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What You Need to Know About Bedsores and Nursing Home Neglect

If you have an elderly loved one in a nursing home or specialized care facility, you probably already worry on a regular basis about their health, well-being, and happiness. 

Long-term care in even the best situations is difficult to navigate for both concerned family members and the aging loved one. But when nursing home staff and management fall short of adequate care — or even completely neglect their duty of care — the situation can become traumatic, emotional, and painful. 

Sadly, bedsores are a common and serious effect of nursing home neglect in Oregon. In this article, our nursing home neglect attorneys explain what bedsores are, why they are often discovered in nursing home patients, and what action you can take on behalf of your elderly parent or family member. 

If A Loved One Has Bedsores Due to Nursing Home Neglect, Contact a Bedsore Lawyer Today!

What are Bedsores?

According to information shared by the Mayo Clinic, bedsores (or “pressure ulcers,” as they are called by clinicians), occur when constant pressure is applied to a certain area of the body. Bedsores, in their earliest stages, may be nothing more than red, itchy areas of skin or discoloration. However, as blood flow to that area eventually slows, it can cause the skin and surrounding tissue to swell and (if left untreated) the drainage of pus. Eventually, skin tissue may slowly die. Eventually, the skin may split open and expose deep tissues or bones. Severe decubitus ulcers can lead to infection, amputation, sepsis, and, in some cases, death.

Bedsores typically start as discoloration to the affected area, followed by swelling and (if left untreated) the drainage of pus. Severe bedsores can lead to serious infections that can often lead to amputation or even death.

 Stages of Pressure Sores of patient skin which extends from skin into muscles and bone. This is medical illustration.

Who is Most At-Risk for Bedsores?

According to the Mayo Clinic, risk factors for bedsores include:

  • Immobility
  • Poor nutrition or dehydration
  • Incontinence
  • Decreased blood flow
  • Lack of sensory perception

Senior adults are often at higher risk of developing bedsores because many are too physically weak to reposition themselves in bed or move easily on their own. Without any movement, the skin can lose blood flow and eventually decay. Also, people with paralysis may sit in a position for a long time without realizing that they have pain from a developing ulcer. People with advanced dementia suffering from impaired cognitive and physical abilities may also be at higher risk for bedsores. 

How do Bedsores Form?

bedsores area on human body part.

In some cases, bedsores can occur in nursing homes when staff members fail to provide a duty of care to residents. Other common causes of nursing home bedsores can include:

  • Friction between skin and surface of bedsheets.
  • When the skin moves away from the bone (also known as shear).
  • Lack of proper daily nutrition.

Bedsores due to nursing home neglect can also occur if staff members:

  • Improperly move residents in a way that causes friction.
  • Fail to reposition residents in a way that prevents them from getting skin ulcers.
  • Fail to give them the right amount of food and water.

Bedsores can easily be prevented if nursing home staff members take the time to ensure that your loved one moves around as much as possible to avoid sitting or lying in the same position for extended periods. Unfortunately, however, elder abuse and neglect is a silent epidemic that affects thousands of elderly Americans every day.

How Can You Spot Bedsores? 

Bedsore and plaster patch

For those confined to wheelchairs or beds, the areas most prone to bedsores include: 

  • The back or sides of the head
  • Back and shoulder blades
  • Tailbone and buttocks
  • Heels, ankles, and knees

Any bedsore lawyer would advise that a good way to catch bedsores before they become too serious is to regularly ask your loved one how they feel. If they are able to communicate with you, ask them specific questions about pain, discomfort, or other symptoms in these critical areas of the body that are prone to bedsores. Often, as bedsores are developing, people will feel pain, tenderness, or a difference in temperature compared to the rest of the body (the area may feel warmer or cooler to the touch). 

If visiting your loved one in person, be aware of the physical signs of bedsores: discoloration, swelling, and drainage of pus are signs that an advanced bedsore has formed and immediate care is needed. 

Pressure ulcers are injuries to the skin, primarily caused by prolonged pressure on the skin. They can happen to anyone, but usually affect people confined to bed or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time.

How Can Bedsores Be Treated?

Treatment is critical because, unfortunately, leaving bed ulcers untreated can be deadly. In one instance, a Missouri man already suffering from severe bedsores got admitted to a nursing home. But after just 22 days, the man died due to bed sore complications because staff reportedly did nothing to treat it.

A primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, physical therapist, dermatologist, and neurosurgeon or plastic surgeon may all be involved in the treatment process of bedsores, depending on the condition’s severity. Bedsores due to nursing home neglect are treated by first eliminating the friction and/or pressure that caused the problem. Then, a medical provider will clean and dress the wound to prevent infection and speed natural healing. If dead or damaged skin tissue is present, a doctor may need to flush the wound or remove the tissue to allow the body to heal naturally. Pain medication and a healthy diet can aid this process and eliminate pain or discomfort for the patient.

In serious cases, surgery may be required to remove advanced bedsore wounds, repair damaged muscle or skin tissue, and protect vulnerable bone tissue.

If your loved one reports any bedsore symptoms, alert nursing home staff right away and maintain clear records of your communication with them. If they fail to respond to your concerns or treat the bedsore, it’s time to consult a bedsore lawyer.

Can I Sue a Nursing Home in Oregon for Bedsore Neglect?

Yes; filing a lawsuit against a nursing home is the best course of action for not only recovering damages for your loved one but also preventing similar neglect from happening to others in the future. 

Simply put, bedsores shouldn’t occur if people are receiving good care in a nursing home. If your loved one develops a bedsore, it may be time to look into your legal options to seek the financial support you need for their treatment. They may also need to be moved to a new facility to receive better care. That’s something to discuss with your attorney and your loved one’s medical provider.

Who Is Liable For Bedsores?

If a person is under the care of a nursing home or long-term care facility and they develop bedsores, the care facility or providers could be held liable. That’s because bedsores in elderly patients form when preventive measures for those at-risk are not carried out properly. If you have questions about how to sue a nursing home for neglect, a personal injury attorney — like those at Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C. — is an experienced, informed resource.

How to Report an Oregon Nursing Home for Neglect

If you are concerned about your loved one and believe they have experienced neglect in their nursing home, contact a bedsore lawyer. Personal injury attorneys who have experience with nursing home neglect cases can be invaluable for recovering damages and restoring your loved one’s dignity. Fighting the nursing home and their legal team on your own can be expensive, confusing, and time-consuming; you need an ally on your side who understands their legal obligations and how to hold them accountable. 

Your attorney will also know how to file the most effective complaints with the city, state, or federal agencies that regulate nursing homes, such as the Oregon Adult Protective Services agency. A lawyer with experience in bedsore malpractice will offer legal insight into many of the protections and laws that are in place to protect seniors. At Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C., we stay informed about recent developments that show how Oregon is dealing with nursing home neglect and pass that knowledge onto you.

Know Your Legal Rights Following a Bed Sore Injury to a Loved One

When nursing home staff fail to provide adequate care to those they serve, they and the nursing home should be held accountable for their actions. Luckily, victims of nursing home abuse and their loved ones in Oregon can get the justice they deserve with sound legal counsel.

If your loved one has been a victim of nursing home neglect, take action. Speak with a nursing home neglect attorney now at The Personal Injury Law Firm of Swanson Lathen Prestwich, P.C. in Salem.