Patients in nursing homes often have limited mobility, and their conditions may confine them to their beds for extended periods of time. When they do not receive occasional assistance changing positions, bedsores can occur. Mayo Clinic defines bedsores as injuries to the skin and tissue caused by prolonged pressure. Also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, parts of the body most susceptible to the development of bedsores include bony areas, such as:
- Back of the head
As bedsores progress, they can cause severe pain, burning, or itching, as well as blisters and open sores that predispose the patient to infection.
Bedsores May Indicate Neglect or Abuse
Elderly and dependent adults can suffer many forms of nursing home abuse despite federal law prohibiting their inhumane treatment. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 outlines the rights of nursing home patients, which include the right to freedom from abuse, neglect, and other forms of mistreatment. The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) revealed that, in 2010, nursing home patients frequently reported instances of abuse, which commonly included physical abuse, psychological abuse, and gross neglect. The failure to turn or shift patients to prevent bedsores in a nursing home setting can indicate that they do not receive the appropriate level of care and attention for their needs and may signify negligence.
Defining Neglect and Abuse
Abuse refers to the intentional infliction of harm or pain, while neglect involves the abandonment of a patient or a failure to provide for their needs in a way that would prevent avoidable harm. Failing to turn patients to prevent bedsores constitutes a form of neglect, which federal law forbids in any setting, nursing home, or otherwise.
Federal and State Laws Offer Protections for Nursing Home Patients
Sometimes, nurses and aides in nursing homes unintentionally abandon their patients due to an unsafe caregiver-to-patient ratio. In these cases, nursing home administration may attempt to excuse instances of neglect by claiming that the understaffing of their home makes it difficult to attend to all of their patients immediately. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 set forth mandatory staffing standards designed to ensure the proper care of each nursing home patient, and states have additional provisions in place, as well. Federal and state courts, as well as nursing home negligence victims and their families, can hold facilities accountable for their failure to abide by these regulations.
The Prevalence of Bedsores in Nursing Homes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of bedsores in nursing homes accounts as a primary factor in measuring the quality of care in a facility. In 2004, a national survey conducted by the CDC found that more than 1 in 10 nursing home patients, or approximately 159,000 individuals, had bedsores.
Additionally, a study published in NursingOpen in 2016 found inconsistencies in the documentation of bedsores in nursing homes. The study found that prior to auditing, many of the patient records did not contain information about bedsores or preventive measures taken, which suggests that some nursing staff in nursing home settings may need improved education and training to prevent and monitor the occurrence of bedsores.
Stages of Bedsores and Potential Complications
The progression of bedsores involves four stages, from least concerning to most concerning.
At the earliest stage, the skin may appear red or dark and feel warm to the touch. The patient may complain of an itching, burning, or painful sensation.
The affected area typically becomes a blister or sore. Pain may increase and become more significant in this stage.
If a Stage 2 bedsore does not receive treatment, it can reach this stage, in which the open sore deepens and creates a crater in the skin due to its effect on the underlying tissue. Stage 3 bedsores require immediate medical treatment.
The patient has a large wound at this stage, and the infection may have begun to affect muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Medical professionals do not stage any bedsores that progress beyond this point.
If the nursing home staff fails to shift patients to prevent bedsores, they can occur in a matter of days or even hours. The longer a patient must wait to receive diagnosis and treatment, the more serious the condition becomes. As it develops into later stages, it presents an increased risk of dangerous complications, including:
- Wound infection
- Infection of the bone or joint
Even with treatment, bedsores may take weeks or months to heal.
An Attorney Can Help Victims and Their Families Seek Accountability
If you or your loved one suffered from bedsores as a result of nursing home abandonment, an attorney can help you seek justice and fair compensation for your case. At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we work on a contingency fee basis, so you do not owe us anything unless we help you achieve financial awards. Contact our legal team today at (800) 842-6336 to discuss your free case evaluation.