Every year, hundreds of thousands of senior citizens will develop pressure ulcers (bed sores) in nursing homes throughout the United States. Although usually preventable with proper care, pressure ulcers are one of the most common causes of injury and death in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and other facilities for the elderly. Pressure ulcers can progress rapidly over a span of weeks or months, frequently giving rise to lethal complications like septic shock, meningitis, and other deadly infections.
If your father, mother, grandparent, spouse, or other family member suffered pressure ulcers following admission into a nursing home or other type of care facility for the elderly, you should seek immediate medical care. You should also review your legal options with an experienced nursing home pressure ulcer attorney, as your loved one may be entitled to financial compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, and other damages. To talk about your nursing home claim or lawsuit in a free and confidential legal consultation, contact Wieand Law Firm LLC today.
Nursing Home Pressure Ulcer Statistics
Pressure ulcers are prevalent in nursing homes and other long-term care (LTC) facilities. Even though staff members are supposed to take preventative measures to avoid these injuries, issues like under-staffing, inexperience, lack of supervision, and/or lack of adequate training can lead to the prolonged neglect of residents, with disastrous consequences. In other situations, staff members deliberately neglect patients and withhold critical care. Intentional mistreatment of a resident is considered nursing home abuse.
In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a brief on pressure ulcers in nursing home residents using data taken from 2004. Some key findings in the brief included the following statistics:
- Roughly 159,000 nursing home residents had pressure ulcers in 2004. That’s about 11% of the national nursing home population – more than one in 10 residents – and averages out to nearly 3,200 victims in every state. Some estimates in the same report placed the figure as high as 28%.
- Risk factors for pressure ulcers in nursing homes were somewhat surprising. Counterintuitively, they included being 64 or younger, and staying in a nursing home for one year or less. Other risk factors included weight loss, immobility, and taking multiple medications.
- Stage 2 pressure ulcers were more common than other types of pressure ulcers.
- Bony areas were most likely to be affected, such as the shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, heels, and back of the head.
- Men were slightly more likely to get pressure sores than women with 13% and 10% affected, respectively.
Pressure Ulcer Stages and Complications
Pressure ulcers are divided into five stages based on the severity of the wound:
- Stage 1 Pressure Ulcer – A Stage 1 pressure sore will be painful, tender, and discolored, but the skin will still be closed. At this early stage, pressure ulcers are usually still reversible with swift medical intervention.
- Stage 2 Pressure Ulcer – Irreversible skin damage may occur by the time a pressure ulcer advances to Stage 2, especially because this is the stage when the wound opens up, creating a pus-filled blister or abscess. Because there is now an open sore, the risk of infection increases, making the injury more dangerous.
- Stage 3 Pressure Ulcer – A Stage 3 pressure ulcer runs deeper into the tissue, extending past the epidermis and dermis (skin) down to the underlying fat. The wound will look like a crater or hole, and it may be possible to see fat inside the sore.
- Stage 4 Pressure Ulcer – A Stage 4 pressure ulcer is a medical emergency that requires sophisticated professional treatment, such as debridement and surgery. Healing is often slow and difficult. Death may occur, or the patient’s life expectancy may be shortened as a result of the ulcer. Muscles, bones, joints, and tendons can be permanently and seriously damaged at this stage.
- Unstageable Pressure Ulcer – This is a pressure ulcer so severe it can no longer be classified using the system described above. The wound may be very large at this stage, and may have a black, grey, or green coloration.
As a pressure ulcer worsens, the likelihood of death or serious complications increases. Potential complications associated with pressure ulcers in the elderly include:
- Bone Infections (Osteomyelitis)
- Brain/Spinal Fluid Infections (Meningitis)
- Infected Heart Lining (Endocarditis)
- Necrotizing Fasciitis
- Sepsis/Severe Sepsis/Septic Shock
- Septic Arthritis
- Skin Infections (Cellulitis)
- Squamous Cell Skin Cancer (Marjolin’s Ulcer)
- Risk of amputation
For a frail elderly person whose immune system may already be compromised, these complications often prove fatal. Sadly, pressure ulcers have a high mortality rate and poor recovery rate.
Pressure Ulcer Attorneys Handling Nursing Home Lawsuits
Regardless of whether a nursing home resident develops pressure ulcers due to unintentional neglect or deliberate mistreatment, the facility should be investigated by a nursing home injury lawyer as soon as possible. State and federal laws create strict regulations that nursing homes must follow. Facilities that fail to comply with these regulations can be reported and issued a deficiency for failure to provide proper care. In addition to reporting abuse or neglect to nursing home regulators, the victim or victim’s family may also wish to file a claim or lawsuit against the facility and/or medical providers for compensation for their damages.
Wieand Law Firm LLC represents nursing home residents and families of wrongful death victims for nursing home malpractice. Our pressure ulcer injury attorneys are proud to give senior citizens a voice. We approach every case with the goal of maximizing financial compensation for the victim. We have extensive experience handling wrongful death and personal injury cases involving bed sores and pressure ulcers, and are frequently able to obtain favorable verdicts or settlements for our clients. To discuss a nursing home neglect claim, contact Wieand Law Firm LLC for a free consultation.