Bed Sore Wrongful Death

Wrongful DeathNursing home residents are at risk for pressure sore death if they develop life-threatening wounds. These sores can occur when constant pressure on an area of the skin cuts off blood supply and leads to skin breakdown.

If left untreated, these injuries can progress to pressure ulcers, which are notoriously difficult to heal. In some cases, pressure wound death may be the only outcome.

Were you or a loved one harmed by nursing home negligence? If so, the personal injury lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC may be able to help. We have years of experience fighting for the rights of nursing home residents and winning compensation for their injuries.

We understand how difficult it can be to deal with a negligent nursing home, and we are here to help.

Contact our bedsore lawyers at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

What is Pressure Sore Death and How Does It Hurt Nursing Home Residents?

According to the National Institute of Health, pressure ulcers (bed sores, pressure wounds, decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers) are "localized damage to the skin and underlying tissue that usually occurs over a bony prominence as a result of pressure, shear, or friction."

They can be caused by several factors, including prolonged periods of sitting or lying in one position, limited mobility, and poor nutrition.

Bed sores can often be prevented by regularly changing positions, keeping skin clean and dry, and providing adequate nutrition. However, when they do occur, they can often lead to more serious health complications, including infection and even death.

Restricted Blood Flow

One common cause of pressure sore death is blood flow restriction to the area. When blood supply is restricted for an extended period, it can lead to tissue necrosis (death) and the development of an early-stage pressure ulcer.

In some cases, these injuries may become infected, leading to sepsis (a potentially life-threatening condition caused by infection).

Skin Breakdown Leading to Severe Pressure Ulcers

Skin breakdown can also lead to death. Prolonged exposure to moisture can cause the skin to break down and eventually die. The skin’s degradation often leads to the development of early-stage pressure ulcers.

Nursing home residents are especially at risk for developing bed sores due to limited mobility and poor health. When nursing homes fail to take the necessary precautions and follow treatment protocols to prevent bed sores, they may be held liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result.

Common Areas Where Pressure Sores Develop

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, pressure sores most commonly develop on bony areas where there is little flesh to cushion the bone, such as:

  • Hips
  • Back of the head
  • Shoulders and shoulder blades
  • Sacrum
  • Tailbone (coccyx)
  • Heels
  • Ankles
  • Pelvis
  • Knees
  • Any wound area with compromised skin

These are all common areas at increased risk where elders sit or lie for long periods without moving. However, any body area can be affected if a person is immobile for an extended period.

Older adults who are chronically ill or have limited mobility are at the highest risk for developing pressure sores.

How Often Do Bed Sores Lead to Death?

According to the American Nurses Association, pressure wounds are responsible for the death of over 2,000 nursing home residents each year nationwide. However, many experts believe that this number is significantly underreported.

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention reports that skin wounds are a significant problem in the United States, with an estimated prevalence of 2.5%. However, this number is likely much higher, as many bed sores go unreported.

Who Is Most at Risk to Die from Bed Sores?

The mortality rate involving bed sores among African Americans is significantly higher than the average because they often develop severe Stage III or Stage 4 ulcers. Data reveals that African American nursing home residents are three times more likely to develop bedsores than their white counterparts.

Data from the National Council on Aging reveals that pressure sores are most common among nursing home residents over 80. However, anyone confined to a bed or wheelchair for long periods is at risk of developing these injuries.

