Pressure Ulcers and Nursing Home Neglect

Pressure ulcers, commonly known as bedsores, are an ever-present threat to nursing home patients. These skin ailments can progress deep into tissues and bones, resulting in infections, permanent injury and even death. Nursing home neglect is often to blame.

Bedsores arise from prolonged pressure on the skin, usually from lack of movement. They are more typical in areas where the skin has less cushion, such as the tailbone, and form gradually. However, early stages of bedsores can appear in a matter of hours and the entire body is susceptible.

Bed Sore Statistics

There is little recent data outlining the depth of this issue in nursing homes around the United States, but a paper published in 2009 by the National Center for Health Statistics took the issue on squarely. It estimated that 11 percent of nursing home patients around the country in 2004 had bedsores. They were more common among those with recent weight loss, those who took at least eight medications, and those with recent incontinence.

In the United Kingdom, a published report said 218 people died directly from bedsores in 2010, and more than 2,100 died of blood poisoning, which can result from serious pressure ulcers.

There are many conditions that can increase the risk of pressure ulcers or exacerbate their state. Senior citizens are prone to many of these, including:

  • urinary or bowel incontinence;
  • a poor diet;
  • conditions that can make skin more fragile or dehydrated, such as diabetes;
  • conditions that can limit an individual’s movement or awareness, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s.

The 4 Stages of Bed Sores

Bedsores are categorized in four stages. It is important to recognize these, especially the first stage, as it is the only one in which the skin is not broken. Pressure ulcers are much more difficult to treat once the skin is broken.

Stage 1: Look for reddened or discolored patches of skin that may be warm to the touch and slightly painful.

Stage 2: The skin breaks open and the sore begins to penetrate deeper layers of the skin. It may look like a blister has formed, and is painful.

Stage 3: This is a deeper progression into tissues beneath the skin. A small crater might form.

Stage 4: Here the bedsore may impact muscle, tendon, and bone. Blood or bone infection may occur.

In addition to the four stages, there are “unstageable” sores that cannot be categorized. They are characterized by a thick layer of tissue and pus that prevent a doctor from obtaining a good look and making a determination.

How to Avoid Bed Sores

The best way to avert serious complications from bedsores is, of course, to prevent them from the beginning. Work with the nursing home staff to ensure your loved one is regularly repositioned to relieve pressure on certain spots of the skin. Do your best to make sure your loved one has a good diet with fruits and vegetables and remains hydrated.

Even with your vigilance, however, bedsores can occur. If a Stage 1 pressure ulcer is discovered, some treatments may include:

  • A regular repositioning schedule
  • Using special dressings on the sore
  • Using special mattresses or cushions
  • Removing dead skin
  • Surgery

It is critical to build a relationship with the staff at the nursing home to understand how your loved one is being cared for. Even a single pressure ulcer could represent nursing home abuse or neglect. Contact the dedicated legal team at Rooth Law Office to understand your options for a claim against a nursing home for abuse or neglect.