So the question is, ‘How do you get bed sores?’ To begin to answer this question, bed sores (pressure sores or Decubitus Ulcers), are commonly caused by the failure to ensure that a prone or minimally active patient is moved at regular intervals. They often occur in close proximity to bony areas of the body where body weight decreases blood flow. Bed sores are not a common, inevitable, or unavoidable result of old age or of nursing home care. They are a direct result of inadequate care and can be extremely serious and even fatal if they are allowed to go untreated in cases where a serious infection results.
While bed sores can sometimes be caused by one incident of sustained pressure and lack of blood flow, they typically develop after repeated blood-flow interruption as a consequence of a patient being left prone too often and for too long – which is virtually the definition of neglect. Sores are most likely to occur along the lower back, tailbone, hips, or heels. However, bed sores can also occur along the spine, the head, knees, or shoulders.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has defined a 4-stage system for categorizing bed sores:
- Stage I: Bed sores result in a change in skin sensation, temperature and firmness, and mild changes in skin pigmentation. Stage I sores should act as a warning to caregivers that preventive action and treatment is necessary, as sores can develop quickly.
- Stage II: A sore begins to shed skin and begins to resemble an abrasion or blister. Bed sores become harder to treat if allowed to get beyond this stage.
- Stage III: Sore resembles a deep crater and involves significant skin loss, death or damage. Sore will be black around the edges.
- Stage IV: Most serious sores will result in exposed bone or muscle. Extensive skin loss results and the sores look like deep wounds.
Simply relieving the pressure is enough to reverse bed sores in early stages. However, in many cases, bed sores can be complicated by serious infection – often because the same neglect that resulted in the condition is also indicative of improper medical care or an unclean environment. Once a bedsore begins to develop, movement is required every few hours to relieve the pressure and allow the healing process to begin. Patients in a nursing environment where bed sores were allowed to develop rarely get the aggressive attention necessary to properly treat developing sores.
Patients suffering from a Stage III or Stage IV bedsore will often need surgery, including skin grafts to close the wound. As mentioned above, if left untreated, bed sores can be fatal.
How do you get bed sores: Known risk factors: The following are a number of risk factors that you should be aware of and look for to identify and avoid bed sores.
- Confinement to a bed or wheelchair.
- Immobility or inability to change positions without assistance.
- Dehydration or poor nutrition.
- Bowel or bladder control problems.
- Reduced mental capacity or awareness.
Neglect, Medical Mistakes/Bed Sore Prevention: Preventing bed sores and the pain and discomfort they cause is entirely possible. The following list highlights several ways to avoid bed sores.
- Appropriate hydration and nutrition.
- Proper assessment of risk factors.
- Periodic reassessment.
- Appropriate lifting.
- Frequent repositioning.
- Proper bathing and hygiene.
- Incontinence treatment and hygiene.
Proper wheelchair and chair positioning.
Use of medical and support devices.
Medical Mistakes and Negligence in Nursing Homes
In an example of medical mistakes on the part of a nursing home, attorneys at Abels & Annes, working with co-counsel, have reached a $300,000 settlement with a Chicago area nursing home due to the negligent care of one of its residents.
The plaintiff had been admitted to a nursing facility in September of 2008 after suffering a stroke which left her with right side paralysis and very little mobility. With a patient who has such limited mobility it is necessary for the residential healthcare provider to beware of the risk of pressure sores and ulcers and to take preventative measures to stop such injuries from occurring. Bed sore prevention includes regularly turning and moving the patient, and the use of float pillows. When admitted, she did not have any sores or pressure ulcers.
Nonetheless, within several weeks records indicate that there was blanchable redness on her heals and instructions were given to inspect the patient’s heels on a weekly basis. This was the home’s second warning of the potential risk of bed sores and that she was not being given the care she needed.
The plaintiff’s son became concerned that she was not being turned enough and complained several times to the attendants on duty, the nurses on duty, and to the Director of Nursing at the facility.
Over the next few months, despite many warning signs, the plaintiff developed significant and painful bed sores that could have been prevented with proper care.
The nursing home was negligent, by and through its employees and agents, in their care of their patient. They failed to properly and adequately move and turn her to prevent the formation of a bed sore on her right heel. They failed to properly and adequately monitor her condition. Once the bed sore presented itself the facility failed to properly monitor, care and treat the sore. Finally, they failed to timely seek and obtain additional medical care and treatment of her bedsore.
This case highlights an all too common occurrence in many of the nation’s nursing homes and elderly care facilities. The health of some of the most vulnerable people in our country is being neglected on a sometimes habitual basis. This is not to say that all nursing homes are suspect, but it is important to be aware of the signs of neglect and abuse, and when these signs manifest themselves. In these cases, quality legal representation is critical.
The lawyers at Abels & Annes take special care in fighting for the rights of elderly residents who were entrusted to the care of a nursing home. Today, the nation’s nursing home system is under heavy fire, and with good reason. Media reports of under-staffing and the housing of mentally ill convicted felons in nursing homes have led to an attempt at tougher enforcement and reform in many states. One of the problems is that the majority of the nation’s nursing homes are run by large chains operating for-profit companies. These companies are not fundamentally negligent, but the imperative to cut costs and make maximum profit has led many chains to offer inferior service, which can put patients’ health and lives at risk. Real reform will take the dedication and vigilance of everyone who comes into contact with nursing homes and their residents.
By now you certainly know the answer to the question, ‘How do you get bed sores?’ If you are concerned about a resident of a nursing home who is suffering from bed sores, or if you are dealing with a suspected case of nursing home neglect or medical mistakes, contact the attorneys at Abels & Annes to discuss your rights. There are no fees unless you win.
Additionally, you can request a FREE Case Consultation or call (312) 924-7575 to speak with a lawyer now.