Certain medical conditions can also increase a person's risk of developing pressure ulcers. These include:

  • Age: Individuals 64 years and older are at a higher risk of dying from bed sores due to age-related changes in the skin.
  • Immobility: Those confined to a bed or wheelchair are at a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers. Most at risk include individuals with paralysis, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Disabled and elderly nursing home residents: Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reveals that approximately 25% of all deadly bedsores develop in nursing homes. In 2020, over 2,000 nursing home residents died from pressure wounds.
  • Men are also at a higher risk of developing pressure ulcers, particularly those with darker skin.
  • Diabetes is a significant risk factor for developing pressure wounds. Studies have shown that diabetic patients are four times more likely to develop a pressure injury than nondiabetic patients.
  • Poor nutrition: A lack of proper nutrition (malnutrition) and dehydration can lead to skin thinning, making it more vulnerable to injury.
  • Incontinence: Urinary and fecal incontinence can increase the risk of developing pressure ulcers by causing skin breakdown.
  • Peripheral artery disease reduces blood flow to the extremities, making it difficult for ulcers to heal.
  • Anemia can cause the skin’s thinning, making it more susceptible to injury.
  • Arthritis could make it difficult for individuals to move, which increases their risk of developing pressure ulcers.
  • Cancer patients often have weakened immune systems, which makes them more susceptible to serious infection.
  • Kidney disease can cause fluid retention, which can lead to swelling and increased pressure on the skin.
  • Liver disease can cause organ failure and a buildup of toxins in the body, making the skin more susceptible to decubitus ulcers.
  • Decreased mental awareness could make it difficult for individuals to reposition themselves, increasing their risk of developing pressure ulcers.
  • Hypoxemia (low oxygen levels in the blood) could cause the skin to break down and become injured.
  • Smokingreduces blood flow to the extremities, making it difficult for wounds to heal.
  • Spinal cord injury could lead to paralysis and immobility, increasing the risk of developing pressure ulcers.
The Stages of Pressure Sores

Doctors and wound care specialists stage bedsores to track the progress of the injury. By staging the wound, doctors can determine how severe it is and what treatment is necessary.

Staging bedsores also help track the patient's prognosis. Stage 4 wounds are the most serious and often require extensive treatment. It is crucial to track the progress of any patient with a Stage 4 wound to ensure they receive appropriate lifesaving treatment.

The staging process also helps clinicians identify risk factors for developing pressure wounds. Specific medical conditions like diabetes and peripheral artery disease can increase a person's risk of developing decubitus ulcers.

By identifying these risk factors, clinicians can take steps to prevent these injuries from occurring.

There are four stages of pressure wounds, one deep injury and one type of wound that cannot be accurately diagnosed. Each stage has different symptoms, including:

  • Stage 1: The skin is red, and there is no open wound. This stage is also known as erythema.
  • Stage 2: There is an open wound, but it does not extend below the dermis. The painful area may develop blistering or superficial ulceration.
  • Stage 3: The wound extends into the subcutaneous tissue but does not involve muscle or bone. This stage is also known as deep tissue injury or necrosis.
  • Stage 4: The pressure ulcer involves exposed muscle and bone. This stage is also known as full thickness necrosis.
  • Unstageable: The open sore is filled with necrotic (dead) tissue and debris making it challenging if not impossible to accurately stage the wound. Surgeons typically debride (cut away) the dead tissue to promote healing.
  • Deep wound injury: A deep wound, such as a burn or a surgical wound, can take longer to heal and is more susceptible to infection or gangrene.
What Are the Complications of Pressure Injuries?

Pressure ulcers can be deadly. Pressure Ulcer Statistics show that they are the most common cause of death for people in nursing homes, mainly because pressure wounds can quickly become infected and lead to life-threatening sepsis.

Pressure wounds can lead to:

  • Infection: When an open wound is present, there is a risk of infection, leading to sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition. Severe decubitus ulcers can lead to systemic or metastatic infections, including bacteremia, meningitis, and endocarditis, that often become deadly in challenging to treat.
  • Bone infection: If a pressure injury extends into the bone, there is a risk of bone infection (osteomyelitis), which can cause permanent damage and may require surgery.
  • Blood poisoning: If bacteria enter the bloodstream, it can cause septicemia or blood poisoning, a potentially deadly condition that requires immediate medical attention.
  • Tissue calcification is a painful condition caused by the buildup of calcium that hardens over the wound.
  • Cellulitis: This common complication is a bacterial skin infection that can cause redness, swelling, and pain. It can also lead to infected lymph nodes or sepsis if left untreated.
  • Amputation: In severe cases, pressure wounds may require amputation of the affected limb.
  • Gangrene is a serious complication when tissue dies due to a lack of blood flow. Gangrene can lead to amputation.
What Is the Prognosis for Pressure Injuries?

