Bed sores, also known as decubitus ulcers, pressure sores, and pressure ulcers, are one of the most common injuries resulting from nursing home neglect.
Bed sore injuries can range in severity from mild to very serious. Learning the signs and symptoms of bed sores as well as what you can do to take action may help in preventing this type of neglect from happening.
Table of Contents:
- How Do Bed Sores Form?
- How Do You Treat Bed Sores?
- Decubitus Ulcer Stages
- Factors that Increase the Risk of Developing Bed Sores
- Complications That May Arise
- Preventing Bed Sore Injuries in Nursing Homes
- Bed Sores are a Form of Nursing Home Neglect
- Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Cases Arising from Bed Sores
- Have You or a Loved One Developed Bed Sores While Under Long-Term Care?
How Do Bed Sores Form?
Bed sores form when pressure is applied to a body part for extended periods of time.
In nursing homes, bed sores can form due to friction from the skin making contact with bedding, a brace, or a cast. Another way that bed sores form is due to skin exposure to cold temperatures for an extended period of time.
There are certain parts of the body that tend to be more susceptible to developing bed sores such as the hips, elbows, spine, and tailbone. These areas are more likely to develop bed sores because the skin tissue sits on top of the bone.
How Do You Treat Bed Sores?
When a bed sore develops, it is crucial to start treatment right away.
The first step in treating a bed sore injury is keeping the wound clean.
Next, if there is any necrotic tissue, it must be removed to prevent infection. If the sore(s) have become infected, antibiotics are a commonly given.
If a bed sore wound is deep, surgical removal of the necrotic tissue may be needed. In very severe cases, amputation of the affected area may be required.
It is also essential to remove pressure from any body parts affected by bed sores. This way, you can prevent further damage and injury.
Additionally, the elderly person who is suffering from bed sores should maintain proper hydration and nutrition. Proper nutrition and hydration help the body to repair itself and recover from bed sore injuries.
Bed sores should be treated right away. When there is a delay in treatment, the injuries can get substantially worse, and may even cause permanent disability or death.
Decubitus Ulcer Stages
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in ten nursing home residents currently suffer from decubitus ulcer (bed sore) injuries.
Bed sore injuries are measured in four stages, ranging from the mildest injuries at stage one and the most severe injuries at stage four.
Stage one bed sores only impact the upper layer of the skin.
Symptoms of stage one may include burning, itching, and mild pain. The affected area may also feel firmer, softer, cooler, or warmer than the surrounding skin. In some cases, stage one bed sores cause a red area on the affected skin.
For a stage one bed sore injury, immediately relieve the area of any pressure. If the injured person is in bed, they should move (or be moved by caretakers) at least once every two hours.
Stage one bed sore treatment typically includes washing the area with mild soap and water. Sores at this stage should get better within two to three days. If it does not resolve, it is time to see a doctor.
A stage two bed sore injury occurs as the sore starts to dig deeper, going below the skin surface.
Stage two symptoms include an open wound, broken skin, or a bump similar to a pus-filled blister.
Stage two sores are more painful than stage one. Comparatively, the area affected by the bed sore will be warm, red, or swollen in a stage two injury. In addition, the sore may ooze pus or a clear liquid.
To treat a stage two bed sore injury, first, wash and dry the affected area. You may also need to clean the wound with a salt-water or plain water solution. This may be painful, so your doctor may recommend that you take pain relief medication.
The bed sore should remain covered, with either moist gauze or a see-through dressing. This method will allow you to observe any signs of infection, like redness, pus, or developing a fever.
If you notice any indicators of an infection, contact your doctor right away. Stage two sores should resolve in anywhere from three days to three weeks. If the bed sore does not heal within that time frame, you should see a doctor.
A bed sore is considered at stage three when it has moved into the fat tissue after going through the second layer of skin. At stage three, the sore may have a foul odor and look like a crater.
There may also be signs of infection present. Signs of infection include bad odor, pus, red edges, drainage, and heat. If the tissue around the sore or in it is black, that means it is dead tissue.
Stage three bed sores generally need specialized medical care. A doctor will need to remove any dead tissue from the area. Antibiotics are also often prescribed to fight infection.
At this stage, the sore will take at least a month to heal and may require up to four months to fully heal.
Stage four bed sore injuries are the most serious. At this stage these injuries may impact your ligaments and muscles.
A stage four bed sore is large and deep. Typically, the affected skin has turned black and is showing signs of infection.
Signs include bad odor, pus, red edges, drainage, and heat. Additionally, muscles, tendons, and even bone may be visible.
Someone with a stage four bed sore injury will require immediate medical care. In some cases, surgery or amputation of the affected area may be necessary. At this stage, it may take anywhere from a few months to a few years to heal.
