When you make the decision to move your loved one to a nursing home, there’s a lot of stress involved. You’re worried about their comfort, their level of care, making sure insurance pays for it so you’re not wading in medical bills.
The last thing you should have to worry about is a nursing home not doing enough to prevent bedsores.
Bedsores are a completely avoidable injury, and if your loved one develops them, it may be a sign of negligence. Here’s what you need to know about a nursing home’s duty to prevent bedsores.
What are Bedsores?
Bedsores, also called pressure ulcers, pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers, are a type of sore that form due to lasting pressure on a specific part of the body as a result of spending a long time in the same position. They can happen when someone is bedridden or otherwise immobile (such as someone confined to a wheelchair).
Bedsores are the direct result of spending too much time in the same position–this cuts off circulation and applies too much pressure to the same place, which harms the skin over time. People with diabetes, circulation problems, or poor nutrition are all at a higher risk of bedsores, but anyone can develop bedsores if they are immobile and not turned, positioned correctly, or given good nutrition and skincare.
Body Sites to Check for Bedsores
Bedsores can develop anywhere, but bony parts of the body like elbows, ankles, knees, heels, and the tailbone are all more susceptible. Common sites for bedsores include:
- Backs of arms
- Backs of legs
- Behind the knees
- Inner knees
- Cheeks and face near the ears (when someone needs oxygen tubing)
If your loved one is bedridden, then any area of the body that might receive pressure from laying in bed all day is susceptible to bedsores.
Bedsores happen in four stages, in graduating severity based on the level of tissue damage.
Stage one bedsores are the least serious. The skin may be red, itchy, or spongy or firm, but there is no broken skin or open sore. Skin may appear red, or it may look bluish, purplish, or ashen in those with darker skin tones. At this stage, sores heal quickly if the pressure source is removed and the skin is treated with frequent bathing and hourly repositioning.
Stage two bedsores have skin that is broken, abraded, blistered, or otherwise compromised, and nearby areas may be discolored. At this point, the sore will be painful rather than just unpleasant. Unless someone has a complicating condition like diabetes, sores can heal fairly quickly with antibiotics, bandaging, frequent bathing, and frequent pressure relief.
Stage three bedsores have progressed beyond the skin and into the underlying muscle, with cavity-like wounds indicating permanent damage to the tissue. At this point, the wound is extremely painful and requires surgery to heal, and the level of neglect is severe.
Stage four bedsores have destroyed skin, muscle, bone, and even joints. These sores are all but impossible to heal, and they are frequently fatal due to opportunistic infections.
How to Avoid Bedsores
The good news? Bedsores are completely preventable.
Bedsores only occur as a result of ongoing pressure without relief, which is why they’re common among the elderly–specifically those with mobility impairments. Because these patients cannot move around or change position, their skin is subject to ongoing pressure which cuts off circulation. This could be the result of staying in bed for extended periods of time or even sitting in a wheelchair.
Bedsores are simple to avoid, even if someone cannot walk or is completely bedridden.
If a patient is bedridden, they should be moved and turned at least every two hours. If a patient is in a wheelchair, they should be moved and repositioned every thirty minutes. This helps restore circulation and keep the blood flowing. That said, this can be difficult if someone is recovering from surgery, so there are other tools to relieve pressure.
Special beds, pillows, and mattresses made of gel or foam or filled with air can be helpful, though they do not replace repositioning. Patients should also have leg support to keep their limbs from pressing together, as well as tented bedclothes over the toes and padding for the heels.
Nursing Home Work, Nursing Tasks, and Bedsore Prevention
Nursing homes typically perform a daily skin assessment or wound care assessment (if wounds are already present). These are both recognized as nursing standard of care.
Nursing home duties involve caring for patients who cannot move or need skincare assistance. As such, if your loved one is bedridden, the nursing staff should have notes on their charts to move them at least every two hours, with someone on duty coming in to reposition them and check their skin. If there is already an open wound, they will also perform wound care.
Anytime a nursing home takes on a new resident, they assume a duty of care for that resident. This means the nursing home is responsible for providing the resident with a reasonable level of care to tend to their health needs, prevent harm, and provide residents with a safe environment. When a nursing home fails this duty, it can be held liable for injuries residents sustain under its care.
It’s Easy to Prevent Bedsores When Nursing Home Duty of Care is Met
It is easy to prevent bedsores, and doing so is a basic feature of nursing. To put it bluntly, as long as the nursing home duty of care is met, there is no reason why your loved one should develop bedsores. Bedsores at any stage indicate that your loved one has not been moved often enough, and that constitutes neglect, which means you are able to sue.
Let Us Fight for Your Loved One’s Rights
When a nursing home does not do enough to prevent bedsores, they can be considered negligent. Your loved one deserves better.
Our job is to fight for the care your loved one deserves. We are experienced trial attorneys with a long record of success in the courtroom, which means we know how to push for your best possible outcome–even if you don’t go to trial.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, click here to schedule your free consultation.