Nursing Home Neglect Causes Potentially Fatal Bed Sores

Most people make subtle shifts in position while sleeping and throughout the day. These activities help prevent damage from occurring to the skin. But for patients who are bed-ridden or confined to a wheelchair, these movements become more difficult to perform and can result in serious injuries and even death in some cases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, decubitus ulcers, known as bed sores or pressure sores , often result from sustained pressure, typically when bed-ridden patients are allowed to stay in one position for too long. Without moving or shifting position, blood flow is restricted, depriving the skin of the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to survive.

In nursing homes and hospitals across the country, these injuries, though preventable, are far too common. HealthGrades Seventh Annual Patient Safety in American Hospitals study notes there were over 487,000 incidents of bed sores in hospitals across the country from 2006 to 2008, while a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 11 percent of residents in nursing homes had advanced pressure sores in 2004.

Stages and Symptoms of Bed Sores

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bed sores are divided into stages based on their severity. The first stage is noted by a reddened area, indicating that a pressure sore is beginning to form. In stage two, there will be noticeable irritation and the skin may blister or form an open wound. A crater-like sore will form in stage three and in stage four, the wound is so deep that the muscle and bone underneath the sore is damaged. The fourth stage is the most serious and can result in irreversible damage or death if the sore continues to go untreated.

Typically, the injuries occur on the back or shoulders, but can also be found behind the knees, on the heels of the feet, elbows and back of the ears.

Prevention

Of all the injuries that can occur in hospitals and nursing homes, bed sores are one of the most preventable. Frequent shifting of positions is the easiest way to prevent bed sores from occurring. The NIH recommends that patients are shifted at least every two hours to reduce the likelihood of pressure sores. Good nutrition and hydration are also important.

If the nursing home staff is trained properly and paying attention, bed sores should not happen. If you have a family member who is suffering from bed sores or other forms of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, hospital or other assisted living facility, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options.