One of the standards used to judge the quality of an elder care facility in Philadelphia and all over the country is the prevalence of pressure ulcers in its patients. According to the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel, a pressure ulcer- more commonly known as a bed sore- is a “localized injury to the skin and/or underlying tissue usually over a bony prominence, as a result of pressure.” Most often, bedsores present themselves as red marks or blisters. However, if not treated properly, ulcers can go deeper than the skin, destroying underlying tissue and even reaching the bone. More serious forms of pressure ulcers may require reparative surgery.
Bedsores are caused by immobility for long stretches of time, like the residents in a long-term care center. For this reason, both long-term care facilities and external entities have latched onto pressure ulcers as a means of determining the quality of care.
The Prevalence of Bed Sores in Elderly Patients
Those who are most at risk of developing bedsores are the elderly and people with medical conditions that inhibit their ability to change positions. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that over one in ten nursing home residents polled during a certain period was suffering from bed sores. And in 2009, more than 1 in 10 nursing home residents have had pressure ulcers.
If a loved one or family member is in a nursing home or hospital and has limited mobility, measures must be taken to prevent bedsores. Nursing homes and hospitals usually set up programs to avoid the development of sores in bedridden patients such as using a standing frame to reduce pressure and ensuring dry sheets by using impermeable dressings.
Further, the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 has created a national standard of care for people living in nursing homes. If a bedsore begins to develop, medical care providers should rotate the patient approximately every two hours to reduce pressure on the affected area.
What are the signs of bed sores?
Unfortunately, immobile patients, especially the elderly, are at risk for bedsores. However, routine care including examinations and acting on complaints of pain from the patients can help spot the early warning signs of a bed sore. Bed sores are identified in the following four stages:
- Stage 1 – The warning signs of bed sores will start to form during Stage 1. While the skin is still intact, it is extremely sensitive when touched, and distinct red areas will form
- Stage 2 – During the second stage, the red area will start to become a wound. Typically, you’ll notice that it evolved into a blister or partial loss of skin.
- Stage 3– In this stage, the sore will become a deep open wound with a crater-like appearance exposing body fat.
- Stage 4 – In this final stage there is a large-scale loss of tissue. The skin loss is deep enough to reach muscle, bone, and tendons.
Treatment of Bed Sores
During Stages 1 and 2, proper treatment including consistent cleaning, dressing the wound and relieving pressure can reverse and heal any damage
It’s important to note that patients living in a nursing home shouldn’t ever develop Stage 3 or 4 bed sores as they are serious medical issues that are usually preventable by proper care and early detection.
Can Bed Sores Be Fatal?
There are many health problems which can stem from bedsores, one of the most life-threatening of which is sepsis.
Sepsis is an ailment which stems from a bacterial infection in the bloodstream and causes about 100,000 deaths annually. Sepsis — also known as severe sepsis or sepsis shock — can be fatal if not properly treated. The infection affects blood circulation and causes organ dysfunction. It is often caused by open wounds (like bed sores). A bed sore left untreated can become infected and that infection can potentially lead to sepsis.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- Lower body temperature
It is possible to treat sepsis, but the diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan must be swift. Delays in treating sepsis often lead to complications. Popular methods of treatment include surgical drainage and use of antibiotics and nutritional supplements.
Do bed sores indicate nursing home neglect?
If pressure ulcers are preventable and if a long-term care facility has many instances of patients with stage 3 or stage 4 pressure ulcers then that indicates that the staff isn’t regularly turning the patients, keeping them clean, or otherwise administering proper care. If the pressure ulcers were preventable, then a facility full of patients with pressure ulcers would imply inadequate care.
Now some would argue that there isn’t a clear link between the prevalence of pressure ulcers and the quality of care in a medical capacity. They say that many people who are confined to a long-term care facility are already in poor health, and no matter how good their care is, they’re simply more likely to manifest pressure ulcers as another symptom of their ailing health. In other words, it’s intrinsic to the condition of the patient, not extrinsically based on the quality of care. But pressure ulcers result from pressure in one place for too long, and this absolutely indicates that a person has been lying in a certain position for too long, which could constitute neglect.
Can you sue a nursing home for bed sores?
It is a fact that elder abuse and neglect happen. In fact, more than 2 million cases occur per year. If a loved one in a care facility develops pressure ulcers, it’s not something to ignore or sweep under the rug. In cases like this, it’s important to consult with a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia to evaluate your case and receive guidance on how to proceed. Your attorney will obtain admissions records and other comprehensive assessments in order to determine if your bedsores are the product of poor care.
If you believe your loved one is a victim of nursing home neglect due to bed sores, contact Stuart Carpey today.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.