Lawyer Resources for Bed Sores

pressure-sores-in-nursing-homesWhile they take a while to develop, pressure sores (also referred to as pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers, or bedsores) are a clear sign that long-term care institutions are providing poor care to its residents or patients. Unfortunately, in recent years the number of pressure sores amongst nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospital patients has drastically increased. In fact, studies show patients are far more likely to develop pressure sores today than they were a decade ago.

What is the cause behind these pressure sores?

The reason that these pressure sores are associated with inadequate care is because they develop because of unrelieved pressure over an extended period on the bony parts of the body. As the pressure builds up, it restricts the blood flow. As a result, the tissue and skin that does not receive the blood it needs begins to die. This gradually leads to a wound in that area.

Where do these sores develop in nursing home and hospital patients?

Oftentimes these pressure sores will develop in parts of the body that have little tissue or muscle to mitigate the weight of the body. Especially over a longer period, these areas are far more prone to developing issues. Even though these problems may occur anywhere on the body, the most likely areas that these problems may develop include:

  • The back of the head
  • The back
  • The heels
  • The buttocks

Other factors contributing to the development of decubitus ulcers

The lack of movement and positioning are two major factors in the development of pressure sores, but personal hygiene and the patient’s overall health also play an important role. Dehydration and poor nutrition may hinder the body’s ability to heal and may negatively affect skin health. Oftentimes neglect and maltreatment can lead to a patient sitting in his or her own feces and urine or left in wet bedding and/or clothing. Again, this can deteriorate the skin and lead to the development of pressure sores.

Further complications related to open pressure sores

When the pressure is never relieved and combined with conditions such malnourishment and incontinence, chances of a developing pressure sores increase dramatically. Despite the pain that will accompany these pressure sores, it also opens the door to further serious medical complications. These may include:

  • Gangrene
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Sepsis
  • Infection
  • Amputation of affected body part
  • Death

Early detection is important to the treatment of pressure ulcers

In order to be able to deal with these pressure sores as effectively as possible, it is important to identify them at the earliest possible stage. The deeper tissue they affect, the harder it becomes for the skin to heal. Ultimately, the best thing is to never have these sores develop in the first place.

Hold the facility responsible for the negligent care of your loved one

When someone is in the care of a medical facility or nursing home, it is that facility’s responsibility to ensure that these pressure sores do not develop. Basic prevention methods include:

  • Regularly moving patients at consistent intervals
  • Preventing malnutrition and dehydration
  • Making sure the patients remain dry and clean
  • Using specialized cushions or mattresses to relieve pressure for high-risk patients

Be aware of the dangers. Bed sores can be fatal.

The majority of the time, pressure sores develop because the facility is not doing an adequate job of providing patient care. Oftentimes the underlying cause is inadequate training of staff or under-staffing. Remember that it is their responsibility to provide adequate care, but being aware of the conditions may make it possible to avoid the problem from developing altogether.

Lawyers Who Take Bed Sore Cases Seriously

There still is a feeling that amongst some in the medical-legal community that bed sore cases simply don’t have much value and aren’t worth prosecuting. To the contrary, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers recognizes bed sores as one of the most visible signs of poor care in nursing homes and other medical facilities. Typically, bed sores are a tragic emblem of a system that is broken– where patient needs take a distant position after facilities tend to their profitability. We also are mindful of the devastating impact these wounds have on the individual and their family. Our experience litigating bed sore cases has earned us a reputation as attorneys willing to do what it takes to hold facilities fully responsible for these horrendous injuries that can contribute to complications or even death. We invite you to talk with us as soon as you become aware of the presence of a pressure sore on your loved one.

Nursing Home NegligenceA nursing home negligence lawsuit was recently filed in Chicago‘s Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of a disabled man who suffered the amputation of his leg following the development of bed sores during his admission to a Joliet, IL nursing home. The lawsuit alleges that Hillcrest Nursing & Rehabilitation Center was negligent in the manner it cared for the man who entered the facility in 2010 for rehabilitation following a series of strokes.

