According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 1 out of every 10 nursing home residents suffer from bedsores. Also known as pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, and pressure ulcers, bedsores may be symptomatic of a more significant problem of nursing home neglect.
Bedsores are a leading cause of iatrogenic death in the U.S. according to numerous reports. An iatrogenic death is an unexpected death caused by medical treatment. Bedsores are caused by constant unrelieved pressure and poor circulation. They are more likely to occur in areas where bone and skin are in close contact–like the back of the head, lower back, hip, elbow, and ankle areas. People with limited mobility are more prone to acquiring pressure sores.
Bedsores are divided into four stages depending on severity, from stage I, where the site is painful, but the skin is intact, to stage IV, where there is large-scale tissue loss. Pressure sores are treatable if discovered early, but they may be fatal in some cases if not correctly detected and treated. Unfortunately, the treatment of bedsores is slow and painful.
Bedsores are among the most common injuries acquired in nursing homes and may signal other forms of nursing home negligence and neglect. The development of bedsores in nursing home residents may indicate several mistakes made on the part of the nursing home staff, from negligent monitoring to poor nutrition, lack of exercise, lack of hygiene, or improperly managed incontinence.
Despite mobility problems, paralysis, and coma, studies show that most bedsores are preventable if nursing homes are attentive and properly cared for patients. To participate in Medicare and Medicaid, nursing homes must comply with several federal laws regarding nursing home care that specifically address bedsores.
Under 42 CFR 483.25, nursing homes have the duty to prevent patients from developing pressure sores. For patients with existing pressure sores, nursing homes have the duty to provide proper treatment to ensure that the sores heal, do not become infected, and do not spread to other areas.
To ensure compliance with these regulations, nursing homes often employ a bedsore prevention program consisting of regular evaluations and developing a care plan. The problem is that in most bedsores, prevention programs and care plans have been in place but have been improperly implemented or ignored by nursing home staff.
Even more troubling is that in cases where there were allegations of neglect related to bedsores, the accusations were often accompanied by evidence that the nursing home altered records to cover up their negligence.
Even though they may be difficult to prevent, nursing homes must monitor all patients for the development of pressure sores. The nursing home should implement a care plan for patients with limited mobility issues to ensure that bedsores do not develop. If bedsores are present, the nursing home staff has a duty to discover them in their early, treatable stages and to provide adequate treatment.
Because bedsores in patients may lead to a reduction in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements not to mention large jury awards, many nursing homes try to shift responsibility to the patient. On several occasions, nursing homes have argued that bedsores were unavoidable due to the patient‘s old age, mobility issues, and obesity. Other nursing homes have argued that the patient did not comply with medical advice, the patient acquired the bedsore prior to admission, or the patient suffered from a medical complication such as diabetes.
Regardless of all of the above, the nursing home has a duty to evaluate each patient individually, identify bedsores or risks for bedsores, and act accordingly. At no time should bedsores go undetected for an extended period or reach a stage of infection where they are no longer treatable.
If a loved one has developed bedsores at a nursing home, this may be a sign of neglect, for which there may be a personal injury claim. If you discover bedsore, you should demand immediate treatment and a plan to avoid future such issues. If the bedsores are advanced or recurring, you should probably seek the advice of a personal injury attorney to protect your loved one.