Nursing Home Bedsore Attorneys in Illinois
Bedsores are a preventable but potentially serious medical condition that can affect bedbound seniors. These sores, also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, or decubitus ulcers, are ulcers that happen on areas of the skin that are under pressure from lying in bed, sitting in a wheelchair, or being immobile for prolonged periods of time. Left untreated, they can lead to serious medical complications and even death.
Neglect and inadequate care at nursing homes are the main causes of bedsores among the elderly. That is why pressure sores are a red flag that should never be overlooked. They may be a sign that your loved one is receiving seriously poor care at their nursing home. The experienced bedsore attorneys at The Collins Law Firm can investigate to determine if negligent behavior by the nursing home staff is responsible for your loved one’s bedsores. In these cases, your loved one may be entitled to compensation.How Serious is the Problem?
According to recent data, 8% of nursing home patients suffer from bedsores. And the problem is getting worse not better. A nursing home resident in Illinois is ten times more likely to develop bedsores today than they were 10 years ago. This is not surprising when you consider that staffing levels for nurses and aides at Illinois’ nursing homes are some of the lowest in the country. And more than 60% of nursing homes in Illinois have been cited for failing to properly treat bedsores. Why is this so critical? Because bedsores can progress to much more serious medical conditions like sepsis and gangrene. In fact, about 60,000 people a year die from complications related to bedsores. A recent study found that a person with bedsores is 4.5 times as likely to die as a person with the same risk factors but without bedsores.What Causes Bedsores?
Bedsores form as a result of parts of the body being subjected to unrelieved pressure over long periods of time. They are a problem for nursing home residents who may not be able to move or reposition themselves on their own. The constant, unrelieved pressure causes the blood flow to certain parts of the body to be restricted. When blood supply to the skin is cut off for more than 2-3 hours, the tissue in that area dies, and a wound develops. If the developing bedsore is unnoticed and left untreated, the skin can break open and become infected. Once a bedsore develops, it can extend into the muscle and bone, taking months or years—and sometimes requiring surgery-- to heal.
There are many factors that can increase a person's risk for developing bedsores: dehydration, poor nutrition, bad hygiene, diabetes, chronic conditions, various medications, physical restraints, and limited mobility can all contribute to bedsores.
- Dehydration and poor nutrition can happen for many reasons. Certain medications can cause dehydration or a loss of appetite which can result in poor nutrition. In other situations, poor nutrition and dehydration can be caused by nursing home staff neglecting or abusing residents, forgetting or refusing to bring them adequate food and water.
- Bad hygiene is a common occurrence in nursing homes that do not provide high quality care to patients. When nursing home staff don’t pay enough attention to their residents, making sure everyone is bathed regularly and has frequent access to the bathroom, patient care suffers which can lead to bad hygiene in residents.
- Medications Various medications that nursing home residents are prescribed can contribute to residents developing bedsores because of their side effects. Many medications cause dehydration and loss of appetite, which as we have already explained can lead to bedsores.
- Physical restraints can contribute to bedsores. In some situations, it may be necessary to physically restrain residents to prevent them from hurting themselves. In other situations, however, patients may be physically restrained simply because it makes them easier to handle. This latter situation constitutes neglect, however, either scenario can increase the risk of bedsores.
- Limited Mobility Some elderly residents have limited mobility due to medical issues or old age. This lack of movement can contribute to excess pressure on the skin and cause bedsores. That is why nursing home staff must move patients with limited mobility regularly.
- Diabetes Patients with diabetes are more prone to developing pressure ulcers. Diabetes causes nerve damage (neuropathy) and poor circulation, two conditions that increase the risk of bedsores. For this reason, these patients must be monitored closely for signs of bedsores.
Residents in any of the above situations need to be carefully monitored, positioned correctly, and turned frequently to avoid the development of bedsores.How Do Bedsores Present Themselves?
There is a wide range of severity when it comes to bedsores. In their early stages, bedsores represent as slight changes in skin color. In later stages, bedsores can be deep enough to damage muscle and bone. It’s important to be on the lookout for symptoms so that if bedsores do happen, they can be treated early on.
- Skin color and texture changes
- Tender areas
- Changes in temperature of the skin
- Pus-like draining
- Open wounds
- Stage 1. The skin looks red, bluish, or purple and feels warm to the touch. The area may burn, hurt, or itch.
- Stage 2. The area looks more damaged and may have an open sore, blister, or scrape. The patient may report significant pain.
- Stage 3. The affected area will have a crater-like appearance due to damage below the surface of the skin.
- Stage 4. At this stage, a large wound is present. Muscles, tendons, bones, and joints may be involved, and infection becomes a significant risk.
Bedsores are much more likely to occur in bony areas of the body. The most common areas are the tailbone, shoulder blades, back of the head, sides and back of the knee, spine, back, hips, heels, and ankles. These parts of the body are the most affected by limited mobility and/or being confined to a bed or a wheelchair.Complications of Bedsores
The longer bedsores are left untreated, the deeper they will become. The deeper they become, the harder they can be to heal. Bedsores themselves can cause residents significant pain and suffering, but they can also lead to other serious medical complications. These complications may include:
- Bone and joint infections
As soon as bedsores start developing, they need to be treated. Left alone, bedsores can cause serious and life-threatening problems for elderly nursing home patients.How Are Bedsores Treated?
The treatment of a bedsore depends on the severity of the condition. That is why it is important to discuss the various options with your healthcare provider. Treatment may be more difficult once the skin is broken, and may include the following:
- Removing pressure on the affected area
- Protecting the wound with special dressings or medicated gauze
- Making sure the wound is clean
- Providing the patient with adequate nutrition
- Ensuring the patient is well hydrated
- Removing the damaged, dead, or infected tissue in a process called debridement
- Utilizing skin grafts to transplant healthy skin to the damaged area
- Using negative pressure wound therapy
- Prescribing antibiotics to treat an infection
The best protection against bedsores is prevention. Safeguarding elderly residents from developing pressure sores is the responsibility of the nursing home staff who care for the residents on a daily basis. For that reason, it is important that long-term care facilities have enough staff and provide them with the proper training to recognize and prevent bedsores. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, or if you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one, it is critical that you make sure that the facility you have chosen prioritizes the health and well-being of their residents. Make sure to check that the facility:
- Has a policy of checking residents’ skin within 24 hours of admission.
- Checks patients’ skin on a regular weekly basis at a minimum, and whenever there are changes in the condition of a resident.
- Ensures that residents who are at a higher risk are prioritized by staff.
- Provides residents with abundant food and water to prevent dehydration and malnourishment.
- Ensures residents have easy and readily available access to the bathrooms.
- Helps residents move as much as possible every day.
- Cleans and bathes residents regularly.
- Gently repositions residents every 2 hours at a minimum to relieve pressure and avoid causing damage to their skin.
If you or a loved one have suffered from bedsores while in the care of a nursing home or long-term care facility, we urge you to call us as soon as possible. No one should suffer alone or be neglected in this way. Our team of dedicated nursing home abuse attorneys will be your advocate, gathering the evidence, building a strong case, and fighting to get you compensated for your pain and suffering. Call us at (630) 527-1595 or fill out our contact form for a FREE consultation and take the first step towards getting the justice you deserve.