A decline in condition

According to the man’s family, despite his illness, he was able to get around with the assistance of a walker when he entered the facility in 2010. However, during his admission staff at Hillcrest failed to provide the necessary care that he required allowing the patient to become less mobile and eventually develop a bed sore on his heel. Even after the bed sore began to manifest itself, staff at the facility failed to provide the necessary treatment which resulted in an infection that ultimately required the leg to be amputated above the knee.

Bedsore Medical FraudBed sores are a never ending problem facing nursing home and hospital patients who may be disabled or have limited physical mobility.When patients are permitted to sit or lay in one position for extended periods of time, the physical weight of their bodies pressed against the supportive surface (bed or wheelchair)– over an extended period of time— results in a breakdown of the tissue and skin and eventually an open wound develops known as a bed sore or perhaps more accurately a pressure sore.

In order to prevent this preventable medical condition, medical facilities have gone to great lengths to install specialized mattresses, cushions and other devices to assist in the prevention and treatment of this condition.

While some of these devices may be effective in combating this condition, nothing can take the place of hands-on care provided by skilled nursing staff who take the time to ‘turn’ or ‘rotate’ patients in order to help with the bodies’ natural circulatory process.  Similarly, there’s yet to be a machine developed to help detect when a patient has soiled himself and needs to be changed.  The bottom line is that bed sore prevention and treatment requires a good deal of physical labor at the hands of skilled workers.

Chicago Bed Sore Lawsuit  I can’t imagine a more difficult decision than selecting a nursing home to care for loved one. While family and friends may visit when then can, the truth is that when a family member is placed under the care of skilled nursing facility, the individual’s care is surrendered to the staff at the facility—as it should be.

Of course every family does their best to select the best facility for the care of their loved one, but the truth is that few family members are in a position to effectively gauge the quality of a facility in an effective manner.  When poor care does occur, family members are quick to blame themselves for not selecting a ‘better’ nursing home to care for their family.

While there will always be facilities that provide better care than others, family members should be able to take solace in the fact that there are federal and state laws in place to ensure basic care is provided—or at least theoretically.

Patient Mistreated by Medical Institution There’s a misconception that when a person receives a large verdict in a personal injury or medical malpractice case the person becomes wealthy overnight. Aside from the fact that the individual presumably suffered some type of loss in the first place and was merely being compensated for those losses by a jury– the fact is that a sizable number of these awards get put-aside by trial or appellate courts.

Not surprisingly, in the wake of a substantial award, many companies automatically look for a way to get the verdict vacated or reversed. While some of these post-trial actions may be based upon a legitimate error made by the trial court, as a personal injury attorney, I commonly see these post trial actions nothing more than a tactic to delay paying a legitimately injured person what a jury deemed to be reasonable and just.

Is there such a thing as too-good of a jury verdict?

Turning Nursing Home PatientsThere was an interesting thread on The National Review Online written by Wesley Smith, “Should Patients Be Allowed To Die From Bed Sore?” which discusses the ethical considerations involved when a patient effectively refuses medical care.  Taking the concept of ‘refusing’ medical care one step further, Smith raises a point which I found to be particularly interesting as a nursing home abuse attorney, can patients in hospitals and nursing homes effectively refused to be ‘turned’ (‘turning’ allows the bodies natural circulatory process to take place and reduce the chance of a patient  developing a wound) in order to prevent the development of bed sores or pressure sores?

Referencing a Medscape article written by bio-ethicist Art Caplan, “You MUST Let My bedsores Kill Me. You MUST!”, Caplan takes the position that all people should be entitled to make their own decisions when it comes to their medical care and personal needs. While discussing a situation in which a patient developed a bed sore during an admission to a medical facility, Caplan asserts that essentially each patient should be entitled to refuse basic care such as turning so long as the patients decision doesn’t negatively impact those around him.

