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Bed Sore FAQ

Pressure sores are one of the most common forms of negligence in nursing facilities. Here are some of the questions that we are asked about these injuries. In the meantime, know that you can file a wrongful death lawsuit or a personal injury case if your family member has been impacted, and our team is standing by to help you.

What Is a Pressure Ulcer?

Also known as decubitus ulcers, this is when there is a breakdown of the skin when it is exposed to a prolonged period of pressure. This is also known as a bed sore, but it does not only happen in beds.

When the epidermis is pressed against a surface for a prolonged period of time, it becomes warm to the touch as the blood supply is cut off. If this is not cared for and treated, it could eventually progress to a life-threatening infection.

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What Causes Pressure Ulcers?

Remaining in the same place for one time is the primary cause of a decubitus ulcer. After all, the key word here is pressure. For example, if a resident is in their wheelchair for an extended period of time, their heel could rub against the leg of their chair. 

When they are not shifted, it will begin to affect their skin. The pressure could build in as few as two hours if the resident’s position is not shifted.

The skin needs blood flow in order to stay healthy. The pressure cuts off the blood flow. There are two other causes of pressure ulcers. One is when there is friction against the skin when it rubs against bedding, clothing or another surface. 

The second is when the epidermis gets sheared. The resident could move and shift position, but their skin stays in place. It gets pulled in the opposite direction from the body and becomes irritated.

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What Areas of the Body Are Most Susceptible to Developing Pressure Ulcers?

Any part of the body that is pressed against a surface could develop ulcers or bedsores. This could include:

  • Buttocks from sitting on a chair
  • The heels that press into the leg of a wheelchair
  • The back from lying in bed
  • Elbows from pressing against the arm of a chair
  • Shoulder blades

Bony parts of the body are the most at risk. 

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Why Do Nursing Home Residents Develop Pressure Ulcers?

Nursing home residents stay in one place for a long stretch of time. They spend much of the day in their wheelchair or bed, and many of them are not mobile. They cannot move or reposition themselves on their own and are entirely dependent on nurses and aides for this. The long periods of time in one place cause damage to epidermis that is already weakened.

Another risk factor that nursing home residents have is their diet and hydration. When staff do not make sure that the senior drinks enough water, their epidermis becomes weakened. 

When they also lose weight from not being properly fed, it increases the risk of skin breakdown. Hydration strengthens the epidermis, and the lack of water is a risk factor for bedsores because dehydration weakens the immune system.

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How Long Does it Take for Bedsores to Develop?

This all depends on the senior and the condition of their skin. They could be dehydrated, and their epidermis could already be weakened, making them more susceptible to bedsores. 

For some nursing home residents, a decubitus ulcer could develop in as little as an hour or two after remaining in the same place. This is the exact reason why there needs to be a bedsores prevention plan in place for at risk seniors for nursing staff to follow at all times.

For other residents, pressure ulcers could become apparent over the course of days. When nursing facility staff or doctors are negligent, they may not even notice that there have been injuries until the condition has grown serious. The same inattention that caused the bed sores to develop could lead to it becoming a very serious condition.

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Are Pressure Ulcers Preventable?

In most cases, absolutely. Usually, there is someone to blame when a senior develops bed sores. This is because it is the classic nursing home injury that is associated with neglect and abuse. 

There is a legal obligation for skilled nursing facilities to have a plan in place to prevent bed sores. They could have staff rotate the resident or change their position every hour or two in order to keep the skin from being pressed against a surface for a prolonged period of time. 

Some seniors may also need a special mattress that is less hard with some air let out of it to reduce the amount of pressure. Nursing homes should know the bedsore risk factors for each patient.

The key is that there needs to be a customized plan for the individual resident that reduces their own particular risk. It should be a part of their treatment plan. Some nursing facilities either fail to have their own place or they do not implement it. Not only is this against the law, but it can be grounds for a nursing home neglect and abuse lawsuit if the resident is injured. 

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What Does it Mean to Stage a Pressure Ulcer?

Not all bedsores are the same. Some are much worse than others. In order to properly treat a bed sore, nursing home staff and physicians need to know how serious it is. There is a staging system that lets caregivers know the severity of the bed sore. 

In staging, medical providers are trying to figure out the amount of tissue that was damaged. This will dictate the level of intervention that is necessary. Staging also tells the nursing facility the types of changes to the prevention plan that are necessary to keep the problem from getting worse or happening again.

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What Are the Four Stages of Pressure Ulcers?