The prognosis for pressure wounds depends on many factors, including:

Stage 1 and Stage 2 bed sores can often be treated with simple measures, such as:

  • Changing position: Repositioning helps to relieve pressure on the injured area and promote healing.
  • Cushions: Foam or gel cushions can help to reduce pressure on the injury site.
  • Medications: Pain medications may be prescribed to help relieve discomfort.

Stage 3 and Stage 4 bed sores are more serious and can take weeks or months to heal. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove dead tissue or to cover the area with skin grafts. Even with treatment, pressure wounds can lead to infection, which can be life-threatening.

Bed sores are a serious health concern for nursing home residents and their families. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it is crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms of bed sores and report any skin changes immediately.

Signs of Deadly Stage 4 Bedsores

A Stage 4 pressure ulcer is a severely deep, large, and painful open wound. The degradation has caused the large wound to break through the top layers of skin, exposing bone, muscle, tendons, and fatty tissue.

Stage 4 pressure wounds are challenging to heal. They often become infected, leading to serious injury and even death.

The most common signs of a stage 4 pressure ulcer include:

  • Deep tissue destruction: The pressure wound’s large-scale tissue loss after the skin breaks has reached the underlying tissues, exposing bone, muscle, tendons, and fatty tissue in the affected area.
  • Tunneling and undermining: The sore has tunneled under the skin, causing it to break down further.
  • Severe pain: The pressure wound is excruciating and often feels hot or burning.
  • Swelling: The area around the pressure wound may be swollen due to fluid buildup.
  • Redness: The surrounding skin may be red or irritated.
  • Foul odor: The wound area may emit a bad smell due to infection or necrosis (tissue death).
  • Blackened tissue: The sore may have blackened granulation tissue or necrosis, known as eschar.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has a stage 4 pressure ulcer, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. These wounds can quickly become infected, leading to severe injury and death.

The Prognosis for a Stage 4 Bed Sore

Typically, the length of time it takes for a resident to heal entirely from Stage 4 bedsore is based on their overall health and well-being. However, when healing is possible, it can take between three months and two years.

In many incidents, the wound is so severely degraded that it can never heal completely. The resident then has to live with a pressure wound for the rest of their life, which can greatly reduce their quality of life.

The mortality rate for Stage 4 pressure ulcers is relatively high. These wounds are often cited as contributing to many nursing home resident deaths.

Treatment Options for a Stage 4 Bed Sore

There are a few different treatment options available for stage 4 pressure ulcers. The most common include:

  • Debridement: Dead or infected tissue is removed from the wound. This surgical procedure helps to promote healing and prevent infection.
  • Skin grafting: In some cases, skin grafting may be necessary to help the pressure ulcer healing. A surgeon takes healthy skin from another body area and grafts it onto the pressure ulcer.
  • Negative pressure wound therapy: This treatment involves using a vacuum pump to remove infection to promote healing.
How to Prevent Pressure Ulcers

Proactive steps can significantly reduce the chance of developing a pressure wound or other complications. Providing care to disabled and elderly patients requires numerous steps, including:

