People who are in nursing homes are vulnerable to developing bedsores because they spend a lot of time lying in bed or sitting in a wheelchair. Bedsores, which are also called pressure sores or pressure ulcers, occur when there is unrelieved pressure on the skin. These lesions happen more frequently on parts of the body where bone and skin are in close contact, such as on the back, hips, elbows, and heels.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as ten percent of people in nursing homes suffer from bedsores. Often bedsores develop because nursing home staff neglect patients, particularly those who have limited mobility and may not be able to change positions on their own. Poor nutrition can also contribute to the formation of bedsores.
The Stages of Bedsores
Bedsores are a serious health risk that can lead to medical complications, including joint and bone infections, sepsis, cellulitis, and even cancer.
Hospitals and nursing homes use a scale to determine the severity of bedsores:
- Stage 1. At this stage, the pressure sore will appear as a reddened area of the skin. It may be spongy to the touch. When caught early, bedsores will heal once the pressure to the area is eliminated.
- Stage 2. Pressure sores at this stage likely will present with some skin loss, usually confined to the outer layer of skin only. The wound may resemble a blister or an abrasion. Stage 2 bedsores can still heal relatively quickly if the pressure is relieved.
- Stage 3. When bedsores are at this stage, all layers of the skin have deteriorated down to the muscle. The deep wound, called slough, looks like a crater and may be infected. Treatment is crucial at this stage if the skin and tissue are going to be preserved.
- Stage 4. This is the most serious bedsore stage, indicating that the bone, muscle, tendons, and tissue have been severely damaged. These wounds are challenging to heal and can cause life-threatening infections. Surgery is often required to treat stage 4 bedsores. Affected limbs might need to be amputated.
What to Do If Your Loved One Has a Bedsore
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities must take precautions to help prevent bedsores by frequently repositioning bedridden and wheelchair-bound patients. There are special devices available that can help support bedridden patients to prevent bedsores from forming. Patients with limited mobility should be moved every two hours.
Bedsores will show up on different areas of the body, depending on the circumstances. If your loved one is confined to a wheelchair most of the time, they will develop bedsores in different areas than someone who is confined to bed. Patients in wheelchairs can develop bedsores on the buttocks or tailbone, the backs of legs and arms, and the spine and shoulder blades. Patients who are in bed most of the time can develop bedsores on the back of the head, shoulders and shoulder blades, lower back and hips, and knees and heels.
If you notice any pressure sores on your loved one who is in a nursing home, you should notify their physician and the nursing home administrators immediately. Document the wound with pictures and keep records of the nursing home staff you have talked to about the wound.
If your loved one is not properly cared for and bedsores develop because of neglect on the part of the nursing home staff, the victim or family members may be able to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit. You could recover damages from the facility or a caregiver.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyer in Anchorage
Ben Crittenden is an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney who will fight to protect your loved one’s legal rights. Your case might also protect other patients at the nursing home from similar neglect or abuse. Call Ben today at 907-885-6032 or take a moment to fill out the online contact form to request a free consultation.