  • Stage 1 - The skin is often red and warmer to the touch. However, it is still intact and not broken. The skin will feel different than the surrounding areas. Treating a bedsore properly at this stage could lead to a quick recovery.
  • Stage 2 - At this point, the skin tissue breaks open and forms an actual ulcer that reaches into the skin. It often looks like a blister that is filled with clear fluid. Some of the skin that dies is not able to be replaced.
  • Stage 3 - This begins to reach even deeper into the skin. While it does not reach all the way down into the bone, some fat and tissue may be visible. This can lead to permanent tissue injuries.
  • Stage 4 - The injury reaches all the way to the muscle or bone, causing permanent damage. When the pressure ulcer has progressed this far, it is a life-threatening condition that could stay with the resident for months.

Once decubitus ulcers reach stage 3, the resident is at risk for sepsis. 

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Can You Die from a Bed Sore?

Once the bed sore has progressed and more tissue is involved, the resident could develop sepsis, and they could go into septic shock. This is a serious life-threatening condition that places the patient’s life at risk. 

Once the resident develops sepsis, they have at least a 30% chance of dying. If they were in a weakened condition beforehand, their chance of death is even greater. 

Even those patients who survive sepsis may end up fatally weakened with lowered immune systems. They could develop post-sepsis syndrome.

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What Should I Do if I Spot Signs of Bedsores?

You should alert nursing home staff of what you see. You should be very insistent that they take immediate steps to treat the issue because it will grow worse if it is ignored. 

Here, you must stay on top of the staff and demand accountability. It is not a stretch to say that your loved one’s life is at stake when they have developed a bed sore injury.

If the bedsore has developed as a result of neglect, you can and should file a complaint with the state board that regulates nursing homes. The state will send investigators to the nursing home to learn more about what happened to the patient. 

If the nursing facility violated rules, they could be fined and punished. This would perhaps keep the nursing home from neglecting your loved one in the future. The state’s finding could also help if you filed a lawsuit. 

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How Are Bed Sores Treated?

Nursing home staff must use great care in treating a bed sore. If they fail to treat it or do it incorrectly, it can develop into an infection that could lead to sepsis. The first thing to do to treat bed sores is to actually remove the pressure. This means repositioning frequently. Then, the keys are keeping the wound clean and covered.

The first thing to do is to wash the skin with a gentle cleanser and pat it dry if the nurse is not dealing with an open wound. If there is an open sore, they should use water or a saline solution to clean it out every time the dressing is changed. 

Caregivers should also keep the wound covered at all times. This keeps the wound moist and helps avoid infection. The wound dressing should be changed frequently, and caregivers should inspect the wound area to ensure that infection has not developed or is not spreading. 

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How Long Do Bed Sores Take to Heal?

The length of the recovery process depends on the severity of the pressure ulcers. More minor ones will heal more quickly. However, it is important not to stop wound care until after the bedsores are completely healed. 

A more minor bed sore could go away in a few days. If the bed sore has progressed to stage 2, it could take several weeks for the condition to clear up.

The more intensive care is necessary when bed sores have progressed to stages 3 or 4. A stage 4 ulcer could take at least three months to fully heal if it ever heals at all. The important thing is that the nursing home needs to continually care for the bed sore until the resident fully recovers. Otherwise, the situation can worsen, and the senior could develop sepsis. 

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Are There Laws About Bed Sores?

Federal regulations govern almost every aspect of care at a skilled nursing facility. Pressure ulcers are covered by the general regulation about the level of care in a nursing home. 42 CFR 483.25 has a section entitled “Skin Integrity.” 

Nursing homes have an obligation to prevent pressure ulcers from developing unless they are unavoidable. In reality, most pressure ulcers are avoidable. Thus, the mere existence of a bed sore injury could be a sign of negligence.

If the senior has developed bed sores, the nursing facility has a legal obligation to provide the necessary treatment and services to ensure that the bedsore heals and does not develop into an infection. The nursing home could be fined by either the state or federal government if they are found to have broken these rules. 

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Are Bed Sores a Sign of Abuse?

In some ways, yes. Nursing home abuse and neglect are similar types of mistreatment of residents. Neglect is a form of abuse because it is mistreatment that jeopardizes the resident’s health, safety and welfare. 

Bed Sores usually do not happen unless nurses and aides are not fulfilling their responsibility of taking care of the resident. In that way, bed sores come from neglect. 

You can and should sue for nursing home neglect. You have entrusted your loved one’s care to nursing facility staff, and they have failed to do their job. In addition, when the skilled nursing facility has not taken care of their obligations to prevent pressure ulcers, you can rest assured that they are not doing other parts of their job too. 

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Why Do Nursing Homes Fail to Prevent Bedsores?

