What are Bedsores?
Also known as pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers, bedsores are damaged skin and tissues caused by excessive and prolonged pressure on the skin. Bedsores are most likely to develop around the areas of the body where the bone is closer to the skin, such as the tailbone, back, heels, ankles, elbows, shoulder blades, and hips. Nursing home residents who are unable to move on their own while bedridden or confined to a wheelchair are at a high risk of bedsores. If left untreated, bedsores can become life-threatening.
Stages of Bedsores
Once a resident develops a pressure ulcer, there are steps necessary to care for the bedsores. Each facility will have policies on how to treat bedsores that include changing bandages and cleaning out the wounds. It is important to understand the different stages of bedsores when performing treatments. There are four stages of pressure ulcers, and when they reach Stage IV, they represent a dire threat to life and limb. The four stages of pressure ulcers are as follows:
- Stage I – The skin is intact, but may be red and warm to the touch. When a pressure ulcer is caught at this stage, it is treatable with diligent care and is not a long-term threat to the patient.
- Stage II – Some skin loss is apparent and the pressure ulcers look like a blister or an abrasion. This will likely go away, but it may take around a week.
- Stage III – This severe pressure ulcer may look crater-like with some puss. When a pressure ulcer progresses to this stage, there is a much higher risk of an infection and it requires intensive care so that it can heal in one to four months.
- Stage IV – This is the most serious type of pressure ulcer where the wound is so deep that bone may be visible. Bedsores usually progress to this level when they are not properly treated. Nearly all successful bedsore lawsuits involve Stage IV pressure ulcers. These are the bedsores that become infected and can lead to sepsis. The severity of these bedsores can lead to death.
Eventually, if left untreated, bedsores can lead to sepsis. There are numerous cases each year where nursing home residents die from infections that resulted from untreated bedsores. Needless to say, residents never need to die from infected bedsores, and if this happens, a family will have grounds for a lawsuit against the nursing home.
Causes of Bedsores
There are two main causes of bedsores:
Prolonged and Excessive Pressure
Nursing home residents who remain in the same position or who are unable to walk are vulnerable to developing bedsores. When skin is pressured for a prolonged duration, it becomes vulnerable to breakdown. This can happen when a senior is sitting in a wheelchair all day long or is confined to a bed for large parts of the day. When lying or sitting for an excessive amount of time, the body’s tissue is compressed by the bed or chair. This compression cuts off the circulation of blood flow and deprives the tissue of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
Friction and Shearing
Friction and shearing damage can occur when a resident’s skin rubs against an object such as bedding or clothing. The surface of a chair or a mattress will irritate skin that is already breaking down. As seniors age, their skin condition deteriorates and makes them more susceptible to blistering and other skin damage.
When moving residents with limited mobility, nursing home staff may be too aggressive or careless and cause damage to the fragile skin of the elderly residents. Bedsores will develop if the skin is damaged during the moving process.
Negligent Nursing Homes Cause Bedsores
Nursing home bedsores occur when nursing homes have staff members who are not properly trained or when facilities simply do not have enough staff to properly tend to their residents. Providing attentive care requires a sufficient number of certified nursing assistants. However, to increase profits, nursing homes may sacrifice adequate staffing. As more nursing homes are acquired by large chains, there is increased pressure to maximize profits at the expense of care. This type of nursing home negligence is widespread throughout the United States.
In order to avoid bedsores, the nursing home staff must reposition its residents frequently to make sure that the same part of the skin is not continually pressed against a surface. Changing positions ensures that parts of the skin get air as opposed to being compressed against a potentially dirty surface. This should be done every two hours in order to prevent skin breakdown. Some signs of bedsores that nursing staff should be looking out for include:
- Open wounds
- Reddish or discolored skin
- Tender skin
Nursing home staff are also required to keep residents well-fed and hydrated to avoid malnutrition. Studies have found that malnutrition, common among the elderly, has a major impact on the prevalence of bedsores.
