Short-Term Nursing Home Admission Results in Deterioration of Pressure Sores and Sepsis

By Nursing Home Law Center

Short Term Wrongful DeathSeveral cases of bedsores or bedsore complications occur when caregivers at a healthcare facility fail to follow proper treatment conditions for wounds that already exist before the patient's admittance. One of these cases involves a woman that was admitted for respite care at a Caseyville nursing home.

The Case of Theresa Steiner

On December 12, 2008, the Caseyville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center admitted Theresa Mary Steiner as a patient in respite care. At the time of Steiner's admission, she had three stage II pressure sores on her buttocks, as well as one pressure sore on each of her heels.

By the time of Steiner's release on December 18, Steiner's buttocks sores escalated to stage III, while she also developed multiple sores on her heel. According to the lawsuit, Steiner developed sepsis throughout her bloodstream due to the complicated wounds.

Following her discharge, the woman was admitted the Memorial Hospital in Bellevue, Illinois, and passed away on January 7th, 2009 due to sepsis and acute respiratory failure.

Steiner's husband, Steven Steiner, filed a lawsuit on November 30th, 2009 against the Caseyville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Caseyville Property. Steven Steiner claimed that Theresa experienced mental anguish, severe pain, and loss of dignity. The husband also blamed the hospital for negligent acts in treating her pressure sores, including:

  • Failing to properly screen Theresa before admittance
  • Failing to have a proper wound care nurse or caregiver on staff
  • Lacking a specific plan to treat Theresa's wounds
  • Neglecting to disclose the state of Theresa's pressure sores to her physician
  • Failing to adopt appropriate procedures to treat pressure sores

Steven Steiner sought damages of more than $300,000, plus the costs of attorneys and relief that the court deemed just.

Sepsis

Sepsis is a condition that occurs when the body's immune system reacts to the threat of infection. In some cases, untreated pressure sores allow for an infection to take hold in the body. The immune system develops a toxic and overactive response that stops fighting the infection locally and attacks the entire body instead. This response can lead to organ failure, destruction of tissue, and ultimately death. Patients with severe cases of sepsis require immediate hospitalization.

People at high risk of sepsis are usually at high risk of infections as well. These people include:

  • Younger people
  • Older people
  • People with chronic conditions
  • People with a weak immune system

The symptoms of a serious sepsis case include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal liver tests
  • Changes in mental status
  • Low or no urine
Other Complications

Sepsis is not the only complication that an untreated pressure sore can cause. Other conditions that develop due to a severe or untreated bedsore include:

  • Bone and joint infections. The infection from a pressure sore can burrow into the bones and joints, creating conditions that damage cartilage or tissue, or reduce the function of limbs and joints.
  • Cellulitis. Cellulitis is an infection that affects the skin and nearby tissues. The symptoms include a red coloration, swelling, and warmth in the affected spot.
  • Cancer. Pressure sores incapable of healing after a long period of time, such as Marjolin's ulcers, sometimes develop into a form of squamous cell cancer.
Respite Care

Respite care is a type of short-term care of a sick or elderly patient that provides relief to a primary caregiver. Nursing homes, hospitals, and healthcare facilities provide this type of care, which usually lasts between an afternoon and several days or weeks. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most cases of pressure sores occur or escalate in patients who stay at nursing homes for less than a year. No current explanation exists for the prevalence of pressure sores in short-term stays.

Pressure Sore Treatment

The staff of nursing homes and other healthcare facilities are fully equipped to treat existing pressure sores, especially if they are in stages I and II. Treatment of bedsores includes:

  • Reducing pressure on the existing wounds by repositioning the patient and using support surfaces such as specialized mattresses, bed, or cushions.
  • Cleansing the wound with water or a saltwater solution and dressing the wound with a bandage.
  • Removing damaged tissue by rinsing it with water or cutting it out to allow healing of the wound.
  • Using drugs and topical pain medications to control pain experienced due to repositioning or wound care.
  • Using topical or oral antibiotics to fight infection in pressure sores not responding to treatment.
  • Cleaning the wound with negative pressure therapy methods, like vacuum-assisted pressure (VAC).
  • Promoting a healthy diet, which allows for effective wound healing.
Take Legal Action

Not only is the staff of nursing homes, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities supposed administer the level of care to their patients to prevent the formation of pressure sores, but they are also under obligation to treat wounds that already exist before they progress into something more life-threatening.

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