There is an unfortunate side to much of the nursing home care in this country. While these facilities are supposed to take care of your loved one and provide for all of their daily needs, they are also businesses. 

They make staffing decisions about how many people to keep on the job at any given time. Many nursing homes staff too few nurses and aides. As a result, the care that they provide suffers. 

The staff that is on the job is overworked and undertrained. They may not have the time to reposition the resident as required by the treatment plan. They will also treat and dress wounds, which is what is necessary for them to get better.

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What Should I Do If My Loved One Was Injured from Bedsores?

If your loved one developed bed sores, it is one sign of nursing home neglect. The first thing you should do is consult with a nursing home abuse attorney to learn more about your legal rights. 

The attorney would review your case and let you know if you have a possible lawsuit against the nursing facility for neglect. The attorney could also tell you where and how to report the injury to the state.

Working with your attorney, you could file a lawsuit against the skilled nursing facilities for damages. Not only could you receive financial compensation, but you could also get justice when your loved one has been injured by the nursing home’s lack of care.

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How Do I Win a Bedsore Lawsuit?

A bed sores lawsuit is like any other personal injury lawsuit. You would need to show that the nursing home was negligent with the injuries. Usually, it is not extremely difficult to show that the nursing facility violated the standard of care by allowing bedsores to develop. 

After all, the nursing home has a legal obligation to implement a prevention plan for residents who are at risk. 

The issue revolves more around proving that the bedsore was the cause of the resident’s death. Sometimes, they have numerous things wrong with them, and bedsores are one of many causes of death. 

However, bed sores are a convincing sign of neglect. Chances are that other illnesses that injure a resident, such as dehydration, malnutrition and infection, are also signs of nursing home neglect. 

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Is Death Necessary to Bring a Bedsore Claim?

Bedsores are injuries that would allow you to bring a lawsuit no matter what. Even if your loved one survived the illness, you could still recover from their pain and suffering as they battled the infection caused by the bedsores. These damages could still be considerable.

Most bedsore instances are filed as wrongful death lawsuits because severe bedsores end up killing most seniors who experience them. These actions are filed as wrongful death claims. This would possibly increase the amount of the settlement or jury award. 

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How Much Are Bed Sore Cases Worth?

This all depends on how much your loved one has suffered and what their own personal experience was. We regularly see pressure sores cases where the settlement or jury verdict could reach into the seven figures. 

These are lawsuits where the pain and suffering of the person injured was immense. In most instances, these are wrongful death claims. It is hard to say exactly what your case is worth without knowing all the details of what your loved one went through. 

Once we have a free consultation with you, we will be in a better position to know a rough estimate of what we think the possible damages are.

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How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Settlement of a Pressure Ulcer Lawsuit?

This all depends on your particular case. Some nursing homes may try to settle your case before it goes to trial. They realize how bad the facts look and want to keep the case out of the hands of the jury. 

In that case, your case would be resolved much more quickly than if it went to trial. Even still, a nursing home bed sores settlement could take years as the litigation schedule could be drawn out.

In the end, the timetable for a settlement is more under the control of the nursing facility and how serious they are about a settlement. Our best advice is that it would take between a few months and a few years to get a settlement. 

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How Much Will Bedsore Attorneys Cost Me?

One major worry is that hiring a lawyer upfront for your pressure sores case will cost you a lot of money. Rest assured that retaining an attorney does not involve a check from you. 

In fact, it does not cost anything out of your pocket. When you hire a law firm, we work for you on a contingency basis. The contingency is that we are only paid if your case is successful. Then, we are paid a percentage of what you recover, whether it is a settlement or jury award.

If you do not win your case, we are not paid for our services. We will not give you a bill for our time at the end of the case. The fee arrangements are spelled out clearly in the representation agreement at the time that you retain us. 

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How Do You Prove Your Case in Bedsore Lawsuits?

When you have filed a negligence lawsuit, you would use things such as testimony from expert witnesses and hospital records to show that the doctor or other medical professionals did not do their job. 

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Can I Get Punitive Damages in Bed Sores Case?

One thing that could increase the value of your case is punitive damages. These are very rare in practice, and they happen when a jury wants to send a message to the nursing home.

Usually, the facts in these cases are just truly awful, with heartbreaking neglect and an awful death for a senior who did not deserve it. These are when you see the multi-million dollar verdicts. However, these do not happen in many cases. 

Your nursing home neglect attorneys would need extensive evidence of how the nursing home utterly failed in its job through reckless indifference. There is nothing to say that you cannot seek punitive damages in your claim. 

Many nursing facility cases will ask for this, even if the court later rejects the request.

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