Bed sores (also known as pressure sores or pressure ulcers) are considered one of the “warning signs” of nursing home abuse and, in particular, nursing home neglect. Nursing home abuse and neglect are becoming a major national issue in part because approximately 1.3 million people live in nursing homes in the U.S. as of 2010 (census data here). Furthermore, the CDC estimates that, currently, 1 in 10 people living in nursing homes has a bed sore. Studies also suggest that people living in nursing homes are more likely to have bedsores today than 10 years ago.
As has been noted previously on this blog, bed sores are serious injuries that can become life-threatening if not treated in a responsible and timely manner. Bed sores are categorized into four stages as they develop and become more dangerous (see a helpful WebMD Bed Sore summary here). Unfortunately, the first two stages may be hard to notice for an untrained eye because the injuries appear as raw, reddened skin (Stage 1) and then a blister (Stage 2). By the time the bed sores have become very noticeable by later Stage 2 or Stage 3, the damage to the body may extend all the way through the layers of the skin into the tissue below. To make matters worse, once someone has bed sores even the best care often requires slow treatment throughout which the patient suffers from pain and discomfort.
For those of us who know or have loved ones living in nursing homes, we expect excellent care from the staff and reasonable comfort for the residents. We certainly expect the staff to treat any injury, like a bed sore, as quickly and effectively as possible. However, the reason bed sores are considered a “warning sign” for nursing home abuse and neglect is not merely because of the sore itself but why it appeared in the first place. The occurrence of bed sores is much more likely in individuals who are dehydrated, malnourished, and left in a bed or wheelchair for very long periods of time without being cared for. The best treatment for bed sores is prevention- and preventative measures fall precisely within the standard of care we expect from nursing homes.
For nursing home residents who have trouble moving in or out of bed, preventing bed sores comes hand in hand with what anyone would expect from a diligent staff. The simplest preventative measures include being hydrated, properly nourished, and kept dry and clean. Moreover, those residents who are bedridden should be monitored by the staff and helped to change positions at regular intervals around every two hours. Individuals who are at high risk of developing bed sores should also receive pressure-relieving devices (for example, specialized mattresses and cushions).
Nursing Home Neglect
Nursing homes are required to care for their residents and are knowledgeable about bed sores and prevention methods. Often nursing home residents develop bed sores because the facilities have done an inadequate job caring for their patient. The reasons for inadequate care may be systemic issues with the nursing homes like inadequate training or an under-staffed facility, rather than any intentional abuse. In such cases where the development of bed sores is a result of substandard care, the problem is likely not one of abuse but neglect, and our nursing home neglect attorneys work to ensure there is full accountability and redress for the residents and their families.
Our firm has frequently handled cases where loved ones developed bed sores while residents at nursing homes or other long-term care facilities (some examples are here and here). The attorneys at this firm have fought time and time again to provide redress to residents who developed bed sores and to spur facilities with inadequate care to enact the changes necessary to prevent other residents from similar mistreatment and poor care.
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