Bedsores from Nursing Home Negligence

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Daniel Harwin

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If your elderly loved one has suffered from bedsores in a Florida nursing home, talk to our experienced lawyers about the possibility of a nursing home neglect lawsuit. Bedsores can be an extremely serious medical situation and should not happen if someone is receiving adequate resident care and treatment. Bedsores are the direct result of your loved one being stationary too long, such as on bedrest without a nursing home staff member moving or exercising him or her. These bedsores are preventable if the nursing home takes appropriate precautions. Your loved one might be eligible for financial compensation for damages relating to bedsores, such as for medical bills and pain and suffering.

At Freedland Harwin Valori Gander, PL, we care deeply about Florida’s elderly nursing home residents. Our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys take aggressive and passionate stances against negligent establishments, employees, and other parties for their role in residents developing bedsores or pressure ulcers. We’ve secured more than $2 billion in settlements and verdicts for our clients and may be able to help you recover as well. Start with a free consultation with one of our lawyers.

What Are Bedsores/Pressure Sores?

Bedsores, also called decubitus ulcers or pressure sores, are broken areas of skin that form when the weight of the person’s body presses on one area for too long. The pressure slowly cuts off the blood supply to the skin, injuring skin cells and resulting in sores or ulcers. Bedsores can occur when an elderly person remains in the same position for too long, such as in a bed or wheelchair. The elderly population, especially those over the age of 85, are at higher risk of developing bedsores due to the increased fragility of the skin. Statistics show that more than one in 10 nursing home residents suffer from bedsores and they are typically caused by neglect.

Examining the skin is typically enough for nursing home staff members or nurses to diagnose bedsores. The skin may appear red in patches or develop blisters or open sores in the affected area. If the skin has broken, the resident is at risk of developing serious infections. Signs of an infected bedsore include foul odors, pus draining from the sore, tenderness or heat from the area, and fever. Medical personnel may need to run tests to diagnose a bedsore if symptoms of infection are present and they must be vigilant to prevent them from worsening.

If caught early enough and properly addressed, bedsores generally will not last long and will heal on their own (as long as someone relieves the pressure from the area). If no one notices or addresses the bedsore, however, it can worsen until it reaches below the surface of the skin and damages the underlying muscle, tendon, joint, or bone. At this point, the sore has become a full-blown ulcer and can take six months or longer to heal. The most serious bedsores might never fully heal. The deepest ulcers might require surgery, skin grafts, and reconstructive operations to treat. If untreated, bedsores can lead to severe infections, and even death.

Causes of Bedsores/Legal Responsibility of Nursing Homes

Pressure is the most common cause of bedsores in nursing home environments. Bedsores can arise in vulnerable areas if nursing home staff members neglect the individual and do not move or exercise him/her regularly. Friction against the skin can also result in bedsores, such as someone dragging an immobile resident across the bedsheets. Instead of dragging, the nursing home should have an overhead trapeze for the resident to pull on or staff able to lift residents from their beds when necessary. Beds and chairs should also stay free of food crumbs and other debris that could rub on the skin and create sores.

Bedsores are preventable. By law, it is up to nursing home staff members to prevent bedsores by relieving pressure on vulnerable areas of the body. It is standard medical practice to change the nursing home resident’s position frequently (about every two hours in bed and one hour in a chair) to prevent pressure sores from forming. There are also special beds and mattresses that can reduce the chances of bedsores. Every nursing home staff member in charge of resident care should know about bedsores and take steps to prevent them from forming.

Other ways to prevent bedsores include inspecting the skin regularly, minimizing the use of irritating chemicals on the skin, providing proper nutrition, encouraging daily exercise, and keeping the skin clean and dry. Failure to take proper care of a nursing home resident, resulting in bedsores or pressure ulcers, is negligence in the eyes of the law. If your family member suffers from bedsores while under the care of a Florida nursing home or other long-term care facility, speak to our attorneys about the possibility of bringing a claim against the at-fault establishment.

