Bedsores are a painful medical condition that is all too common in nursing homes, where residents may be left lying in bed or sitting wheelchairs for prolonged periods. Seniors or people with disabilities who live in nursing homes often may have limited mobility on their own, and rely on nursing home staff to ensure that they get sufficient movement to prevent bedsores from forming, even if that’s just being turned from one side to the other in bed.
If a nursing home allows a resident to remain in one position long enough for bedsores to become a problem, that may be a form of actionable abuse or neglect. In Illinois, when a nursing home has neglected a resident and allowed him or her to develop bedsores, that could result in an investigation by the state Department of Public Health and action against the license of the facility or individual health practitioner.
However, Illinois also allows the resident or an authorized representative, such as a family member, to make a claim for compensation of damages suffered as a result of abuse or neglect. Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, 210 ILCS 45/2-106, the owner or licensee of the nursing home may be liable to compensate the resident for any medical costs incurred to treat bedsores, as well as any other actual damages, such as pain and suffering or attorney fees.
If you or a loved one have suffered bedsores caused by abuse or neglect in a nursing home, an experienced Chicago nursing home lawyer can help you determine if you might have a claim for compensation.
What Are Bedsores?
Bedsores, also known as pressure sores, are lesions or ulcers on the skin that are caused by long-term pressure. They are often seen in people who are bed-ridden or confined to a wheelchair with limited ability to change their position. When a person stays too long in the same position, the pressure can cause sores to form on the skin because blood doesn’t flow to that part of the body as well and the skin and tissue don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients.
Bedsores or pressure sores also can be the result of friction, when the skin rubs against a surface when you move or someone moves you. Friction can increase when skin is damp or moist, and can make skin more vulnerable to sores or injuries.
Bedsores or pressure sores most often occur on bony parts of the body with little fat cushioning, such as the hips, tailbone, spine, shoulder blades, elbows, ankles and heels. People who lie in bed for long periods also may experience sores on their head or ears.
Signs of Bedsores
If left untreated, bedsores become progressively worse. The injury goes through stages based on the extent of damage, and the stages affect how the bedsore gets treated. Bedsores can become infected, and infections left untreated can be fatal in some cases. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel defines the stages of a bedsore as follows:
- Stage I — In the earliest stage of a bedsore, there may be an appearance of redness or discoloration on unbroken skin, and the spot where the sore is developing may be tender.
- Stage II — When a bedsore reaches this stage, the skin becomes damaged. The sore may be pink or red and look like a shallow wound or blister.
- Stage III — When a bedsore progresses to the third stage, it is now a deep wound that may have some dead tissue and exposed fat. The damage caused by the sore may go deeper than the visible wound and penetrate beneath healthy skin.
- Stage IV — In this late stage, there is significant tissue loss. Muscle, tendons, or bone may be exposed, and there likely is dead tissue at the bottom of the sore and damage that has spread beyond the visible wound.
- Unstageable — A bedsore is unstageable when a medical professional can’t see how deep the damage goes because the surface is covered with dead tissue.
Treatment of Bedsores
When bedsores or pressure ulcers are caught early, they may be treatable simply by changing position to alleviate the pressure, or with the use of support items such as cushions. That is why it’s important that nursing home staff make sure that residents who are bed-ridden or who spend large amounts of time sitting in wheel chairs get some movement or have their positions changed to avoid this painful and potentially very damaging condition.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, appropriate treatment should include keeping the wound clean and dressed to prevent infection, and removing tissue that is dead or damaged, including by surgery if necessary. If there is any infection, antibiotics may be needed.
It’s also important to manage other conditions that may contribute to bedsores or interfere with wound healing. That includes making sure the resident gets sufficient nutrition and hydration to promote healing, and managing incontinence that could result in damp skin that may be more prone to developing sores.
When bedsores are not treated or treatment is unsuccessful, serious complications can arise. Those include:
- Sepsis — A potentially life-threatening infection caused by bacteria getting into the bloodstream
- Cellulitis — An infection in the skin and soft tissues that can result in pain, redness, and swelling, and potentially result in life-threatening complications
- Bone and joint infections — When infections get into the bones and joints, cartilage and tissue can be damaged and limb and joint function can be impaired
- Cancer — Wounds that don’t heal can potentially result in the development of squamous cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer
If your loved one has suffered bedsores from nursing home negligence, contact us to speak with a Chicago nursing home lawyer today. You can reach us at (312) 236-2900 at any time.