Nursing Home Negligence and the High Incidence of Bedsores
If you or someone you love has contracted bedsores while a resident in a Chicago-area nursing home, chances are very high that you or he or she is a victim of nursing home abuse or negligence. If you need representation in filing a negligence suit against a nursing home for failing to prevent or adequately treat bedsores, contact the Chicago personal injury attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. to find out how we can assist you in obtaining compensation for the injury suffered by you or your loved one.
Nursing Home Residents Often Suffer Preventable Bedsores
Unfortunately, bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or, more technically, decubitis ulcers, are a common injury suffered by the residents of nursing homes.
Bedsores are caused by prolonged pressure upon the skin by the weight of an individual’s body, particularly in the bony areas such as elbows, heels of the feet, shoulders, hipbones, lower back, and the back of the skull, where the brunt of one’s body weight presses down upon a bed surface.
Bedsore Most Often Occur in the Elderly
As indicated by the term “bedsores,” this injury is particularly prevalent in those individuals who have limited mobility and who must therefore stay in bed, such as the elderly and infirm. If an individual remains in a stationary position for an extended period—either in a bed or a wheelchair, for example—he or she may acquire bedsores unless he or she is physically moved by others to relieve sustained pressure upon these specific parts of the body.
In the context of a nursing home, proper care to avoid bedsores demands that those residents who have limited mobility receive consistent monitoring of these pressure points, and their bodies need to be moved regularly to shift their weight (for example, by turning the individual over from a supine to a prone position), so that bedsores do not develop.
Indeed, it is reasonable to presume that bedsores in a nursing home patient are the very definition of neglect, since the vast majority of bedsores are preventable. At a minimum, nursing homes should be sufficiently equipped and staffed to monitor and care for their residents with severely limited mobility to make sure they are physically moved. (Note: in limited situations, such as where moving a patient may cause more serious injuries than bedsores, or where the patient is grossly obese, it is possible that acquiring bedsores may be unavoidable for limited mobility nursing home residents.)
Yet, despite the fact that bedsores in nursing home patients may be avoided by the relatively simple preventative measure of changing a patient’s body position, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control concluded that one in ten nursing home patients suffers from bedsores, and another study estimates that up to 28 percent of nursing home patients contract bedsores.
Bedsores Present a Very Serious Medical Problem
While the term “bedsore” may seem relatively benign, bedsores are anything but harmless. Nearly one million people develop bedsores every year in the United States, and they require immediate medical attention. Depending upon their severity and if left untreated, bedsores can lead to serious or even fatal conditions.
Almost 60,000 individuals die as a result of infections and complications relating to bedsores every year. When it comes to the elderly, who often have other medical conditions to contend with, or who are on medications which make the treatment of additional health problems more challenging, bedsores can be a grave and extremely painful problem, requiring stressful, unpleasant, and costly medical care. Three out of four individuals who suffer from bedsores are at least 70 years of age.
As noted above, bedsores vary in degree of seriousness, and the medical profession has broken them down into four stages of severity:
- The least severe stage (stage 1) causes the skin to become red.
- As the sore progresses to stage 2, the skin loses some of its thickness, and the sore can appear as an abrasion or blister, and can even create a small shallow crater in the skin.
- At stage 3, the sore causes the loss of one full thickness of skin, and appears as a deep crater.
- In stage 4, the loss of skin thickness may expose muscle or skin, creating an open wound that is highly painful and susceptible to infection, including life-threatening infections such as gangrene, osteomyelosis, and sepsis.
Pressure ulcers can cause pus discharge, emit a foul odor, and cause fever. A stage 4 bedsore can take many months to heal, and may even require amputation of a part of the body. Even more, despite treatment and the eventual healing of the sore, a serious bedsore will cause permanent damage to the skin and the underlying tissue or muscle.
Some Nursing Home Residents Are More Likely to Acquire Bedsores, and Are Therefore Entitled to an Increased Level of Care
Limited mobility is the primary culprit leading to bedsores, and certain types of nursing home patients with severely limited mobility due to being bedridden, unconscious, partially or fully paralyzed, or wheelchair-bound are the most likely candidates for bedsores. However, other conditions may also contribute to a patient’s likelihood of getting bedsores, and therefore these conditions should trigger the requirement for nursing home caregivers to provide increased attention to patients with respect to observation or treatment for bedsores:
- Patients who are unable to feel pain or other sensations in specific parts of their bodies;
- Residents with reduced mental capacity or awareness, who may not be capable of alerting staff to physical problems;
- Patients who suffer from any level of incontinence (where moisture and bacteria can add to the deterioration of the skin tissue that is under pressure);
- Patients with a recent significant weight loss due to poor nutrition intake;
- Patients who become dehydrated; and
- Patients taking multiple medications.
Given these known factors, nursing home care should, at a minimum, assess patients based on these risk factors, and a responsible nursing care facility should provide the following for their patients:
- Appropriate hydration (dehydration is a serious issue in nursing homes);
- Adequate and complete nutrition;
- Frequent repositioning and monitoring of patient postures;
- Regular bathing and other personal hygiene care, including monitoring incontinence, using devices that assist incontinent patients, and prompts changing of clothes or bed-linens that become soiled or moist from urine, sweat, or feces;
- Adequately supported positioning in beds, chairs, and wheelchairs, utilizing additional support devices, if necessary; and
- Thorough education and training of staff on awareness and prevention of bedsores.
The Chicago Personal Injury Attorneys at Abels & Annes Can Help You Recover Damages For Bedsore Injuries From Nursing Home Neglect
As noted above, the vast majority of bedsore injuries are completely preventable, and nursing home caregivers have a special duty to care for their patients to prevent bedsores. Consequently, if you or someone you know has developed bedsores at nursing home facility in the Chicago area, it is imperative that you obtain legal help as soon as possible. Unfortunately, since bedsores are an indication of neglect, it is also possible that you or someone you know or love may also be suffering from some other form of abuse or neglect at a nursing home facility, and you should act promptly to defend and enforce your rights or the rights of someone you care deeply about.
At the Law Firm of Abels & Annes, P.C., we are familiar with all forms of nursing home abuse and neglect, and we can assist you with a case involving bedsores or any other nursing home conditions or treatment that may lead to liability. Nursing homes owe a special legal duty of care to the patients who are under their care, and we take seriously the need protect nursing home patients, who are often physically, emotionally, financially, and mentally vulnerable, and who often have few people to advocate for them.
The nursing home negligence attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. can help you. Call us for a free consultation toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or in Chicago locally at (312) 924-7575. Remember, you will not pay any legal fees unless we recover damages for you.