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Illinois Man Sues Nursing Home for Failure to Treat Mother’s Bed Sore
By Nursing Home Law Center
An Illinois resident filed a lawsuit against the Walnut Grove Nursing Home in Grundy, Illinois alleging two counts of abuse and neglect against his mother, a resident of the nursing home before her untimely death in 2010. The plaintiff alleged that the nursing home caused his mother to suffer a fall injury due to poor supervision.
She required surgical treatment for the injury which led to complications and her death following treatment. The plaintiff also alleged the nursing home failed to properly treat a pressure ulcer in his mother's heel she acquired around the same time as the fall. The sore developed in her heel, one of the most common areas of the body to develop pressure ulcers.
Are Pressure Ulcers a Form of Nursing Home Abuse?
Pressure ulcers or bed sores develop when an individual remains in one position for too long at one time. As he or she remains in the same position, such as reclining in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair, blood begins to pool in the lowest areas of the body such as the legs, feet, back, and lower abdomen. The vast majority of pressure ulcers develop in the lower half of the body, and caregivers of individuals at risk of developing these wounds must take appropriate preventive measures.
There are several factors that contribute to an individual's personal risk level of developing a pressure ulcer. Nutrition, diabetic status, neurological conditions, and preexisting musculoskeletal issues all relate to an individual patient's bed sore risk. Nursing home and assisted living facility staff members must address each patient individually and develop comprehensive care plans that include bed sore risks and considerations.
Common Causes and Risk Factors
One of the most common reasons for a pressure ulcer to manifest is lack of repositioning, or "turning." Nursing home staff must regularly reposition their patients to reduce their risk of developing bed sores. Generally, caregivers should reposition patients every two hours, but some patients at higher risk levels may require more frequent turning. If a patient remains in a wheelchair for most of the day, staff will need to periodically lift him or her from the chair to encourage healthy blood circulation to the legs and lower half of the body.
Patients' individual medical issues also influence pressure ulcer risk. For example, nursing home residents who suffer hip injuries and those who have diabetes generally face a higher risk of developing bed sores. Similarly, underweight and malnourished individuals also face a higher risk of bed sores, especially in the areas of the body with bony protrusions like the knees, feet, back, and hips. Caregivers should support these individuals with nutrient supplementation and other individualized treatments.
Negligence in Nursing Home Lawsuits
If caregivers fail to regularly reposition patients, those patients face a dramatically increased risk of developing pressure ulcers. If caregivers fail to account for individual health risks during treatment, patients may also suffer bed sores. Since patients rely on nursing home staff to prevent bed sores, and staff can prevent those injuries with proper care, could a pressure ulcer be considered the result of negligence or abuse?
Nursing homes have a duty of care to their patients to hire competent, qualified, and responsible caregivers and provide individualized treatment to each patient. When staff members neglect to account for a patient's bed sore risk and he or she develops a bed sore, liability for the patient's resulting damages generally falls to the nursing home and/or the individual staff member responsible for the patient's care.
A plaintiff in a nursing home injury case would need to prove that the defendant knew or should have known about the plaintiff's bed sore risk and yet did not take appropriate steps to address this risk factor, causing the plaintiff to develop a bed sore.
Legal Options After a Bed Sore
Bed sores are open wounds that leave victims vulnerable to infection. Depending on the severity of a bed sore, its location, and how far it has progressed before receiving appropriate treatment, the patient may require debridement, or surgical removal of necrotic tissue around the injury site. Like any open wound, a pressure ulcer requires constant cleaning and disinfection. Patients will need their bandages changed on a consistent basis and a more frequent turning routine to prevent the injury site from collecting more blood during recovery.
Ultimately, a nursing home that allows a resident to develop a pressure ulcer is likely liable for the patient's resulting damages. Nursing homes have a duty of care and professional obligation to their patients to prevent pressure ulcers by taking individual risk factors into account and addressing them with appropriate methods.
The manifestation of a pressure ulcer is a clear indication the nursing home has failed in its duty of care to the patient, so the patient and his or her loved ones should contact a personal injury attorney and discuss the available options for legal recourse.