Factors that Increase the Risk of Developing Bed Sores
There are certain factors that have been found to increase the risk of the development of bed sores. Bed sores tend to be more common in people who are immobilized (due to injury or illness) and those with long-term spinal cord injuries.
Nursing home residents with certain neuropathic conditions, like diabetes, have reduced sensation. This can contribute to bed sore injuries simply because they are not as aware of what is happening to their bodies.
Additionally, nursing home residents who cannot move specific body parts may have a greater risk of developing bed sores. Nursing home caregivers should be alerted to residents with these conditions so that they can ensure they are receiving proper care.
Some other factors that increase the risk of bed sore injuries include:
- Poor blood circulation (could be due to diabetes, smoking, or vascular diseases)
- Older age (skin becomes thinner and more vulnerable with age)
- Reduced mental awareness (due to medication, injury, or disease)
- Incontinence of either urine or feces, which can cause moist skin and increase the risk of skin damage and breakdown
- Poor diet (in particular, a lack of vitamin C, protein, and zinc)
- A low or high body mass index
Complications That May Arise
When bed sore injuries go untreated, serious complications may develop.
One potentially life-threatening condition that may occur is cellulitis. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin, which can be from the surface through the deepest layer of the skin. This infection can result in blood poisoning and cause an infection to spread to other parts of the body.
Other infections, such as bone and joint infections, can occur if a bed sore injury spreads to the bones or joints. This infection can lead to damage to tissue and cartilage, which can cause a reduction in joint and limb function.
Another complication that can occur as a result of a bed sore injury is sepsis. With sepsis, bacteria enter through sores and infects the bloodstream. This can cause shock as well as organ failure, which then becomes life-threatening.
Further, studies have shown that there is also a higher risk of developing skin cancer if the patient has bed sores.
Preventing Bed Sore Injuries in Nursing Homes
Bed sore injuries can quickly become serious and life-threatening. For this reason, it is essential that nursing homes and their staff members take proper precautions to help residents avoid this type of injury.
There are a few different ways that staff members can work to prevent residents from bed sore injuries:
- Regularly repositioning nursing home residents. Regular repositioning can help guard against bed sores because it eliminates the potential for longer periods of pressure on areas of the body. The general guideline for repositioning is to change positions every two hours. Nursing home staff should remember that some residents are unable to reposition on their own, so it is important to help as needed.
- Using special devices to help with physical support.
- Ensuring that residents practice good hygiene and take proper care of their skin can.
- Provide ways for nursing home residents to stay active whenever possible.
- Check residents’ skin on a regular basis for any signs of discoloration. Everyday use of moisturizing lotions and products can help prevent dryness. Dry skin may be more susceptible to developing bed sores, so staying moisturized can help avoid these injuries.
Bed Sores are a Form of Nursing Home Neglect
Bed sores are a common injury resulting from nursing home neglect.
Since elderly individuals living in nursing homes are already more susceptible to bed sore injuries, staff should take extra care.
When a senior develops bed sores while living in a nursing home, it may be considered neglect. In nursing homes, neglect occurs when the home and its staff fail to provide a resident with proper care—leading to injury.
Nursing home staff members must take special care with their elderly at-risk patients.
Residents with mobility issues should be regularly repositioned. Additionally, nursing home staff members should perform routine head-to-toe skin assessments and make a note of any medical conditions that could make a resident more likely to develop bed sores.
Nursing homes that have neglectful practices should be held accountable for their actions and inaction.
If you or a loved one developed a bed sore injury due to the neglect of a nursing home and its staff, you might be entitled to legal compensation.
Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Cases Arising from Bed Sores
When a nursing home and its staff are negligent in any way, causing a resident to suffer injury, the resident may be entitled to compensation. This compensation can include money for medical bills incurred due to the injuries. It can also include money for the pain and suffering the resident experienced as a result of their injuries.
In some cases, punitive damages may also be available to victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Punitive damages, in this context, are designed to punish a nursing home for egregious, dangerous, and reckless behavior. A nursing home neglect attorney can help explain whether or not this form of compensation is a possibility in your case.
Have You or a Loved One Developed Bed Sores While Under Long-Term Care?
An experienced nursing home neglect attorney can help you or your loved ones fight back against this form of nursing home abuse and neglect.
If you or a loved one has suffered bed sore injuries due to the negligence and neglect of a nursing home, contact the Peck Law Group today.
With multiple offices throughout California, The Peck Law Group’s bed sore attorneys can you assist you with your case throughout California including (but not limited to):
Our attorneys have many years of experience handling all different kinds of nursing home abuse and neglect cases, including cases involving bed sores.
We offer a free and confidential consultation. Our firm does not collect a fee unless we successfully win financial compensation for you.
Give our office a call today at (866) 999-9085 to learn more about how we can help you pursue legal compensation for nursing home neglect and abuse injuries.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.