Bed sores are painful wounds that are often suffered by those who are immobile and at least partially confined to a wheelchair or bed. These individuals usually develop bed sores on their hips, calves, ankles, sides, elbows, and knees. With proper care, however, bed sores can be avoided. If your loved one has acquired bed sores while under the care of a nursing home facility you may be able to file a claim for negligence. Nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are experienced in negligence claims against nursing home facilities and ensure that the legal interests of their clients’ loved ones are thoroughly protected throughout the case.
What is a bed sore?
Bed sores may develop when there is an extended period of pressure on the skin. In nursing homes, they frequently occur when patients are not turned often enough. Bed sores are painful and can even be deadly. Bed sores may develop into open wounds on the body; therefore, a nursing home resident with bed sores is at high risk of developing an infection. Septic shock is another risk associated with bed sores. Septic shock may occur when open wounds become infected with bacteria that move into the bloodstream. If not treated quickly, septic shock can be deadly.
Signs of a bed sore
Bed sores do not develop overnight. Rather, a bed sore occurs in distinct stages.
Stage 1: The skin may appear slightly red in color and may be warm to the touch. The individual may feel pain in the reddened areas of the skin.
Stage 2: By this point, the bed sore has developed into an open wound, which is brown or light pink.
Stage 3: A deep wound has developed. Upon inspection, an engraving has appeared in the skin and the observer can see beneath the skin. Yellow, dead tissue may also be present.
Stage 4: If a bed sore has reached this stage, the patient’s health is at serious risk—infection, blood loss, and other serious issues may arise. A major loss of tissue and fat has occurred, and there may be dark areas in the skin, some of which may appear purple in color.
Unstageable: If a bedsore is unstageable, there may be so much decaying flesh present that it is difficult to examine the bed sore thoroughly.
How can bed sores be prevented?
Each case of bed sores is unique. In identical conditions, one patient may develop bed sores and another may not. However, what experts do concur on is that with effective care, bed sores are avoidable. For example, caretakers should be careful when moving patients from one location to another, such as from a wheelchair to bed. Because an elderly person’s skin is more delicate, too much friction can cause a bed sore. Additionally, caretakers should make sure that patients are clean and dry by changing their diapers and undergarments frequently. Further, those that are confined to a bed or wheelchair should be regularly turned—approximately every two hours—so that pressure does not build up in one area of the body.
Shears may also cause bed sores. A shear develops when the skin is pulled in opposite directions. Falls are a common cause of shears.
Keeping patients clean, rotating them regularly, and moving them carefully is simple enough—so why are bed sores such a problem in many nursing home facilities?
The answer is a lack of proper staffing. Many nursing homes are grossly understaffed, and there simply are not enough health care providers to take care of all of the patients in a facility. The needs of many patients may be outright ignored in many cases. In some nursing home facilities, making a profit is more important than hiring enough staff members to take care of patient needs.
Treatment for bed sores
Bed sores are treatable if intervention occurs early enough. For stage 1 or stage 2 bed sores, re-positioning or using supportive surfaces may help the bed sore heal. However, by stage 3 or 4, dead skin generally must be removed in a surgical procedure called debridement.
After such a procedure, nursing home staff must also take care of the wound as it heals.
As of 2004, one study showed that more than 159,000 nursing home patients suffered from bed sores. Most of these were already at stage 2. More than a third of these patients needed special care, and more than 20 percent lost a lot of weight.
How can an attorney help with nursing home negligence?
Your loved one’s needs were not met by a nursing home, and your loved one was injured as a result. Though this may seem like a simple open-and-shut case of negligence claims are quite complex. In any negligence claim, the plaintiff must show:
- A duty was owed to the injured individual
- This duty was breached by a negligent act or omission
- Due to this negligence, the injured individual suffered damages
Each of these elements must be established in a negligence claim for the plaintiff to prevail. If one of the elements cannot be supported by objective evidence, the claim will fail, and the plaintiff will be solely responsible for the financial losses he has suffered.
In a nursing home negligence case, the duty is the obligation to provide proper care to nursing home residents. Doctors, nurses, and other nursing home staff have a duty to ensure that patients’ medical needs, as well as their daily needs, are met. Ensuring patients are in clean clothing, eating healthy meals, and receiving prescribed medical treatment are all duties of nursing homes.
Proving a breach of the duty that nursing homes owe patients can be a lengthy process. It takes time to assemble all the documents that need to be reviewed in nursing home negligence claims, such as medical records, internal records from the nursing home, photographs, video surveillance footage, and any other pieces of evidence that may be required to support a negligence claim. Also, the nursing home will submit its own evidence defending itself against the negligence allegations.
Finally, the plaintiff must provide evidence of damages he claims he has suffered. The purpose of damages is to make the plaintiff “whole” again after the harm the defendant’s negligence has caused him. Damages may include:
- Medical bills
- The cost of future medical care
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- The cost of moving to a new facility, if applicable
- Punitive damages, if the conduct was especially egregious
The amount of a damages award varies significantly depending on the individual circumstances of the case. However, with the assistance of an experienced nursing home negligence attorney, you will significantly increase your chances of obtaining a favorable result and receiving damages.
Was your loved one injured in a nursing home?
If your loved one developed bed sores or was otherwise injured in a nursing home, contact the experienced nursing home negligence attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP today. We will evaluate your case and, if you retain our services, will devote our resources and talents to your recovery. To receive your free consultation with our experienced legal team, call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER (1-800-968-7529).