You often hear of bedsores from people in nursing homes. However, anyone who is immobile, such as someone in a wheelchair or a coma in a hospital, could suffer from bedsores.
Even someone who is not immobile, but sits in the same spot all day because of an illness or pain, is subject to bedsores. This issue more commonly affects frail older people, those with circulation issues, diabetes, and poor nutrition.
Bedsores almost always require negligence on the part of a caregiver who failed to provide an acceptable standard of care to the patient or resident. A lawyer can help you recover compensation for medical expenses, moving the person to a better nursing home or care facility, and sometimes punish the errant caregiver(s) to ensure they uphold a higher standard of care and don’t put anyone else what you or your loved one had to endure.
Common Pressure Sore Sites
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, are ulcers that appear on the skin, usually in areas with a lot of bodyweight pressure, including:
- The tailbone.
- The buttocks.
- Hips (for someone who lies on his or her side and does not move).
- Spine and shoulder blades.
- Heels and ankles.
- The skin behind the knees.
- The backs of legs and arms, where those body parts rest against a chair.
- The back and sides of the head.
- The lower back.
The location of the pressure sores depends on whether the person is lying in bed or is in a chair, especially a wheelchair.
What Are Pressure Sore Stages?
Bedsores can become deep if not treated immediately and if you do not move off the affected area. For example, if nurses do not turn patients who cannot turn themselves, that patient could develop pressure sores. Doctors may stage pressure sores by the depth of the sore.
Stage 1 Pressure Ulcers
In most cases, a pressure sore or pressure ulcer that affects only the top layer of the skin is a Stage 1 pressure ulcer. A patient might feel pain, itching, and burning. The area where the sore is developing might also feel cooler, warmer, softer, or firmer than the skin around it. With proper treatment, a Stage 1 bedsore could heal in two to three days.
Stage 2 Pressure Ulcers
A Stage 2 pressure sore is usually an open wound or might look like a blister filled with pus. The area around the sore is often red, swollen, and/or warm. If it looks like a blister, it could leak pus. Stage 2 pressure ulcers are usually painful and could take up to three weeks to heal once proper treatment starts.
Stage 3 Pressure Ulcers
A Stage 3 pressure ulcer progresses into the fat tissue below the second layer of skin. It might have red edges, odor, puss, feel hot, or have drainage, which are all symptoms of infection. The sore usually looks like a crater. Once a doctor starts proper treatment, it could take up to four months for the pressure ulcer to heal.
Stage 4 Pressure Ulcers
The most serious pressure sore is a Stage 4 ulcer. These usually affect muscles and ligaments. The skin might turn black, and the area might have red along the edges, drainage, odor, and/or feel hot. Stage 4 pressure sores could require surgery. Once a doctor starts treatment, it could take up from three months to years to heal.
Unstageable Pressure Sores
When a pressure sore is unstageable, the doctor cannot see the bottom of the sore. He or she may stage the wound once he cleans it out.
Suspected Deep Tissue Injury
In some cases, a pressure ulcer looks like it is a Stage 1 or Stage 2 ulcer. However, the sore hides below the skin and is actually a Stage 3 or Stage 4 pressure ulcer. Doctors refer to this type of pressure ulcer as suspected deep tissue injury or SDTI.
Bedsore Risk Factors
A bedridden patient who uses a wheelchair, cannot sense pain, or is unconscious is more likely to develop pressure sores. Often, those in nursing homes, hospitals, or even home settings with poor care develop pressure sores. If a nurse or caregiver does not turn a patient at least every half-hour during the day, the patient could develop pressure ulcers.
If a person in a wheelchair under his or her own care does not release the pressure by changing positions in the wheelchair or by using foam donuts could cause her own pressure sores. Finally, if a patient has poor circulation due to a medical condition, he could develop pressure sores, even when a nurse or caregiver turns the patient often.
Even a semi-active person who is caring for herself could develop pressure sores because of the medical condition, or because she cannot feel pain.
Caregivers can prevent patients from suffering from bedsores by taking several actions, including:
- Keeping the patient’s skin dry.
- Keeping the patient’s skin clean.
- Turning and/or repositioning the patient every two hours. If bedsores develop or the patient has had bedsores before, you might turn the patient more often.
- Ensuring the patient changes position every 15 minutes while sitting in a wheelchair.
- Ensuring the patient sits straight and upright.
- Ensuring the patient eats well enough to get the minerals, vitamins, protein, fluids, and calories he or she needs.
Nursing Home Negligence and Bedsores
When the caregivers at a nursing home are negligent in caring for the residents, your loved one might lose weight, have unexplained bruises and scratches, or you might notice a personality change. Another issue, especially for those who are immobile, is the development of bedsores.
You can prevent dealing with nursing home negligence by thoroughly checking a nursing home’s reputation before choosing it for your loved one. While your loved one could recover damages for neglect and negligent actions of the nursing home staff, the physical and emotional pain that comes along with neglect and negligent care are not worth it.
However, if you find yourself in the situation of having to protect a loved one, you should always take several steps, including:
- Notify the nursing home director.
- Notify the state of negligence and/or neglect.
- Contact a nursing home attorney.
- Take photos of your loved one’s injuries.
- Document the physical and emotional state and/or decline of your loved one.
The notes and photos you take could help your attorney prove your case. If you or a loved one sustained bedsores because of the negligence of a caregiver, contact a nursing home attorney for a free case evaluation.