Millions of people develop pressure ulcers every year, also known as bed sores or pressure sores. These injuries can range in severity from patches of discolored skin to open wounds that expose the underlying bone or muscle.
Pressure ulcers are an injury that causes skin breakdown, lack of blood flow, and underlying tissue death. They are caused when an area of skin is placed under pressure.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys understand that the most vulnerable of patients are the ones who develop bed sores. It is why we fight to help get compensation for our clients and their families.
Contact a Chicago bed sore lawyer at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Untreated Pressure Injuries Are Deadly
Pressure ulcers are serious injuries that can cause long-term damage and even death.
If left untreated, pressure ulcers can quickly worsen and become infected. It can lead to hospitalization to fight infection, long-term disability, or even death.
Early intervention and treatment of pressure wounds are crucial to prevent pressure ulcers and further tissue damage. This article provides an easy way for people to learn the early signs and symptoms of pressure ulcers so they can get help as soon as possible.
Pressure Ulcers and Bed Sore Statistics Among Nursing Home Residents
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pressure sores and decubitus ulcers are among the most common reasons nursing home residents wind up in hospitals and often lead to permanent disability and even death.
Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health reveals that between 2011 and 2012, more than 41 percent of all the most severe pressure ulcers among Illinois nursing home patients were due to negligence.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid report that the number of nursing home residents who develop bedsores or pressure wounds has declined to 1.4 percent between 2010 and 2011, but that still represents more than 42,000 Illinois nursing home patients suffering from pressure ulcers.
When nursing home resident sustains bed sore or pressure ulcer, they will likely incur more than just medical expenses. Therefore, healthcare professionals must use the clinical practice guideline for wound healing and protocols that prevent bedsores.
However, if the nursing home staff’s neglect causes developing bedsores, the professionals fail to provide the proper wound care. The family may also be entitled to file a lawsuit on behalf of their loved one.
Causes of Bed sores
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors who have trouble moving around are at risk of developing pressure ulcers because they remain in the same position on their own and cannot relieve pressure points.
In addition, it is up to staff members in nursing homes to conduct regular skin inspections before any sores can form.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the leading causes of bedsores include:
- Pressure to a bony prominence
- Shear forces on healthy skin and underlying tissue
- Friction between the affected areas of the body and a hard surface
- Moisture on the skin, such as from incontinence, sweat, or urine
- Lack of blood supply to the area can occur when people are immobile for long periods
- Decreased sensory perception of the affected areas of the body, which can happen as people age or experience a decline in their health
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid report that pressure ulcers usually start with small sores and progress to deeper injuries without proper care and treatment.
The CDC also indicates that bedsores are more prevalent among the following people:
- Those with limited mobility
- Seniors with poor nutrition or anemia
- People living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
The National Institutes of Health stresses that taking proper care of bed sores is crucial to preventing life-threatening complications and infection. Without appropriate treatment, bed sores can lead to severe joint infections, sepsis, osteomyelitis, or death.
Diagnosing Pressure Ulcers
When a person is suspected of having a pressure ulcer, they should seek immediate medical care from their doctor.
In addition to doing a physical examination of the affected area(s), the doctor is likely to ask questions related to past health issues and medication use, including:
- What medications does the patient take?
- Has the patient had any surgeries?
- Does the patient have diabetes, hypertension, or other chronic health conditions?
- Is the patient immobile for long periods?
These answers can reveal a person's condition that may be putting them at risk of developing pressure ulcers. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat infections.
In that case, they should also receive an evaluation from a nurse or other health care professional who can conduct a skin inspection.
Symptoms of Pressure Sores and Bed sores
Pressure and bed sores are not always easy to spot, particularly if they start as minor injuries. The following symptoms indicate that the person is likely suffering from a pressure ulcer or bed sore:
- Unusual discharges
- Darkened areas on the skin
- Areas of increased warmth
- Changes in the texture of the skin
- Unexplained pain in affected areas
- A deep wound
- Indicators that there is diminished blood flow to the injured areas, such as swelling or coldness in the affected regions
Nursing home residents who begin to display these symptoms should immediately be taken to a doctor. The sooner pressure ulcers are diagnosed, the sooner steps can be taken to treat them.
The Severity of Pressure Ulcers
According to the NIH, there are four stages in a pressure ulcer's development:
The skin changes in appearance to either pinkish-red or white, and not all pressure points are equally affected.
Stage two pressure ulcers look similar to stage one, but the redness covers a larger body area. You may also see some swelling around the sores caused by fluids forming under your skin.
