Decubitus ulcers are common in nursing homes throughout the United States. If these injuries are allowed to progress, they can rapidly give rise to lethal complications, seriously jeopardizing the victim’s health and safety while violating laws that protect seniors from neglect and abuse.
If a loved one developed decubitus ulcers after entering a nursing home, or if you lost an elderly loved one to fatal complications of a decubitus ulcer, you deserve to get compensated and hold the facility accountable. The nursing home abuse lawyers at the Wieand Law Firm LLC can help. For a free legal consultation about filing a claim or lawsuit against a negligent nursing home anywhere in the United States, contact us today.
Nursing Home Decubitus Ulcer Rates
Unfortunately, decubitus ulcers (bed sores) are very prevalent in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other care facilities for senior citizens. Just consider the following nursing home decubitus ulcer statistics, which are sourced from a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- More than one in 10 nursing home residents (about 11%, or approximately 159,000 people) had decubitus ulcers in 2004.
- One in five residents with decubitus ulcers had recently lost weight, indicating malnutrition or malnourishment is a risk factor.
- Surprisingly, residents under the age of 65 were actually more likely to develop decubitus ulcers than older residents.
- In another surprise finding, residents with short stays (under one year) were more likely to suffer decubitus ulcer injuries than long-term nursing home residents.
Nursing home neglect and elder abuse are known to be underreported, and even in cases where nursing home violations are uncovered, they are not always properly classified by the agency that performed the inspection. Sadly, it is likely that decubitus ulcer deaths and injuries are even more prevalent than the statistics above would indicate.
Decubitus Ulcer Staging and Complications
There are five ways a decubitus ulcer or bedsore can be classified which are described below.
- Stage 1 Decubitus Ulcers – This is the beginning stage of a decubitus ulcer. The skin has not opened yet, but will likely feel sore and painful, and may appear discolored. Depending on the patient’s skin tone, the affected area may look slightly pink, red, blue, or purple.
- Stage 2 Decubitus Ulcers – At Stage 2, the skin tears and the sore becomes an open wound. This increases the likelihood that the sore will become infected, which gives rise to a host of serious complications and worsens the likelihood of successful recovery. The sore may look like an abscess or blister, or may create a small hole in the skin.
- Stage 3 Decubitus Ulcers – At Stage 3, the sore penetrates to a deeper layer of tissue, extending down to the subcutaneous fat layer beneath the epidermis and dermis (skin). This fat may be visible through the open sore. Debridement and surgery may become necessary.
- Stage 4 Decubitus Ulcers – At Stage 4, tissue damage penetrates even further, reaching all the way down to muscle and bone. Severe infection and death of the resident are likely at this stage.
- Unstageable Decubitus Ulcers – This classification indicates that the sore has advanced to a point where staging is impossible. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel describes this type of decubitus ulcer as “full thickness tissue loss in which the base of the ulcer is covered by slough (yellow, tan, gray, green or brown) and/or eschar (tan, brown or black) in the wound bed.” Slough is stringy, pustulent tissue, and eschar is dark, dead tissue.
Complications from advanced decubitus ulcers can be deadly, especially if the victim’s immune system was already weakened by malnourishment or dehydration, which are also common issues in U.S. nursing homes. According to a study on the long-term outcomes of decubitus ulcers published in Ostomy Wound Management, “[R]esearch has shown that… nursing home residents with pressure ulcers experience a 6-month mortality rate of 77.3%.” Complications of severe decubitus ulcers may include:
- Cellulitis (Skin Infection)
- Endocarditis (Heart Lining Infection)
- Marjolin’s Ulcer (Skin Cancer)
- Meningitis (Brain/Spinal Fluid Infection)
- Necrotizing Fasciitis
- Osteomyelitis (Bone Infection)
- Sepsis/Severe Sepsis/Septic Shock
- Septic Arthritis
Decubitus Ulcer Causes
Decubitus ulcers are preventable, and are almost always the result of negligent care or intentional abuse. To understand why, you need to understand the reason a decubitus ulcer forms.
Under normal circumstances, every part of a person’s body receives a continual supply of fresh oxygen and nutrients from blood cells circulating throughout the body. However, when a person is paralyzed or bed-bound, he or she is in almost constant contact with a surface, generally a chair or mattress.
This constant, ongoing pressure interferes with the normal circulation of oxygen throughout the body. When a body part is deprived of fresh oxygen for too long – typically several weeks or months – the skin and underlying tissue begins to break down and die. This is what causes a decubitus ulcer to develop.
This situation can be easily circumvented with basic care measures. Simply by turning or repositioning a resident every few hours, and by using appropriate equipment, nursing home staff members can ensure that every part of a resident’s body receives adequate circulation. If an assisted living or nursing home resident develops a decubitus ulcer, it is usually because he or she is not being regularly repositioned by staff members.
There are many reasons staff members fail to turn immobile residents, including:
- Inadequate supervision
- Inadequate training
- Intentional abuse
However, nursing homes have a duty to provide proper care to residents under state and federal law. If a nursing home patient has developed or is in the process of developing decubitus ulcers, the facility should be immediately reported to regulating authorities. Failing to do so may result in a deficiency notice, fines or harsher sanctions when the care at issue is not corrected.
Contact a Decubitus Ulcer Attorney About Filing a Lawsuit
The nursing home neglect attorneys of Wieand Law Firm LLC are strong advocates for senior citizens and their families. We handle personal injury and wrongful death claims against nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other facilities that fail to provide proper care to residents. If your mother, father, grandparent, spouse, or other family member suffered bed sores or other injuries following admission into a long-term care facility, turn to us for aggressive legal representation. To discuss your family’s legal options in a free and confidential consultation, contact our nursing home injury lawyers.