Bed sores are a progressive complication that can afflict any immobile patient in a nursing home or other type of care facility. When bed sores (also referred to as: decubitus ulcer, pressure ulcers or pressure sores) develop, the open wounds expose the patient to a risk of complications including infection of the surrounding tissue, bone and even the entire bloodstream— which can prove far more formidable to overcome than the patient’s original condition.
The good news with respect to the overwhelming number of situations involving bed sores in nursing homes is that these cases can be prevented with proper care from staff at the facility. Paramount to the prevention of bed sores in any facility is the realization by the facility (and staff) that certain patients are predisposed to developing them based upon their physical condition— and prevention methods must be created and implemented.
Similarly, staff need to monitor the skin integrity of each patient they are caring for to identify bed sores in their early stages. From a treatment perspective, bed sores in their early stages are far more manageable to treat than once they progress to a more advanced level. In addition to recording the patients skin condition in their medical chart, staff should also advise the attending physician of the situation so a timely intervention can be made.
Perhaps out of fear, shame— or downright indifference— the existence of bed sores in patients at some nursing homes seems to get consistently downplayed / ignored; as if the wounds will magically vanish with time.
I was again reminded of this troubling scenario of ‘bed sore denial’ when I read about a recent jury verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit involving a Colorado nursing home where a patient developed advanced bed sores that became infected. According to news reports of the verdict the the Denver Post, the family of an 88-year-old patient at Pioneer Healthcare Center alleged that the facility was both negligent in its care of their loved one and that the facility intentionally failed to disclose the extent of the wounds to family.
The existence of the bed sore wasn’t disclosed to the family until a CNA at the facility advised the man’s son that the wound on the man’s buttocks and scrotum were infected to the extent that they began to smell. By the time the man was transferred to a hospital– the damage had been done– and their was little that could be done from a medical perspective.
Obviously, this fact pattern was disturbing enough to the jury hearing this case as they awarded $3.2 million in damages to the man’s family.
For laws related to Colorado nursing homes, look here.