Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem in the United States. It can take many forms, from physical abuse, financial exploitation, and verbal or emotional abuse.
Bedsores are one sign that nursing home residents may be experiencing abuse or neglect. They can occur when a person is often not moved, leading to pressure sores on the skin. It can also be a sign of dehydration or malnutrition.
It’s the responsibility of caregivers and nursing home staff to protect residents from abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Abuse and neglect can have a devastating impact on nursing home residents.
How Bedsores Can Be a Sign of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers, occur when too much pressure is applied to one skin area for an extended period. It can cause the skin to break down and become inflamed.
These injuries to the skin are a problem for nursing home residents because they can’t move around on their own, which means that it is up to the nursing home staff to make sure that pressure sores don’t develop by moving them around frequently enough.
Also, as mentioned, bedsores can be a sign of dehydration or malnutrition, which means that caregivers may not be giving patients adequate food and water. More than one million Americans live in nursing homes across the country. About 31.6% percent of those who reside in these facilities suffer from bedsores at some point during their stay there.
Bedsore locations include:
- The back of the head, especially when a resident is lying down for long periods without moving around much;
- The buttocks and tailbone area (including “sacral ulcers”), especially when there is no cushioning under it or where clothing rubs against the skin;
- The elbows and knees because these spots are usually not protected by any padding on beds or wheelchairs.
Stages of Bedsores
Bedsores are classified by stages. The first stage of bedsores is known as non-blanchable erythema, and it means that the skin will not turn white when pressure is applied to it. This condition can be treated if caught early enough but may become more severe if left untreated.
Stage two involves partial tissue loss in which the outer layer of skin has been lost, and there may be a shallow open wound or blister present. It can be treated with creams, dressings, and possibly antibiotics.
Stage three involves total tissue loss in which a deep open wound has formed, and there may or may not be pus present. Treatment of this stage will require frequent dressing changes and topical treatments like silver sulfadiazine to prevent infection from setting in.
Finally, fourth-degree bedsores extend down to the bone. These injuries are considered the most serious and can often result in amputation or death. It can be treated with a surgical procedure called debridement, which removes dead tissue from the wound.
Complications of Untreated Bedsores
If bedsores are not appropriately treated, they can become infected and may spread bacteria throughout the body. It means that internal organs may be affected by an infection caused by a pressure sore.
They can progress through stages of bedsores and lead to life-threatening complications, such as sepsis or death. Therefore, it is crucial for healthcare providers to monitor pressure sores regularly and treat them as early as possible.
Other serious complications of untreated bedsores include:
- Cellulitis (infection of skin cells) or osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease)
- Gangrene (tissue death due to a lack of blood flow)
- Endocarditis (infection of the heart valves and lining)
- Systemic septicemia (blood poisoning).
The Nursing Home’s Responsibility
Nursing homes are responsible for ensuring that their residents do not develop bedsores. It means making sure that the residents are regularly moved around and given adequate padding and support to prevent them from developing pressure ulcers.
It also means that the staff should be aware of the resident’s skin and check it regularly to look for signs of bedsores. If a pressure ulcer does develop, this must be treated as soon as possible by qualified medical professionals.
Failure to do so can lead to an infection that may eventually kill the patient or cause other health problems. Nursing homes should also have a plan for treating bedsores when they occur.
If you are considering a nursing home for a loved one, be sure to ask about the facility’s policies and procedures for preventing and treating bedsores. You should also check if a third-party medical organization has rated the nursing home for its quality of care.
If you suspect that your loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, it is vital to speak up and get help. Contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer in your area to learn more about how you can get the justice and compensation that your loved one deserves.