Pressure sores, also referred to as bedsores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, are perhaps one of the most common evidences we see of nursing home abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, most elderly people are already predisposed to pressure sores due to lack of mobility and thin, fine skin.
When placed in a short-staffed long-term care facility that doesn’t have the proper resources to reposition an individual at least every two hours, bedsores are bound to develop. In fact, pressure sores can begin to form after a mere few hours of non-movement. In certain cases, if the wounds are left untreated, they may be lethal.
Bedsores most often develop in areas where the skin faces continuous pressure from being in contact with a bed or wheelchair. When an area on someone’s body is pressed against a bed without movement for an extended period of time, oxygen and blood flow to that part of the body are reduced. As cells lose oxygen, they begin to die, and as a result, the surrounding skin begins to die as well.
Frequently affected areas include bony prominences such as the lower back near the tailbone, the buttocks, the heels, elbows, shoulder blades and hips. Those who are wheelchair-bound face an additional risk of developing pressure sores on the backs of their arms and legs, where their skin rubs against the chair.
Bedsores are grouped into four different categories: Stage I, Stage II, Stage III and Stage IV, increasing in severity at each stage. It is best to detect pressure sores early, as delayed treatment can lead to more severe pain, infection and irreversible damage.
What are early warning signs? One of the most common red flags is red, purple or discolored skin.
As a pressure sore begins to develop, the skin around the affected area may become red and warm. It may lose its normal, fleshy texture and become noticeably soft or hard. Darker skin tones may appear purple, blue or ashen at the wound site. With a Stage I bedsore, the skin has not been torn open, and recovery is generally quick as accommodations are made and pressure is taken off the affected area.
By Stage II, the skin at the wound site has opened, and the top layer of the skin and dermis is gone. The ulcer may appear pink or red, leaving a shallow, open welt in the skin.
More than just the top layer of skin is damaged at a Stage III pressure sore. The wound may be deep enough at this point to expose fat. Rather than solely appearing pink or red in color, yellow tissue may be at the bottom of the wound.
By Stage IV, so much tissue at the wound site has died, that bones, tendons, muscles or joints may be visible as well. Completely dead tissue may turn black, and infections are more likely to develop and spread at this stage.
Pressure sores are painful and can lead to additional infections or diseases. Prevention is the best treatment, but if a bedsore has already started to form, early detection is key to a quick recovery, reduced pain and fewer complications.
At Jehl Law Group, we have worked alongside many clients who have endured pressure sores, or who have loved ones suffering from the pain of a bedsore. Without the proper care or routine rotation of a patient’s body, pressure sores fester and get worse.
If you have experienced negligence at a nursing home by witnessing a loved one, friend or family member develop a pressure sore, please contact us for a free consultation. Unfortunately, bedsores are common at understaffed facilities, and we have successfully fought for justice, case after case, for residents who have been neglected and suffered from severe pressure sores.