The majority of nursing home residents have mobility challenges. Some get by with a cane or walking frame for short distances, but that level of exertion is beyond the reach of most. Some residents will be able to use mechanical wheelchairs or personal mobility scooters; others will remain bedridden, perhaps unable to sit up or turn over without assistance.
This poses a critical danger. Remaining in one position—sitting or reclining—for an extended period can cause pressure wounds or compression ulcers to develop. These wounds, commonly called “bedsores,” represent a fundamental breakdown of the body’s skin and muscle. If not treated properly, bedsores can lead to life-threatening infections.
Nursing home bedsores are regularly signs of neglect in Pennsylvania long-term care facilities. They demand an immediate medical response, followed by an investigation into how the nursing home allowed this to happen.
Bedsores: the medical facts
The formal medical term for a bedsore or pressure sore is decubitus ulcer. Bedsores result when the body is compressed by remaining in one position for an extended period. Even sitting in a chair (yes, wheelchairs count too) can contribute to developing this injury.
Medical science is not completely sure why some patients with mobility problems develop compression ulcers and some patients resist them, but how the wounds grow is well understood. The sore develops from both sides of the skin at the same time. The pressure of the body and bone constricts blood vessels near the skin’s surface. Friction erodes the top layers of the skin. Moisture—from sweat glands or even from urinary incontinence—can also speed up the breakdown of the upper skin layers.
Bedsores are rated in four “stages” of seriousness. Stage one ulcers may be tender to touch, but do not involve permanent damage to the skin or flesh; at the other end, stage four ulcers can extend all the way to the bone and can easily incubate infections that can be fatal to the patient. At stage three and four, the wounds resist healing and may require surgery to control infection risks.
Elderly patients are particularly vulnerable to pressure sores. They have thinner skin that is more easily damaged by pressure, and their natural healing capability is often less robust. Some studies suggest that, for the elderly, fighting a pressure sore itself interferes with the body’s healing functions.
Is your nursing home on guard against bedsores?
Every long-term care facility in Pennsylvania should have a schedule for making sure that residents with mobility problems are moved to new positions and inspected for bedsores frequently. When the nursing home neglects its residents’ wellbeing by allowing bedsores to develop, or by failing to report bedsores to the residents’ family and physician, the staff and administration become legally culpable. They and the facility’s owner can (and should) be held accountable for restoring the injured resident to full health.
If your family member or close friend has developed bedsores while in residential care, reach out to our Harrisburg nursing home neglect lawyers at Schmidt Kramer. A toll-free call to (717) 888-8888 will allow you to set up a FREE, confidential case review. Let us answer your questions and get the facts so we can tell you what kind of financial recovery is possible for your case. There is no charge for the conference and you will not be charged legal fees for any of our work unless we can secure a settlement or damage award.