  • Pressure-reducing support surfaces: Shearing and friction forces contribute to the development of pressure sores when nursing home residents are moved across a chair or bed surface. A low-friction surface, such as those coated with silicone, can reduce these forces.
  • Elevating the head of the bed: This position decreases the surface area in contact with the bed and can improve airflow to the skin.
  • Avoiding long periods of immobility: If you are confined to a bed or wheelchair, move around every two hours to avoid putting pressure on the same skin area for too long.
  • Keeping the skin clean and dry: Be sure to cleanse it regularly and moisturize it to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Using a pressure-relieving device: If you have an increased risk of developing pressure sores, use a foam mattress or other pressure-relieving device to reduce the risk of developing sores, such as specialty wheelchairs that tilt and elevate pressure on the sacral area.
  • Repositioning: Patients should be turned every two hours to prevent prolonged pressure on any area. Staff must turn patients who cannot turn themselves.
  • Improving nutrition: Good nutrition is essential for healing. Patients should eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids to maintain hydration.
  • Skin care: Pressure ulcers should be cleaned and dressed as soon as they are discovered. Early intervention, proper treatment, and advanced skin wound care help to prevent infection and promote healing.
  • Monitoring for signs of complications: Staff should closely monitor patients for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or drainage from the wound. If these signs are present, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Taking these proactive steps can help prevent pressure sores and other complications. Allowing a simple bed sore to degrade to later stages without proper skin care can lead to large-scale tissue loss should the skin break open, exposing deeper tissues.

The Financial Ramifications of Deadly Bedsores: Compensation Is Not Automatic

Holding a nursing facility, wound care specialist, doctor, or another medical professional financially accountable for the death of a loved one is challenging.

Every surviving family member who lost a loved one has a legal right to seek financial compensation. However, they must prove that nursing home negligence was the proximate or actual cause that led to the death.

Many disabled and older adults living in nursing homes suffering from bed sores died from other causes. There must be strong evidence that links the pressure wound to the victim's passing. Some ways to prove a wrongful death claim include:

  • Death Certificates: The decedent's certified death certificate could list bedsores as the cause of death and serve as prima facie evidence at trial. Death certificates often list numerous causes of death that could include septicemia, bacteremia, septic shock, sepsis, or other condition related to a decubitus ulcer.
  • Autopsy: A medical examiner or coroner could conduct a comprehensive medical examination at death, listing an external review of what caused the death and an internal examination of the diagnosis of the injuries, diseases, or conditions leading to their demise.
  • Expert medical testimony: A board-certified wound care physician could review the victim's medical records and testify that the bedsores were the proximate cause of death.
  • Laboratory test results: Identifying a specific bacterial infection that led to the body shutting down could serve as evidence in a case proving how the decubitus ulcer led to the victim's death.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim Involving Pressure Ulcers

Many families lose familial support when their elderly or disabled relative receiving benefits dies from bedsores. The financial ramifications of these wrongful deaths can be significant.

A jury could award damages for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills related to the treatment of bedsores
  • Loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, and moral support
  • Loss of benefits
  • Pain and suffering endured by the deceased before death
  • Mental anguish and emotional distress suffered by surviving family members

Qualifying family members could include the surviving spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or others.

If the decedent failed to name an executor to oversee their will and estate, the court would appoint one. This person would be responsible for bringing the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased's survivors.

Sometimes, the nursing home facility could be held financially accountable for the resident's bedsore death. For example, it could be found negligent if it was understaffed or failed to follow state and federal regulations related to proper care.

An experienced attorney could help you navigate the process of filing a wrongful death claim and ensure that you are fairly compensated for your losses.

Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer to Resolve a Pressure Sore Death Case

Have you recently lost a loved one due to a pressure sore-related complication? Consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer from our law offices to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Your nursing home abuse lawyer will work to prove that the nursing home or other medical professional responsible for your loved one's care was negligent in their treatment of the pressure wound. You could receive compensation for funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, and other damages.

Time is of the essence in these cases, and all documents must be filed before the state statute of limitations expires. Contact us at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal help and to schedule a free consultation.

Our legal team accepts all personal injury cases, bedsore death claims, and wrongful death lawsuits on a contingency fee agreement. This arrangement ensures you pay nothing until your attorney obtains financial compensation on your behalf through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.

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