Stage three pressure ulcers include open sore and deep wounds, and you can see blood on your tissue or the bandage covering the affected area.
These include deep sores that expose muscles, bone, organs, fat, and other tissues under the skin. At this stage, the wound is worse due to severely restricted blood flow. Stage four pressure ulcers may also look like third-degree burns.
Stages four can result in life-threatening infections that can spread to the blood supply, bones, or joints (septic arthritis) and organ failure, leading to sepsis. Therefore, Advanced skin wound care is essential.
Although most bed sores are treatable, about one out of every three people who have life-threatening wounds dies from complications caused by their pressure ulcers.
Common Locations of Pressure Ulcers
While pressure ulcers can develop anywhere on the body, they are most likely to appear where a person has been immobile for an extended period. The following locations are commonly affected by pressure sores:
- Ischial tuberosities (sitz bones)
- Coccyx (tailbone)
- Shoulder blades, mainly if the person is confined to a wheelchair or bed for an extended period
Pressure ulcers can affect people who have been paralyzed or have other sensory impairments. They may not be able to let their caretakers know when a pressure ulcer starts to develop.
Still, it is essential for those who provide care to keep a watchful eye for any skin changes and numbness or other types of skin damage that may indicate the presence of pressure ulcers.
These sores typically take three and four weeks to heal if they are addressed early enough. When they become infected, the sores heal more slowly or not at all. Generally speaking, recovery time usually depends on how deep and severe the pressure ulcer could progress.
Risk Factors for Pressure Ulcers
While anyone can develop a pressure ulcer, certain people have a higher risk of developing them. Caregivers should watch the following more carefully because they are likely to develop a pressure ulcer:
- Bedridden patients
- People with paralysis or limited mobility
- Elderly patients with diabetes or circulation problems
- People who have suffered a stroke had surgical treatment on their back or spine or have a limited mental capacity
These groups should be examined at least once a day for pressure ulcers as part of risk assessment. Additionally, people with decreased sensation in the feet and legs may not notice when these sores first develop. For this reason, they should be checked for pressure ulcers at least twice per day.
Pressure Ulcer Prevention and Treatment
During the early stages of pressure ulcers, skin grafts are often used to remove infected or dead tissue. The area is then covered with an artificial dermis (a thin sheet of tissue covering blood vessels) and held in place with surgical instruments.
The injured patient might need surgery/plastic surgery for deep sores that extend into muscle and bone infections which require debridement and drainage.
According to the NIH, an ounce of pressure ulcer prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is vital for nursing home residents to receive the proper care and support from their staff in preventing pressure ulcers, including:
- Providing a nutritious diet, making sure it includes essential nutrients to support the immune system to aid the healing process and fight life-threatening infection
- Frequent repositioning to relieve pressure for patients who are unable to move can be key in preventing pressure ulcers from developing and providing a constant flow of blood
- Make sure that the person's bedding does not cause any excessive pressure on any one area or allow moisture to accumulate
- Using moisture barriers to guard against incontinence
- Inspecting skin for any redness or sores
- Keeping the skin clean and re-dressing sores properly to prevent bacterial infection
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid indicate that a patient with a bed sore may have medical costs that could total more than $20,000. Even after the wound begins to heal, patients can have daily expenses of up to $1,000 or more for treatment and rehabilitation.
Legal Rights to Compensation for Bed Sores and Pressure Ulcers
If you believe that a loved one has sustained a pressure ulcer or bed sore due to neglect on the part of the nursing home staff, then you may be able to file a personal injury claim on their behalf.
Through negotiations, our legal team can ensure that the injured party will receive funds to cover:
- Hospitalization costs
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation and therapy bills
- Lost wages
- Temporary or permanent disabilities
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Funeral expenses (in wrongful death cases)
The cost of treating pressure sores can be high, often in the thousands of dollars if a nursing home resident sustains pressure ulcers because of negligence or failure to meet care standards on their staff.
In that case, family members may be able to file a lawsuit on behalf of their loved one for compensation. Please visit our website today to learn more about filing nursing home abuse lawsuits.
Pressure Ulcers in Spinal Cord Injury Patients
Due to the loss of sensation in spinal cord injury, patients are at an increased risk of developing bed sores. These sores occur when constant pressure on the skin causes redness and tissue damage, especially to the underlying tissue (usually including the muscles).
Treatment often involves removing damaged, infected, or dead tissue while keeping all wounds clean and free of infection—a process that could take up to eight weeks.