Stages of Bedsores

The sooner staff or family members catch bedsores, the better the resident’s prognosis for recovery. As pressure or another cause continues to cut off the skin’s blood supply unnoticed, the sore can worsen and deepen. While a nursing home should prevent pressure sores from ever forming, if they do form, nurses should spot and treat them in the earliest stage for the best outcome. However, often times residents are neglected and bedsores worsen as they go unchecked. There are four main stages of bedsores:

  1. Stage I. The mildest stage of a bedsore, stage one is where the pressure has affected only the outermost layer of the dermis. Symptoms can include red or pink spots that don’t turn white when pressed; pain, itching, or a burning sensation; or a spot that feels unusually firm, soft, warm, or cold. Stopping the pressure by changing the resident’s position can be enough to treat sores in stage one.
  2. Stage II. A stage two bedsore reaches below the upper surface of the skin, often breaking the skin and resulting in open wounds. Stage two bedsores are the most common in nursing home resident cases. Symptoms include blisters, swollen skin that’s red and/or warm, open sores that ooze pus or fluid, and pain. Treatment requires relieving the pressure, cleaning the wound, and possibly taking pain medication. Stage two ulcers can take a few days or a few weeks to heal.
  3. Stage III. In stage three, a pressure ulcer reaches the fatty tissue, creating a crater in the skin. Bedsores at stage three may exhibit foul smells, pus, drainage, red edges, or heat. Tissues around the sore might appear black. The resident may require surgery to remove the dead skin. These ulcers can take up to four months to heal.
  4. Stage IV. Stage four is the worst and most serious level of bedsores. At this point, the sore has reached the muscles and ligaments deep under the skin. Sores appear large and deep, with skin that is dead and appears black. There are signs of infection. The sore may be deep enough to show the underlying tendons, muscle, or even bone. Stage four ulcers require immediate medical attention and often surgical intervention. They can take months or years to heal, or they may never heal.

A doctor might also diagnose a bedsore as an SDTI, or suspected deep tissue injury, if the surface of the skin resembles a sore in stages one or two, but the doctor suspects it is in stages three or four below the surface. There are also “unstageable” bedsores, in which the doctor cannot see the bottom of the sore and cannot tell how deep the damage extends until he or she cleans the wound.

Common Areas Bedsores Develop

Pressure against the skin is the most common cause of bedsores. Thus, the area of the body that press against a bed or chair are the most at risk. When lying on one’s back, the heels of the feet, the tailbone, sacrum, backs of the elbows, shoulder blades, and the back of the head are the most vulnerable areas. When lying on one’s side, the vulnerable areas are the ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, and ears. If sitting in a chair, pressure sores are most likely to develop in the balls or heels of the feet, the buttocks, and the shoulder blades. All nursing home staff members have a duty to understand what causes bedsores, where they are most likely to occur, and how to prevent them.

Bedsore Complications

In the earliest stages, a bedsore can be nothing more than a slightly painful red mark that goes away on its own in a few days. Prolonged, undiagnosed sores, however, can turn into major and even life-threatening health conditions. If left untreated, a bedsore can continue to damage and kill the skin cells, digging deeper into the victim’s skin until becoming a painful, oozing crater. Some of the complications that can arise from untreated bedsores include:

  • Deep tissue infections. Pressure ulcers with broken skin are prone to infection, especially if they come in contact with feces or urine. Infections may form deep within the skin tissues and even affect the joints or bones. Infections this deep can damage cartilage, reduce the function of joints, and limit mobility.
  • Cellulitis. Cellulitis is a skin infection that can cause redness, pain, swelling, and warmth in the affected area. If the victim has nerve damage, he or she might not feel pain from cellulitis – possibly delaying discovery of the problem.
  • Cancer. Marjolin’s ulcers are aggressive ulcers that can occur in previously traumatized or scarred skin, such as areas where pressure sores had developed in the past. Non-healing bedsores can turn into Marjolin’s ulcers or other types of squamous cell carcinoma (cancer).

The most severe bedsore cases can affect an elderly person for the rest of his or her life. They can cause a great deal of pain, costly medical procedures, weeks or months of recovery time, inhibited mobility, sickness, infection, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and even death.

Contact Freedland Harwin Valori Gander, PL, for a Free Consultation

If your loved one suffers due to bedsores while in a nursing home facility, talk to our attorneys right away. You could have grounds for a legal action against the nursing home and/or an individual nurse or doctor. A successful suit could result in compensation for your loved one’s economic and non-economic damages and potentially prevent something similar happening to another resident in the future. Call (954) 467-6400 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation about your bedsore case. We can handle cases anywhere in Florida from our main offices in Fort Lauderdale.

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