Articles Posted in Pressure Ulcers

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Michael Morris was just 43 years old when he died from complications that arose from infected tracheostomy and gastrostomy tubes, as well as multiple pressure ulcers. He was a resident of Salem Village Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Joliet, Illinois for just over a year at the time of his death last September.

In a lawsuit filed in Will County, the administrator of his estate alleges that the facility is directly responsible for his death by failing to provide the adequate care required for a resident in Mr. Morris’ condition.

How do Pressure Ulcers Develop?

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A law firm in Eureka, California, is representing the families of two men who died from complications from pressure ulcers within 8 months of each other. The men were unknown to each other, but both received negligent care at facilities owned by the same company and run by the same nursing home administrator.

The lawsuits allege that understaffing was an intentional business decision and that the lack of available staff plus negligence on the part of nursing and medical staff caused both men’s deaths. Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Center and Seaview Rehabilitation & Wellness Center are both owned by Brius Healthcare and day-to-day operations of both facilities are overseen by Rockport Healthcare Services.

Avoidable Deaths

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Salem Nursing & Rehab in Augusta, Georgia, also known as Amara Health Care & Rehab, settled a wrongful death lawsuit on the eve before the case was set to go to trial. The widow of a man who suffered and ultimately died from gangrene-infected pressure sores was pursuing action against Amara after her husband was sent to the facility to receive rehab services as a result of a stroke in 2011. In less than than 1.5 years, Mr. Patrick Manning, the decedent, developed pressure sores and was found to be dehydrated and malnourished. His widow, Mrs. Norma Manning, alleged that poor care caused the rapid decline in her husband’s health that ultimately led to his death.

Amara Health Care Had History of Violations & Lawsuits

Unsurprisingly, Salem Nursing & Rehab (aka Amara Health Care) had consistently received a less than average rating through Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services as a result of numerous standards violations and had been named in several lawsuits in the last 10 years. A recent search on Nursing Home Compare shows that the facility received 1 star (the lowest rating) at its latest health inspection and has an overall star rating of 2 (below average). Just this past May the facility declared bankruptcy and was sold off to University Health Care System in Augusta.

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The family of a man who died from sepsis and respiratory failure is suing Madison Health & Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Kentucky for failing to correct and prevent pressure ulcers that led to his death.

Donald Shelton was admitted to Madison Health & Rehab with a foot wound and a pressure ulcer on his buttock and was expected to receive care to heal his injuries. Instead, the facility did not bathe Mr. Shelton in the 8 days he was a resident and failed to put together a care plan that outlined a course of treatment. In a span of just over a week, Mr. Shelton developed two additional bedsores and tissue death in his genital area that resulted in necrosis. As a result of the existing sores and newly developed ulcers, Mr. Shelton’s body and organs were overwhelmed by a serious infection known as sepsis. He died exactly 8 days after being admitted to Madison Health & Rehabilitation.

Pressure Ulcers – A Preventable Injury and Death

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In November 2015, 76 year old Hilda Cornelius died from an avoidable wound and leg amputation caused by staff negligence at a care facility in Woodway, Texas.  Cornelius was admitted to Regent Care Center of Woodway for a fractured fibula with a modest care plan that would enable her to go home after being treated. Unfortunately, Hilda Cornelius was never able to return home to her loved ones.

After admission, a physician noticed a wound from an immobilizer device on her leg. Wounds from devices such as the one worn by Hilda Cornelius are easily preventable and treatable with proper care from nursing home staff. In less than two weeks, the wound on Ms. Cornelius’ leg progressed into a 10 cm by 3 cm sore that was so deep, her tendons were visible.  The only choice to save Ms. Cornelius was to perform an above-the-knee amputation on January 27, 2016. Within 3 weeks, Ms. Cornelius had passed away from complications related to the wound and amputation.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Hilda Cornelius, the family alleges that staff at Regent Care Center failed to care for her by allowing a preventable injury to occur and to advance into a wound so severe that amputation was the only option.

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There has been a growing movement in favor of in-home or community-based care, in which a patient avoids the bureaucracy and potential neglect that can come with a nursing home stay, and instead receives more personalized and human care in the comfort of their own home. This can often be with the direct care of indirect support from loved ones.

Real World Examples

There was a recent case profiled in The Atlantic that combines the idea of care from one’s family member along with neglect and exploitation that has resulted in a long prison sentence. In California, an 85 year old woman had resided in a nursing home because she could not care for herself even on the most basic level. Eventually her daughter, who was homeless and lived in her car, convinced her to move into an apartment, which the daughter paid for by tapping into her mother’s social security money. The daughter moved in and assumed responsibility for her mother’s care.
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Pressures sores remain one of the single clearest signs of Chicago nursing home neglect. Far too often family members of seniors are horrified to discover that their loved ones developed serious open skin breakdowns on their body as a result of constant pressure on certain high-risk areas including the sacrum, lower back, heels, and several other locations.

Make no mistake: pressure sores are preventable. With proper caregiving, steps can be taken to ensure that the skin remains free of too much pressure, clean, and healthy. Yet, far too often–particularly at the worse performing facilities–caregivers do not provide nearly enough support to prevent the development of bed sores.

For one thing, the most vulnerable residents usually need to be repositioned in bed every two hours to ensure that no single area of the body has too much pressure from the mattress for an extended period of time. But many understaffed facilities do not abide by these re-positioning and turning requirements. In addition, many seniors do not receive adequate nutrition and hydration, which makes them more susceptible to skin breakdowns.

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Most nursing home neglect cases include a few familiar types of incidents: falls, failure to prevent bed sores, resident-on-resident violence, inadequate nutrition, and wandering. But these general issues are certainly not the only ways that long-term care facilities can fail to meet their legal duty to protect residents. Sometimes the mistakes are a bit more nuanced and connected to the more skilled medical care that these facilities provide.

However, at the end of the day, considering there are so many clear trends when it comes to neglect, family members worried about mistreatment should most familiarize themselves with the most common issues, particularly falls and pressure sores.

Pressure Sore Case

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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.

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Bed sores are one of the most well-known signs of inadequate nursing home care. When residents do not receive attentive aid over a period of time, these skin breakdowns may develop, causing serious injury, pain, and (in some cases) contributing to the death of a senior resident. Elder caregivers must be well-versed in these pressure ulcers, understanding how they develop and what needs to be done to make sure they are properly treated. If nursing home caregiver fail in this regard, then the civil law may allow the senior (or their family) to seek legal accountability.

Illinois Bed Sore Lawsuit

That is exactly what is happening in a new nursing home neglect lawsuit filed by our legal team at Levin & Perconti against the Applewood Rehabilitation Center in Matteson, Illinois. We are representing a family in the legal matter whose 81-year old senior relative passed away in January 2012 after a stay at the facility.