Bed Sores: A Life-Threatening But Preventable Problem
Did you realize that bed sores, also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers, can be a serious matter, causing death?
Pressure sores afflict a distressingly-large number of those who must remain in beds or in wheelchairs. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that, every year, more than 2.5 million people develop bed sores, at a cost of over $10 billion in care. In excess of 34,000 people die from infection and various complications arising from bed sores each year as well. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), about one in nine nursing home residents—11 percent—suffered from pressure ulcers in a recent year.
Additionally, pressure sores can easily be avoided with the right care. The percentage of citations for failure to treat or prevent pressure sores in nursing homes dropped from 17.5 percent in 2008 to 13.9 percent in 2012 nationwide, which, of course, is a good thing. Although the incidence of pressure sores seems to be in a downward trend, for anyone who has lost a loved one from something that is entirely preventable, any percentage is too high.
Body Sites to Check for Bed Sores
Pressure sores are caused by unrelenting pressure on skin, forming in areas where the skin covers bony protrusions, folds over onto itself, or experiences pressure from an external source, such as with oxygen tubing on facial areas. Common areas where pressure sores develop include:
- Shoulders/shoulder blades
- Backs of the arms
- Backs of the legs
- Back of the head
- Behind the knees
- Inner knees
- Cheeks and face and near ears, when oxygen tubing is in use.
Bed Sore Progression Stages and Their Treatment
Bed sores have four stages, with stage 1 being the least serious:
- Stage 1: The skin is not broken, nor is there an open sore. A persistently red area may hurt, itch, feel hot or cool, or spongy or firm. Skin can also appear bluish, purple, or ashen in those with darker skin tones. Sores at this stage heal quickly if the source of the pressure is removed.
- Stage 2: The skin is broken, blistered, abraded, or compromised in some way. Nearby areas may be discolored. Stage 2 sores can heal quickly with prompt treatment, and if the person has no other significant problems that affect wound healing, such as diabetes. Treatments can include antibiotic ointments, bandaging, and the relieving of pressure.
- Stage 3: The sore has moved beyond the surface of the skin into the muscle; it is now extremely painful and challenging to heal. Surgery can be required, along with antibiotic IVs. The cavity-like wound signals permanently-destroyed tissue.
- Stage 4: The sore has destroyed muscle, bone, and perhaps joints and tendons. Such sores are nearly impossible to heal and are often fatal.
Bed Sore Prevention
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to pressure sores. Daily checking of pressure areas, and prompt, appropriate treatment of sores that do develop, are the best ways to stop serious problems before they start. Improved nutrition (plenty of red, orange, and deep green vegetables) and supplements such as Vitamin C and zinc can also help the body heal faster.
Other actions that can help prevent sores are:
- Repositioning the patient at least every two hours in bed, or every 30 minutes in a wheelchair. Frequent repositioning can be problematical, however, especially at night or when the patient is actively recovering from surgery or an accident.
- Using special beds, pillows, and mattresses, often those made with gel, foam, or filled with air, that are meant to alleviate pressure can be helpful.
- Providing leg support that prevents the limbs from pressing on each other. Tenting bedclothes over the toes and using heel pads can also help.
Bed Sores Are Avoidable
As painful and dangerous as they are, bed sores do not have to be an inevitable result of remaining bedridden or wheelchair-bound. Nursing homes usually perform something called the Daily Skin Assessment (or the Wound Care Assessment, where pressure sores are already present). Both of these are a recognized standard of care. If both assessments are performed regularly and properly, staff will easily be able to detect problems and take steps to prevent sores from worsening, or from developing in the first place. When a nursing home’s staff does not follow the standard of care, then pressure sores develop or worsen. Not following the standard of care can be considered grounds for negligence. Ignoring bed sores can even be considered abuse under certain circumstances.
The higher the stage of bed sore development, the harder it is to heal the sores, and the greater the danger of complications, significant pain, and death for the patient. If your loved one shows signs of bed sores, then they are not receiving appropriate care and deserve better treatment.
When others breach their duty, we keep ours.
Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Indiana are part of a larger chain. They have a full-time legal department and resources to routinely dispute abuse and neglect claims. Too often, they are focused on shareholder profits rather than patient safety.
If you suspect a nursing home has been neglectful or abusive to your loved one as evidenced by pressure sore injuries, contact Mike Stephenson. At McNeely Stephenson we will work with you to hold the facility accountable for the pain and suffering they caused. Your elderly loved ones deserve to live in safety and dignity. A lawsuit against an Indiana nursing home won’t undo what has already been done, but it can recover the large sums of money you have paid the negligent facility and any medical expenses caused by the abuse.
The Indianapolis elder care lawyers at McNeely Stephenson have been trusted advisors and proven advocates since 1981. Call 1-855-206-2555, or use our online contact form, for a free consultation if your elderly loved one has suffered injury or death from pressure sores. At McNeely Stephenson, we believe justice matters.