Bedsores should virtually never occur in any patient who is properly monitored and cared for. These painful and potentially dangerous injuries are preventable if nursing homes insist on appropriate staff performance. If you or a loved one has developing or worsening bedsores while in a nursing home, this could be a sign of nursing home abuse or neglect which would warrant speaking to an attorney who is experienced dealing with nursing home related injuries.
Fortunately, there’s hope for South Carolina residents who have fallen victim to bedsores. Both federal and state laws clearly state that nursing homes must provide care that ensures residents’ safety and wellbeing.
Nursing homes that fail to provide adequate levels of care may be held liable for patients’ damages in court. If victims have experienced pain and suffering, grappled with additional medical bills, or struggled to maintain quality of life after contracting bedsores, they may have a claim to monetary and sometimes other forms of compensation.
What Are Bedsores?
Bedsores go by several names, but whether you know them as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, or another title, they’re never a good sign. These sores begin as injuries to the skin and eventually spread into underlying soft tissue. In some cases, damage even spreads into a patient’s muscles and bones. They’re most commonly seen in bonier areas of the body due to greater pressure and less fat protection.
In many cases, it’s possible to stop sores’ development before they worsen and become a critical problem. They generally begin as minor injuries. Patients may present unusual changes in the area, like different skin color and texture or signs of swelling, and it’s the medical providers’ responsibility to note and monitor these changes.
Stages of Bedsores
Medicals professionals characterize bedsores by determining which of four stages a sore is in:
- Stage one bedsores have begun development, but not progressed to become open wounds; victims may feel pain or their skin may visibly redden, but skin tears are uncommon.
- Stage two bedsores develop as the skin surrounding a sore begins to wear away or break; the sore may appear similar to a scrape or blister. Skin can be damaged beyond repair beginning in this stage.
- Stage three bedsores occur as a sore begins to worsen; during this stage, the sore extends into the soft tissue that lies beneath the skin.
- Stage four bedsores are the most severe variety of bedsores; they reach deep down and often intersect muscle and bone; these sores cause irreversible damage and some patients stop experiencing pain as the damage worsens.
Common Bedsore Causes in Nursing Home Patients
In some cases, nursing homes have been known to argue that patients’ bedsores were not the product of negligence or abuse. Statements such as these should never be accepted at face value. These painful, potentially life-threatening sores are all too common in nursing home patients, but they should never be seen as inevitable. They can almost always be traced back to substandard medical care.
Nursing home staff should always assess a resident’s risk of developing bedsores and orchestrate treatment and prevention protocols accordingly. Patients should be repositioned and allowed to move (if possible) at regular intervals. Soiled diapers and wet linens should be changed immediately. Providing ample nutrition and maintaining a steady state of hydration will also help ward off sores.
When nursing homes fail to take these precautions, problems begin to arise quickly. The factors listed above are just some of the most common causes of bedsores in nursing home patients–plenty of other circumstances can result in bedsores, too.
Negligence, Abuse, and Bedsores
According to the South Carolina State Operations Manual, abuse concerns “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation, or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish.” This means that if a victim suffers bedsores as a result of forced confinement or as a side effect of injuries caused by nursing home staff, those bedsores are the product of abuse.
Negligence and bedsores also tend to go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t sure whether you or your loved ones have been the victim of medical negligence, consider whether the victim was subject to any of the following circumstances:
- Being left immobile without repositioning for extended periods of time
- Laying in damp or wet linens
- Denial of access to adequate nutrition and hydration
- Infrequent or non-existent health and wellness checks
- Failure to notify staff or family
Bedsore Risk Factors
Many known risk factors are associated with bedsores. Data indicate that no less than 8 percent of nursing home residents have developed bedsores, so patients and their loved ones need to understand what factors can increase the risk of sores. Some of these include:
- Low body weight
- Malnutrition and/or dehydration
- Difficulty repositioning without assistance
- Dry or rough skin
- Medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes
- Incontinence- or sweat-induced skin dampness
Nursing Homes’ Role in Preventing Bedsores
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control thoroughly outlines nursing home staff’s responsibility for patient wellbeing. Instances of elder abuse that result in bedsores occur in direct contradiction to these guidelines.
Regulation 61-17 indicates that, to obtain a license, nursing homes must provide ample training to their staff. This training should cover methods that enable staff to identify, address, and address the problems and needs of every resident in the facility. Continuing training is mandatory in any event where it is deemed necessary.
Nursing home patients in South Carolina must, by law, be treated in ways that exemplify a resident-centered and resident-directed approach. This means that residents and their families should feel that their voices are heard if they express concerns or point to signs of abuse. It also means that no resident should ever be left in any situation which could lead to bedsore development (extended periods of unmonitored time are one good example of this).
If you or a loved one contract bedsores due to a nursing home’s neglect, abuse, or mistreatment, it’s important to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A seasoned and empathetic lawyer can help you navigate the legal system as you work to receive the compensation that you deserve.