Maryland Bedsore Injury Attorney
Bedsores Can Be Evidence of Nursing Home Neglect
Pressure ulcers (also known as bedsores or decubitus ulcers) are injuries to the skin and tissue underneath that result from prolonged pressure on the skin. There are many factors leading to this type of injury, including poor nutrition and hydration, poor skin and wound care. And the chances of such ulcers developing increase when the person is unable to move themselves and is not moved by others often enough to prevent this kind of injury. If a Maryland nursing home resident is bedridden or restricted to a wheel chair and is suffering neglect, pressure ulcers may result.
Pressure ulcers can develop quickly but can often resolve with proper treatment. They often occur on bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips and tailbone. Pressure ulcers fall into one of four stages, depending on how severe they are.
- The skin is intact.
- It may look red for those with a lighter skin color. The skin doesn’t briefly lighten when touched.
- For those with darker skin, it may be discolored. It also doesn’t blanch when touched.
- The area may be tender, painful, firm, soft, warm or cool compared with the surrounding skin.
- The outer skin layer (epidermis) and part of the underlying skin layer (dermis) is damaged or lost.
- The wound can be shallow and pinkish or red.
- It may appear to be a fluid-filled or ruptured blister.
- The ulcer is a deep wound usually exposing some fat.
- The ulcer looks like a crater.
- The base of the wound could have yellowish, dead tissue.
- The damage can go beyond the main wound to lower layers of healthy skin.
- There is large-scale loss of tissue.
- The wound could expose muscle, bone or tendons.
- The base of the wound probably contains dead, yellowish or dark, crusty tissue.
- The damage often goes beyond the primary to lower layers of healthy skin.
There are three main causes for pressure ulcers.
- Sustained pressure: If the skin and the underlying tissues are located between a bone and a surface (like a wheelchair or a bed), the pressure on it can be greater than the pressure of the blood flowing in the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) delivering oxygen and other nutrients to the area. Because of a lack of these essential nutrients, skin cells and underlying tissues are damaged and may eventually die.
- Friction: The skin is dragged across a surface like a bed or wheelchair and injured. Fragile skin is more vulnerable to an injury than healthy skin.
- Shear: This happens when two surfaces move in the opposite direction. If a hospital bed is elevated at the head, the person in it can slide down. As the tailbone moves down, the skin over it may stay in place, pulling in the opposite direction. This can injure tissue and blood vessels, making the area more vulnerable to injury from sustained pressure.
Those at greater risk for pressure ulcers are those dealing with a number of health issues:,
- The skin of older adults is generally more fragile, thinner, less elastic and drier than the skin of younger adults.
- Being unable to feel pain or discomfort can result in being unaware of bedsores or the need to change position.
- Those whose mental awareness is limited may be unable to express their needs.
- The loss of fat and muscle causes less cushioning between bones and a bed or a wheelchair.
- Poor nutrition and hydration leads to the breakdown of tissues.
- Excess skin moisture or dryness makes skin more fragile.
- Bowel incontinence can result in bacteria from fecal matter causing serious local infections and can create a life-threatening infection affecting the whole body.
- Medical conditions and smoking may reduce blood flow and limit the oxygen in the blood going to skin and tissues.
- Muscle spasms may damage the skin due to frequent friction and shearing.
If a pressure ulcer is treated early (Stage I and II), it will normally heal within several weeks to months with wound care and appropriate general care. Stage III and IV bedsores are more difficult to treat.
- If you have a pressure ulcer, you should be repositioned regularly and placed in correct positions.
- Wounds need to be kept clean to prevent infections.
- A dressing should be applied to promote healing. It keeps a wound moist, creating a barrier against infection and keeps the surrounding skin dry.
- Wounds need to be free of damaged, dead or infected tissue to heal properly. Such tissue can be removed in a number of ways, depending on how severe the wound is and the person’s overall health.
- Proper nutrition, hydration and vitamins should be maintained.
There are many things nursing home staff can do to prevent pressure ulcers; if they do develop, steps can be taken to promote healing and avoid serious injuries and complications. Failure to take the proper steps could lead to serious injuries and death.
Nursing home staff must take these steps:
- Make sure those with limited mobility are moved properly and continent care is provided promptly to prevent pressure ulcers from developing
- Inspect the resident’s body on a daily basis to see if there are early signs of a pressure ulcer so it can be detected and proper actions can be taken to prevent it from worsening
- Use proper medical care so the ulcer can heal and not become infected.
If a nursing home is negligent and its staff neglect a resident who is at risk for a pressure sore or fail to properly treat one, leading to complications and infections, that nursing home may be held legally responsible for the failures to properly care for the resident.
Call the Law Offices of Roger Weinberg, LLC, at 410-825-3161 from anywhere in Maryland, or fill out this contact form if you or a loved one is a nursing home resident with pressure ulcers that have led to serious injuries or death. We can help get the justice and compensation that you or your loved one deserves. While many facilities do a respectable job of caring for residents, there are many that do not — and it’s the vulnerable, disabled, elderly residents who suffer.