At the end of the day, I think this man did have the right to say “don’t touch me.” I think he had the right to say “don’t turn me.” But if his decision started to affect nursing and staff morale and began to become a problem in the delivery of care for others, then I believe that is a factor that has to be considered when deciding whether to honor what he says. The nurses cannot work if the unit becomes a smelly, untenable mess, and although this man had his rights, other people have their rights too. If I thought the care of others was being compromised by these morale issues and staff problems, I might override a patient’s wishes. I might not honor his request in the name of other people’s rights. In my opinion, there may be limits to what you can request when it affects the care that others can receive. That is a trade off that has to be weighed at all times.

Nursing Home NeglectOne of the most common defense strategies employed by nursing homes in jury cases, is to make the case more complicated than it really is. The theory behind this tactic is my making the underlying case about medicine– as opposed to a facility simply not doing their job the waters will begin to get more murky– and hopefully more difficult for a jury to make a finding against them.

Indeed while some medical malpractice cases are incredibly complex, the truth is that nursing home negligence cases are generally far more simple— a person or facility not doing their job.  While it’s easy to sit back and make these assertions, the truth is that as a person sitting on a jury I can see how these issues could make the underlying case difficult to sort through.

Jurors Role In Assessing Fact From Fiction

Wound Vac as Bedsore Treatment

Pressure sores, once started, can be difficult to treat and heal, even by the best medical staff. Though prevention is still the best medicine in the case of these painful and deadly sores, there is a treatment that uses a machine called the wound VAC that seems to accelerate the healing while also protecting the wound from infection.

What Is A Wound VAC?

This specialized piece of equipment is brilliant in its simplicity. VAC stands for vacuum-assisted closure. The idea is to use foam and a negative pressure vacuum to reduce fluids and seal a wound as it heals. How it works is the wound is first dressed and then a piece of sterilized foam is cut to the size of the wound and placed on the wound. The wound is then covered and attached to a pump that suctions fluids out, leaving a level of moisture that allows the wound to heal while slowly pulling the wound together to close. The machine collects excess fluid and it is disposed of. For further discussion of a wound vac look here.

stacks-of-money-294x300It would seem that patients who have been neglected in nursing homes to the point that they are suffering from pressure sores would be an easy case to prove. However, that is not always the case. First off, the large conglomerates often own these nursing homes and have teams of legal counsel that are very good at protecting their clients from legal disputes and are well versed at the time-honored defense tactics of: delay, deny, delay. Although it is absolutely possible to successfully prosecute these cases, for a family coping with a loss, it is important to recognize that even the most legitimate claims are frequently met with fierce opposition.

Passing the blame around

The main contention in a pressure sore case is to prove that they were caused by neglect and there is not any other reasonable explanation. The legal counsel for the nursing homes will try to show that their clients are not to blame for the patient sustaining pressure sores and that there were circumstances that led to the sores that were unavoidable. Common reasons that they may try to use are:

Correlation Between Hospital Bed Sores & Patient MortalityWe all know that the development of a bed sore during an admission to a medical center is indeed problematic for the patient from both a medical and humanistic perspective. But until recently, there was precious little data regarding the true impact of a pressure sore on the prognosis of a patient.

Study Regarding Hospital Pressure Sores

Now, a recent medical study conducted by researchers at UCLA School of Nursing, conclusively establishes what many families have learned first hand– that pressure sores acquired during a hospitalization are indeed fatal. Digging through data on 51,000 Medicare beneficiaries who were hospitalized in the United States in 2006-2007, the data suggests that those who developed pressure ulcers during a hospitalization were more likely than their peer: have longer hospital stays, be readmitted to hospitals and die during their admission.

Early Identification Of Pressure SoresMedical facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes that have bed-ridden patients should be well aware of the early signs of pressure sores. It is a too common problem for them to be unaware of how they form and what to be on the look for. Despite this knowledge, many pressure sores go unnoticed and untreated in their early stages. This lack of attention can cause what was an early stage pressure sore to advance quickly to a more severe and deadly later stage sore.

Preventive Methods for Reducing Pressure Sores

Preventing pressure sores in the first place is always the best solution. Medical facilities need to keep a close eye on patients that are prone to developing sores. Some patients and risk factors are:

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