Bed sores are also called “pressure sores,” “pressure ulcers,” or “decubitus ulcers.” No matter which term is used, bedsores are among the most common injuries in nursing home facilities – and sadly, the most preventable. If your elderly mother, father, spouse, or other loved one suffered pressure sore injuries after entering a nursing home, he or she may have been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse. Continue reading to learn more about how and why bed sores develop in nursing home settings.
If you suspect that your loved one’s bed sore injury was caused by negligent care at a nursing home, assisted living facility, or other type of care facility for seniors, contact the Wieand Law Firm LLC for a free and confidential consultation about your family’s legal rights. Our nursing home neglect attorneys can fight to recover compensation for your loved one while holding the facility or staff member accountable for negligence.
What Causes Bed Sores (Decubitus Ulcers)?
Unlike deteriorating vision or hearing, bed sores are not a natural consequence of aging. On the contrary, bed sores are generally avoidable with quality nursing home care. If your elderly loved one has developed bed sores following admission into a nursing home or assisted living center, there is a possibility that he or she is being neglected by nursing home staff. But in order to understand the connection between nursing home negligence and bed sore injuries in the elderly, you must understand how and why decubitus ulcers occur.
Like any organ of the body, human skin requires a steady flow of blood to provide a continual supply of fresh oxygen. External pressure from contact with a surface, such as a chair or bed, can disrupt blood circulation, which eventually prevents oxygenation of tissue in the area where pressure is applied.
When people are able to move about freely, this rarely becomes an issue. However, many nursing home residents are immobile or bed-bound, placing them in almost constant contact with mattresses or other surfaces for extended periods of time. If nursing home caregivers fail to reposition such residents on a regular basis – generally, about once every two hours – pressure against the victim’s body is seldom or never interrupted, and blood cannot carry fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissue.
Eventually, this sustained deprivation of oxygen and nutrients causes the tissue to break down and die, a process which typically begins after a period of several weeks to several months. This is where the term “pressure ulcer” comes from, while the term “decubitus” simply refers to the posture a person adopts when lying down.
Though initially small and treatable, early stage bed sores can rapidly progress into debilitating, life-threatening injuries that are highly prone to infection, and are capable of causing permanent disfigurement. The risk of death or serious illness is particularly great for seniors who are already battling other health conditions, or who have compromised immune systems. In severe cases, pressure sores can penetrate all the way down to the bone, and in very rare instances, are even capable of transforming into Marjolin’s ulcers, which are uncommon but aggressive malignant tumors (cancerous growths) caused by chronic wounds or injuries.
Bed sores typically present on bony areas of the body, or “bony prominences,” such as the heels, ankles, knees, pelvis (hip bones), elbows, and shoulders. However, pressure ulcers can develop on any body part that continuously remains in contact with a surface, including the back, the buttocks, and the backs of the legs.
Signs and Symptoms of Pressure Ulcers
Because pressure sores begin as external injuries, they are generally easy to see. However, these ulcers are are not always noticed by the untrained eye. Many times, this is because nursing home residents’ skin is not checked carefully for bed sores.
It’s very important for the family members of nursing home residents to be able to recognize the warning signs a bed sore has developed or is developing. In their beginning stages, pressure ulcers are open, moist sores which are pink or reddish in color, and are typically accompanied by the following symptoms in or around the ulcer:
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer for Help
You should review your family’s legal options with a nursing home neglect lawyer if you are concerned that an elderly loved one is being neglected or mistreated by his or her caregivers. The victim may have a cause of action, or legal grounds to file a claim or lawsuit. He or she could be entitled to financial compensation for his or her medical bills, pain and suffering, and other hardships and losses caused by the bed sore injury. In cases where advanced bed sores led to the death of a nursing home resident, a wrongful death attorney can investigate the circumstances of the resident’s death, and fight for compensation for the victim’s family, including compensation for funeral and burial expenses.
Nursing home residents have legal rights. The nursing home injury lawyers of the Wieand Law Firm LLC are here to protect those rights while pursuing justice for vulnerable seniors. For a free and confidential legal consultation with an experienced nursing home bed sore attorney, contact us today.