Bedsores. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in ten nursing home patients will develop a bedsore. Many nursing home administrators claim they are inevitable. They are lying to you.
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.
What is a Bedsore?
Bedsores are often called pressure ulcers or pressure sores. Medical professionals call them a decubitus ulcer. They occur when a patient lays or sits in one position for too long.
Bedsores can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on skin that covers bony areas. They are also common on the buttocks and thighs.
For patients confined to wheelchairs, bedsores frequently occur on the:
- Back of arms and legs where the body rests against the chair
For bedridden patients, skin ulcerations are commonly found on the:
- Sides and back of head
- Lower back
- Heels and ankles
- Outside of the ears
When a patient lays or sits in the same position for too long, the pressure point where the body meets the bed or chair can cause an ulceration of the skin. 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.
Stages of Bedsores
Believe it or not, there is a medical advisory group called the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) that sets medical industry standards for bedsore prevention and measuring the severity of bedsores.
There are four stages of bedsores with stage one being the least serious and stages three and four being life threatening. (ALL BEDSORES are serious and can become life threatening or lead to permanent injury.)
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.
Complications from Bedsores
Bedsores in and of themselves are rarely fatal although permanent injuries can occur. Unfortunately, there are a host of common complications associated with bedsores. Many of those complications are life threatening, however.
These risks are especially critical for nursing home patients, many of whom are frail and in poor health. That means their immune systems are already compromised and not equipped to handle the complications and infections that frequently accompany bedsores.
Untreated bedsores can cause cancer. A particular cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma has been linked to untreated or frequent bedsores.
As the sores deepen and become infected, sepsis can occur. Sepsis is a dangerous condition caused by bacteria in a wound site. When the wound site deepens, the sepsis can enter the bloodstream spread infections throughout the body. In elderly or immune system compromised patients, organ failure is common.
Another complication of untreated bedsores is cellulitis. That condition has been linked to meningitis and is often fatal.
Because bedsores are often found on the hips, inside of the knees and ankles, joint and bone infections are also common. Unfortunately, these infections are much more difficult to treat and can require a long period of convalescence. These infections can also lead to permanent joint injuries and arthritis.
Bedsores are Evidence of Nursing Home Abuse and Medical Malpractice
There is no excuse for bedsores in a clinical setting such as a nursing home or hospice facility. PERIOD.
Despite what some nursing home administrators claim, they are not inevitable, are not a sign of old age and are easily preventable.
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.
Patient neglect occurs when a facility is understaffed or if the staff is not properly trained. Abuse occurs when the management or staff simply stop caring. Either way, both abuse and neglect lead to injuries and both are illegal. There is no reason that our loved ones must suffer.
Unfortunately, we often see cases involving stage 4 wounds or multiple bedsores meaning the problem has been chronic and on-going for an extended time period without proper treatment.
Families of patients should check their loved ones often for bedsores. The Justice Department claims that only 1 in 6 cases of nursing home abuse is reported. Many elderly patients are suffering dementia and can’t verbalize their suffering. Other patients are afraid of retaliation or embarrassed to ask for help.
As a concerned family member, check for bedsores and demand immediate treatment and answers if you find a loved one with a stage one bedsore.
Most states require nursing homes to report injuries to patients. Unfortunately, reporting requirements vary widely state to state and reporting is sometimes spotty. It is always a good thing to check with both the facility and the state to see if there is a history of bedsores or other patient injuries. Even if there are no reports of bedsores, remember that nursing home abuse has many faces. If another type of neglect has been reported, chances are bedsores and other serious problems may be present.
What Are Bedsore Cases Worth
We are often asked, “How much is a bedsore case worth”? The question is great. The answer, unfortunately, can be difficult to answer in a blog post.
There are many variables to bedsore cases. Whether the bedsore developed while the patient was in a nursing home / hospice or if the patient was receiving home care is a big variable. Residential facilities have 24 hour staffing. Unless a patient is receiving around the clock home care, however, bedsores that occur while at home are difficult to prosecute.
Another variable is the stage of the bedsore. Deep wounds with resultant infections and complications cause more suffering. Juries tend to place a higher value on those cases.
Whether the bedsore problem is chronic is another variable. A one-time injury is valued much differently than a patient who has suffered multiple bedsores on multiple occasions in a facility that had already been sanctioned by regulators for past abuses.
Believe it or not, the state where the injury occurs is also a big factor. Common sense tells that there is no difference in pain and suffering for a patient in California as one in Florida, assuming both have an identical wound. Unfortunately, under the guise of “tort reform” unscrupulous nursing home groups have successfully lobbied some states to enact artificial limits on pain and suffering.
Recent Bedsores at Nursing Homes Cases
An 88-year-old woman in Delaware and her family recently were awarded $2.3 million after the woman developed severely infected bedsores at nursing home.
In May of 2014, the family of an 87-year-old New Jersey woman was awarded $13.2 million by a jury. The woman developed bedsores shortly after being moved into a nursing home. Within a few months, she lost 20 pounds and required two painful bone shaving surgeries and a colostomy. She died shortly thereafter of organ failure. Her family argued that the complications and her ultimate death were all tied to her stage 4 bedsores that were not properly treated.
Obviously, we can’t say that every case is worth $13 million (some cases have fetched upwards of $20 million). But having an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer often is the difference between receiving nothing and a large cash award.
What Should You Do if You or a Loved One Has Bedsores
If you think you or a loved one has been mistreated in a residential care facility or are suffering bedsores there are several steps to take.
First, document everything. Take pictures, keep a journal and document all complaints made to nursing staff or facility management.
Next, give us a call as soon as possible. Even if you are not sure if you have a case, call us. There is never a charge or any obligation for a consultation.
Like you, we have family members that we love. When it comes to family, one can never be too careful. We are happy to evaluate your facts and see if you have a case.
If you have been mistreated or have unexplained bedsores, we can let you know your options and help insure that no one else suffers.
We Help Bed Sore and Other Neglect Victims & Their Families Stop the Misconduct and Win Financial Damages – Call Right Away for a No-Cost No-Obligation Discussion of Your Legal Rights: