the first stage are extremely painful and often involve lengthy convalescence.
Bedsores develop when a patient lays or sits in the same position for too long. Preventing bedsores is as easy as frequently moving the patient, keeping the skin clean and insuring bed linens and garments are also kept clean.
In the nursing home setting, that means turning the patient every few hours and keeping patients from laying on their hips. Having a proper mattress and padding also is a big help.
As much as preventing bedsores should always be the nursing home’s primary goal, proper and immediate wound care at the first sign of a stage 1 bed sore is also important. If left untreated, bedsores can quickly progress in just a few days.
There is No Excuse for Bedsores
There is no excuse for bedsores in a nursing homes or assisted living facilities. PERIOD. Bedsores are signs of nursing home abuse. In Texas, these cases are considered medical malpractice (more on that below).
Don’t listen to nursing home administrators who claim they are inevitable or a sign of old age. They make those statements simply to avoid taking responsibility for their poor patient care.
Nursing homes have a duty to prevent bedsores from occurring. When a bedsore does occur, these same facilities have a duty to nip the problem in the bud when the injury is still in stage one and isn’t an open wound or infected.
Bedsores frequently occur in nursing homes that are understaffed or have staff this isn’t properly trained. Again, there is never a reason that our loved ones must suffer.
Texas Nursing Homes and Bedsores
Texas has the highest percentage of substandard nursing homes in the country. Medicare says 51% of the state’s nursing homes are rated as “below average” or “much below average.” That means poor staffing, neglect and bedsores are a huge problem in the Lone Star State. Trying to find a good nursing home in neighboring states isn’t much better. Louisiana has the second worst ratings in the country followed by Oklahoma in the third worst spot.
Families want to be near loved ones but it is also difficult to find a good nursing home depending on where you live in Texas. (We urge everyone to use Medicare’s free and easy to use online rating system for nursing homes called Nursing Home Compare.)
In Texas, nursing home neglect cases – including bedsore cases – are considered medical malpractice. That is unfortunate in that Texas has capped the amounts of money medical malpractice victims can recover for pain and suffering. Non-economic damages, which includes pain and suffering ) are capped at just $250,000.
Unless you are a younger nursing home patient convalescing from surgery or illness, most patients are elderly and retired. Because they are retired, they don’t have economic damages such as lost wages.
Texas law also requires lawyers bringing bedsore lawsuits to obtain an expert report. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sec. 74.351(a) says any person who brings suit asserting a healthcare liability claim must provide an expert report for each healthcare provider against whom a claim is asserted.”
The combination of expensive expert reports and caps on pain and suffering claims means that many lawyers aren’t interested in taking these cases. We think it is important, however, that nursing home neglect patients can find justice.
Texas Bedsore Case Study – Archie Bailey
Archie Bailey was in her 80’s when she moved into Pinecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Located near Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, this for-profit nursing home has a “much below average “ overall rating from Medicare. It’s staffing rating is also rated as much below average.
When Archie moved into the facility, she was totally dependent on caregivers for her daily needs. Three years later, Archie developed a bedsore on her tailbone. The wound quickly worsened and within a few weeks she was transferred to a nearby hospital. By then, she had developed a second bedsore. One of those bedsores was rated as stage 4. Hospital records say she was also malnourished.
Healthcare workers tried aggressive antibiotic treatment and surgeries but her wounds didn’t heal. Arche died three months later.
Her family sued on her behalf. Pinecrest Nursing tried to have the case dismissed but was unsuccessful. They even took the case up on appeal but lost again.
The moral of the story? Don’t let anyone tell you that bedsores are unavoidable. Even if they were (and we don’t believe that), the appeals court said they could still be liable if they allowed a bedsore to progress and get worse.
What to Do if You or a Loved One Has Suffered Bedsores in a Texas Nursing Home or Hospital
If you or a loved one died or suffered a serious injury because of bedsores or other neglect in a nursing home, contact us. Our goal is simple, make sure nursing home residents are treated with dignity and respect, are free from abuse and receive the best care possible.
Ready to see if you have a case? Contact us by email [hidden email], by phone 833.201.1555 or contact us online.
*Looking for more information? Visit our cornerstone bedsore post “Can I Sue for Bedsores?” and our Worst Nursing Homes in Texas post.
** Cases handled on a contingency fee basis meaning no fees unless we win. In states where we do not have a lawyer, we co-counsel with local lawyers. Attorney Brian Mahany practices in the federal courts of Texas.