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Even Stiff Fines Can’t Force Nursing Homes to Take Necessary Steps to Prevent Pressure Ulcers
By Nursing Home Law Center
When nursing homes take simple, preventative steps to increase patient comfort, they can greatly decrease the incidence of pressure ulcers among their patients. Commonly known as bed sores, simple cleanliness, good nutrition, and physical assistance can help treat and prevent painful pressure ulcers. Even though preventative measures are well known among medical professionals, many nursing homes still fail to implement necessary care for their patients.
What are Pressure Ulcers?
Pressure ulcers are serious skin injuries that result from prolonged pressure on the skin, often developed after long periods of bed rest. Also known as bed sores, pressure injuries often develop on the ankles, tailbone, hips, and heels.
Pressure ulcers can be extremely painful and develop infections if not treated. Although basic care can prevent them from happening, pressure ulcers develop quickly. People who spend most of their day in a bed or chair or have a medical condition that limits their mobility are at the highest risk of this condition.
Bed sores can range in severity. Some sores are red patches of unbroken skin. More severe bed sores can injure the muscle and bone underneath the skin. Symptoms of pressure ulcers include:
- Tender areas on the skin
- Patches of skin that feel warm or cool compared to other areas
- Draining from the sore similar to pus
- Sudden changes in the texture or color of the skin
Pressure, friction, and shear cause pressure ulcers.
- Shear describes when two surfaces rub against each other in opposite directions. An elderly person confined to a bed, for example, can slide down an elevated bed. The bones may move down, but the skin might stay in place, causing a sore to develop.
- Placing extended pressure on a body part can reduce necessary blood flow. Without the blood supply, tissue and muscle experience significant damage and risk possible tissue death. If nursing home staff do not move an elderly person on bed rest frequently enough, prolonged pressure can lead to bedsore development.
- If skin rubs against clothing or bedding, friction occurs. Prolonged friction can lead to breakage and bed sores.
If left untreated, pressure ulcers can develop into more dangerous conditions such as cellulitis, sepsis, bone and joint infections, and even cancer.
How do Doctors Treat Pressure Ulcers?
Although painful and lengthy, doctors can treat bed sores through pressure reduction, wound cleaning, and pain control. If an elderly person develops bed sores, he or she should seek treatment as soon as possible.
- First, doctors will reduce the pressure and friction contributing to the sores. They will reposition the elderly person frequently so that additional bed sores do not develop. They may also place the elderly person on special beds and cushions designed to protect from pressure ulcers.
- Next, doctors will clean and dress the wounds. Medical staff will wash the wounds with a simple saline solution and place appropriate dressings on them.
- Finally, doctors will remove damaged tissue. For it to heal, doctors will need to remove damaged, infected, or dead tissue from the wound.
- After the treatment, the doctors may prescribe additional treatments such as pain control drugs, antibiotics, a nutritious diet, or negative pressure therapy.
Nursing Home Abuse and Bed Sores
Bed sores are a completely preventable skin injury. Preventative treatments include frequent repositioning, a healthy diet, regular hydration, and daily exercise. Nursing homes must provide duties of care to their patients. However, if a patient does not receive the care he or she requires, pressure ulcers can develop.
Bed sores are a common sign of nursing home abuse. Immobility is one of the top risk factors for pressure ulcers. An elderly person who develops bed sores is probably not receiving the level of care from nursing home staff he or she deserves.
If an elderly person is immobile, it is the responsibility of nursing home staff to provide mobility assistance. The staff will need to come in and adjust the elderly person regularly to prevent bed sores. If staff neglects this duty, the elderly person could develop pressure ulcers quickly due to prolonged pressure and friction.
Possible punishments for nursing home abuse include:
- Heavy fines from nursing home oversight boards such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Legal action in the form of wrongful death or personal injury lawsuits
Despite the consequences, many nursing homes still engage in neglectful actions. As a result, many elderly people suffer from bed sores and develop life-threatening, preventable complications.
What to do if You Suspect Elder Abuse
Nursing homes can allow bed sores to develop due to understaffing and neglect. In some cases, staff can hide pressure ulcer evidence from the elderly person's loved ones, leading to prolonged pain and delayed treatment. If an elderly person does not receive care, the skin injury can worsen and he or she can even die.
If you or a loved one suspect an instance of pressure ulcers in a nursing home, speak to a nursing home abuse attorney at Nursing Home Law Center LLC LLC. Our attorneys have years of experience litigating nursing home abuse cases in the Chicagoland area and beyond.
Contact Nursing Home Law Center LLC today to receive a free case evaluation.