One of the most basic responsibilities of a nursing home is paying attention to patients. When patients are left constantly in one position, such as in bed or in a wheelchair, they can develop bedsores. These painful sores shouldn’t occur, but when they do, the patient and/or family may have cause to recover for neglect.
Also known as pressure sores, bedsores are painful injuries that develop in typically bedridden or otherwise immobile nursing home residents. The pressure of the patient’s weight restricts blood supply to the skin and tissue. When this occurs, the tissue can die and open up, leaving a wound. If the wound is not treated, it can become infected.
Bedsores are painful and can take months to heal. They can also aggravate existing health problems. Nursing home patients often die as a result of bedsore infections. There are several areas of the body that are particularly at risk for developing bedsores, including:
- Lower back
- Back or side of the head
- Shoulder blades
Numerous factors make bedsores more likely to occur in nursing home residents. One is lack of cleanliness. Urine acidity can break down the skin, so a resident should not be left in his or her own waste. Unfortunately, this happens when neglectful staff is not properly monitoring and cleaning their patients. Lack of clean conditions can not only increase the likelihood of developing bedsores; it can cause infection. If not properly treated, infected bedsore can lead to sepsis, which is difficult to treat and is often fatal.
Malnutrition and dehydration weaken the body, which makes the skin more brittle. This, in turn, can cause bedsores to develop. Another cause of bedsores is constant friction against the skin from sheets and other fabrics. Wet or tender skin is especially susceptible to friction wounds. A patient should have clean, dry clothing and linens at all times.
Symptoms of bedsores include the following:
- Sore or tender areas of the skin
- Unusual changes in skin color
- Changes in skin texture
- Pus-like draining
- An area of skin that feels warmer or cooler to the touch relative to other areas
There are generally four recognized stages of bedsores which indicate their severity.
Stage 1. Dark skin patch which may be tender or painful to the touch. Left untreated, a Stage 1 bedsore can turn into an ulcer. At this stage, there are no tears or breaks in the skin. The skin is often warmer than in surrounding areas.
Stage 2. The skin has broken open, worn away, or formed an ulcer. A Stage 2 bedsore often looks like a scrape or blister. Some skin may die or be damaged beyond repair.
Stage 3. Bedsore worsens and extends into the tissue beneath the skin. Fat and yellowish dead tissue may be exposed.
Stage 4. At this level, the injury reaches into muscle and possibly bone. Extensive damage to deeper tissues, tendons, and joints may occur.
As mentioned above, untreated bedsore can lead to potentially fatal sepsis. In some rare cases, aggressive cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma can develop. This may be due to recurring bed sores which cause chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a known risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma.
Why You Should Contact a Nursing Home Injury Attorney
Bedsores are a strong indication that a nursing home patient is being neglected. Families rightfully expect that their loved ones will not be subjected to these painful, avoidable injuries. When they are, they may have cause to take legal action. The nursing home injury attorneys at Schneider Hammers are experienced with a variety of nursing home injury, abuse, and neglect cases. We will investigate what happened and make sure that the parties responsible are held accountable for bedsore injuries. Be sure your family member gets the medical attention he or she needs, then call us to discuss your case.