Malnutrition in Nursing Homes
Bedsores are not the only negligence-related injury that a senior may endure at a nursing home. As bedsores are indicative of an overall lack of care, other injuries and conditions will likely be present at the same time. Nursing home malnutrition is a condition that is commonly present with residents suffering from bedsores. When a senior is not consuming the proper nutrients, their overall health and physical condition will suffer.
Nursing homes have several regulatory obligations when it comes to feeding their residents. The staff cannot simply place a plate of food in front of the resident and hope that they will eat it. Instead, a resident’s diet is something that requires proper planning and implementation. Here are some of the nursing home’s responsibilities in this regard:
- Each nursing home must have a trained and registered dietitian on staff who must oversee the diet of each resident.
- Every resident’s diet must be individually tailored to the resident’s needs to the extent necessary. While the nursing home may serve the same food to many residents, if a resident cannot tolerate that type of food, the nursing home must provide them a suitable option.
- If the senior is having difficulty eating a particular type of food, the staff must take measures such as cutting the food into smaller pieces and feeding it to them.
- The nursing home staff must ensure that residents are eating and monitor their food intake.
- Nursing homes will be penalized by inspectors if residents lose a certain percentage of their body weight. The facility must intervene if they notice that the resident is losing weight. To the extent necessary, the facility should supplement the resident’s diet with a nutritional additive to preserve the resident’s body weight.
Malnutrition impacts a senior in many harmful ways and can cause many injuries. Injuries relating to malnutrition include bedsores, loss of cognitive functions and mobility, and organ failure.
Negligent Nursing Home Lawsuits
Bedsores and malnutrition are prime examples of nursing home negligence. Most cases of pressure ulcers and malnutrition involve nursing homes failing to provide the care that was promised to residents. This failure of care is something that is legally actionable in court, and there are hundreds of cases across the country each year that either result in a jury award for the family of the resident or a settlement. In some cases, when the facts are egregious enough, juries may even assess punitive damages against the nursing home.
A family in Augusta, GA filed a wrongful death lawsuit against PruittHealth after a woman allegedly died from a severe bedsore. The family claims that the lack of care by the nursing home resulted in a stage four bedsore and the death of Laura Bulloch. Similar reported complaints from other families of residents at PruittHealth were also found.
A nursing home negligence lawsuit filed in June 2015 ended with a $1.2 million settlement awarded to a woman who was not given proper care for her bedsores. Newfane Rehab & Health Care Center was accused of failing to prevent the woman’s bedsores from getting worse.
Contact a Nursing Home Bedsores & Malnutrition Lawyer Today
The lawyers at KBA Attorneys are experienced at making sure that nursing homes have to answer in court for what they have done. If your loved one has been injured by bedsores and malnutrition, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit requires aggressive and skilled counsel. Nursing home bedsores and malnutrition lawyers at KBA Attorneys have years of combined experience in handling nursing home negligence cases.
Call us today at (855) 522-5297 or fill out our online form for a free case evaluation.
- Mayo Clinic. “Bedsores (pressure ulcers)”, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed-sores/symptoms-causes/syc-20355893. Accessed July 10, 2019.
- Healthline. “What You Should Know About Decubitus Ulcers”, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/pressure-ulcer#outlook. Accessed July 10, 2019.
- Sarah Lyon. “What to Do If Your Loved One Develops a Bedsore in a Nursing Home”, Verywell Health, https://www.verywellhealth.com/bedsore-in-a-nursing-home-3861403. Accessed July 10, 2019.
- The Commonwealth Fund. “Malnutrition And Dehydration Plague Nursing Home Residents”, The Commonwealth Fund, https://www.commonwealthfund.org/press-release/2000/malnutrition-and-dehydration-plague-nursing-home-residents. Accessed July 10, 2019.
- WebMD. “What Are the Stages of Pressure Sores?”, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/pressure-sores-4-stages#1. Accessed July 10, 2019.