Bed Sores: The Silent Nursing Home Killer

When a loved one goes into a nursing home, they family will often diligently monitor his or her care and treatment. They may ask if their loved one is eating, if the resident is moving about, and may take general note of the condition of their loved one. A silent killer in many nursing homes is an ailment that often is not readily visible to attending family members – bed sores.

What is a Bed Sore?

Very simply, a bed sore (also called a pressure sore) is a sore that is created when skin has constant pressure put on it, usually by a bed sheet. If you have ever had an area like an ankle or an elbow that was subject to prolonged pressure to a chair or an ill-fitting shoe, you probably know what the start of a bed sore feels like.

When nursing home residents are left lying in a bed without moving about, bed sores can develop, often in the tailbone region, where excess pressure and friction between the skin and the sheets occur. This is common, given that many nursing home residents may not be able to move themselves due to medical conditions.

Bed sores are ranked in stages, from Stage I, which may be skin that is tender and discolored, but not broken, all the way to Stage IV, which may be an open wound ulcer that exposes underlying, often dead, bone and tissue. The exposed inner workings of the body can lead to infection, which can ultimately lead to organ failure and death.

Spotting Sores is Key

Because the hips, lower back, and tailbone are common areas for bedsores for nursing home patients, a family that visits a loved one in a home may not even see or be aware of the sore, at least not in its beginning stages.

In fact, the residents themselves, even if they are conscious, may not realize that they are developing a bedsore, if there is neurological damage (including that caused by common forms of diabetes) or side effects from medication that limits their ability to perceive pain.

Sores are Evidence of Negligence

Bed sores are generally considered a significant sign of negligence and neglect, simply because avoiding them often only entails the routine moving of an infirm resident. Simply changing the position of a resident, even an unconscious one, on a routine, periodic basis, can prevent bed sores. Homes also can provide special mattresses filled with air or gel or liquid, that moves on its own, to avoid stagnant pressure.

Unfortunately many homes, understaffed or poorly run, may overlook this basic safety measure. It is estimated that 3-28% of all nursing residents suffer from bedsores. Families with concern should always ask if their loved one is being moved. When a resident is moved to avoid bed sores, it usually is noted in the clinical records, and families should review them, to ensure proper attention is being given.

If you or your family are injured due to neglect suffered while in a nursing home or care facility, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case.