Bedsores are also known as pressure sores. Although they may not sound very important, bedsores may not only be extremely painful, but they can also cause serious complications for an elderly person’s health. They can even be fatal. Many nursing home residents develop bedsores at some point during their time in a nursing home.
How do bedsores develop? They develop when too much pressure is placed for an extended period of time on one area of the body. The pressure obstructs blood flow to soft tissue, which kills the tissue. Usually, the area of the body where the sore develops has a bone and only a thin layer of flesh over it. Common locations on the body where bedsores develop are the tailbones, elbows, shoulders, and heels. There are four stages of bedsores. The fourth stage is the most severe, and in this stage the sore extends into the tendon, muscle, or bone.
The residents who are at the highest risk of developing bedsores are 75 years old or older. Residents who have trouble eating on their own, or who are immobile or restricted in their movements, are at high risk for developing bedsores as well. Other residents who have a higher chance of suffering a bedsore are residents who are underweight, are suffering from cognitive deficits, are incontinent, or do not physically sense the need to reposition themselves. The patients who need the highest level of care—those with serious conditions like diabetes or multiple sclerosis—are at a very high risk of suffering bedsores.
Often, a bedsore indicates that a nursing home resident has stayed immobile in one position for too long or has not had a diaper change or been left in wet sheets. It can also signal that an elderly person is dehydrated or is suffering from malnutrition. Since they typically signal that an elderly person has not been given care that he or she needs, bedsores are often used as evidence of nursing home neglect.
In order to prevent bedsores, a nursing home resident should be turned and repositioned with sufficient frequency, usually every two hours, to prevent too much pressure accumulating in a single spot. Moreover, a patient needs to have frequent diaper changes and help getting to the bathroom in order to prevent excessive moisture. Most bedsores are preventable.
Unfortunately, in many cases, nursing homes are understaffed, and there are insufficient staff members to make sure that an elderly patient is repositioned as frequently as necessary. Because of the ratio of staff members to residents, staff members may not be aware that a resident is not getting enough food or water.
Bedsore Injury Lawsuits
When a loved one in a nursing home is suffering from bedsores and other signs of neglect, or requires amputation because of a bedsore, it may be possible to bring a nursing home neglect or elder abuse lawsuit to obtain compensation. A person who suspects elder abuse in a nursing home should investigate what might be behind the bedsores by asking the person who seems to be victimized and also checking with other residents who seem clear-minded. The person should also gather medical records and take photographs of any bedsores. If the loved one does not appear to be getting adequate treatment for the bedsores, it may be important to his or her safety to be moved to another facility.
In some states, you are required to report elder abuse to the district attorney or police, as well as appropriate agencies like the department of social services or adult protective services. Filing a report may be a good thing to do, even if it is not required in your state, since the authorities can conduct an official investigation, the results of which may inform your decision on whether to bring a lawsuit. Elder abuse lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits based on elder abuse can be complicated, and it is wise to retain an attorney with substantial experience in nursing home law.