Bedsores: A Sign of Elder Abuse
Bedsores (also called pressure sores or pressure ulcers) are an unfortunately common ailment suffered by patients in long-term care facilities like hospitals, assisted living centers, and nursing homes. Bedsores are generally preventable, and their development often indicates that the medical facility has neglected the patient or provided inadequate care. If the facility is at fault, they may be legally responsible for the medical bills incurred, as well as compensation for pain and suffering.
What causes bedsores?
Bedsores are common in patients who are bedridden or wheelchair-bound for long periods of time. They are caused by the continuous pressure of a surface against the patient’s skin. The pressure wears down on the patient’s skin and reduces blood supply to the affected area, causing sores.
Although sustained pressure is the primary cause, the risk of bedsores increases with old age, poor nutrition, and moisture due to perspiration or incontinence. Therefore, proper preventative care for bedsores includes not only moving the patient periodically, but also ensuring proper diet and hydration and maintaining the patient’s hygiene. If a medical facility fails to uphold appropriate preventative measures in any of these areas, it may be liable for damages caused by the bedsores.
Identifying and treating bedsores
There are four stages of bedsores, each with progressively worsening symptoms and identifiable characteristics:
Stage 1: This stage is marked by red or discolored skin, which does not fade even after pressure has been removed. These visual signs will also be accompanied by pain, itching, or burning. At this point, care should be taken to relieve the pressure causing the sore and to keep the skin clean and dry.
Stage 2: At Stage 2, a bedsore will still be red, but the skin will also appear broken and swollen, and the pain will be increased. There may be pus or blistering. In addition to the treatment above, Stage 2 bedsores should generally be cleaned gently to reduce the risk of infection.
Stage 3: At this stage bedsores are increasingly painful and show additional signs of infection, including heat, odor, red edges, pus, and drainage. Dead tissue may be present and appears black. Stage 3 bedsores need treatment from a doctor, which may include wound care, removal of dead tissue, and prescribed antibiotics.
Stage 4: This is the most serious stage and, in addition to the signs of infection listed above, will also include increased dead tissue and drainage. Tendons, muscle, or bone may be visible. Bedsores at this stage require immediate medical attention and often surgery.
What are the risks of bedsores?
Bedsores are painful on their own, but if left untreated they can lead to far more serious complications. Possible effects of untreated bedsores include infection, sepsis, osteomyelitis, and even amputation of an affected body part. In the most serious cases, bedsores can lead to the wrongful death of the patient.
If you or a loved one has suffered from bedsores while under the care of a hospital, assisted living center, or nursing home, there is a good chance that the medical facility was at fault due to inadequate prevention and/or treatment. If so, the patient is entitled to compensation related to their injuries. For a free consultation regarding your legal rights in the event of injuries caused by bedsores, call an experienced personal injury attorney at KG Law.