Prevention involves changing positions every two hours and protecting the skin’s surface from life-threatening infections, bacterial infections, or pressure injuries (such as cuts and scratches).
People with spine injury may also find that braces help alleviate pressure points on their shoulder blades, backside, and tailbone area. But, again, it’s important to talk to a doctor about which options would be best for the individual.
Proper Lifting Techniques
Nursing home residents with a spine injury are often restricted to wheelchairs, which means they have to rely on staff members to move them around the facility. According to The Spinal Cord Society, these aides or orderlies need to provide patients with proper lifting techniques to prevent bed sores and muscle strain, leading to pressure ulcers.
According to the Loma Linda University Health System (LLUHS), caregivers should use their legs rather than their backs when lifting patients by making sure that both of their feet are shoulder-width apart, aligned with the hips and knees. In addition, the person's head should be facing forward while their arms are at their sides.
The caregiver should push the chair (not the person) as needed before slowly lowering it to the ground. The patient's weight should be evenly distributed between their feet and hands while considering that they have a spine injury.
Pressure Ulcer Prognosis
The prognosis for pressure ulcers depends on the patient's overall health and how long the sores have existed.
According to Medline Plus, bed sores caught early may only require minor treatment steps, such as changing the person's position and regularly applying medicated bandages.
However, untreated pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers may lead to additional problems, such as:
- Sepsis (blood poisoning) due to infected tissue
- Pneumonia from the air that enters through an open wound into the lungs
- Cellulitis (an infection of the skin and the surrounding tissue damage, including tissue death)
- Kidney failure as a result of the accumulation of toxins in body tissues
- Blood clots high blood pressure, which can cause stroke or heart attack
- Dead tissue and gangrene (death of nerves and surrounding cells)
Death from long-term, potentially fatal complications is rare. However, it's important to note that pressure ulcers affect people who already have weakened immune systems and other health issues, complicating the wound healing process.
If you or a loved one sustain pressure ulcers that could have been prevented with proper skin wound care and diligence from nursing home staff members, visit our website today to learn how we may be able to help.
Proving a Sore Pressure Claim
Under Illinois law, bed sores, or pressure sores, are considered a type of personal injury. To be entitled to compensation under the law, you must prove that your pressure sore was caused by medical negligence on the part of a caregiver.
That negligence was either directly caused by the pressure sore or left untreated and allowed to develop while knowing about its presence and preventing it from developing.
To prove medical negligence, you must demonstrate that a caregiver breached their duty of care owed to you by failing to provide the level of care they should have under similar circumstances.
In other words, the cause of a bed sore may be medical malpractice if it occurred due to negligent actions taken by healthcare professionals.
Treating a Deadly Infection
In cases where a patient has an existing pressure sore and becomes infected, the caregiver's duty of care may require them to recognize the infection and take steps to provide treatment to prevent it from deteriorating.
In such cases, you must prove that the caregiver either knew about the patient's condition and failed to take steps to prevent it from getting worse or did not know about the infection.
Was your bed sore caused by medical malpractice on the part of a caregiver? If so, you might be able to recover damages that include payment for your pressure injuries and other losses resulting from the cause.
Recoverable compensation consists of all necessary expenses related to your pressure injury, including medical treatments, rehabilitation, and expected future medical care. It may also include damages for your pain and suffering and any wages you lose due to the injury.
If you successfully prove your case at trial or through settlement negotiations, you may be able to recover compensation from the caregiver who has wronged you. It typically includes money to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, as well as any other losses you have experienced.
How to File a Bed Sore Claim
If you believe that your loved one has sustained a pressure sore due to neglect on the part of a caregiver, then you may be able to file a personal injury claim on their behalf.
For this type of claim, the statute of limitations is two (2) years from the date of injury, which means that if your loved one is injured, you have two (2) years from the date of injury to file a claim.
Filing a claim for a sustained pressure injury requires a considerable amount of evidence and research to ensure that your case is strong. Our legal team can provide you with the necessary guidance and support throughout this process.
To successfully win your personal injury claim, your attorney will need to prove that the pressure injury was caused by negligent actions or inactions of another party. It requires strong evidence you are likely to have if you have photos, hospital records, medical reports, etc.
Contact our law firm today to get started on your claim process. We offer free consultations at all of our locations to help you better understand the process of filing a claim.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The death of a loved one caused by someone else's actions or negligence can be a difficult time. You may have questions about what happens next, who pays the bills, how you continue to live your life.
Was your family member killed due to someone else's fault? If so, you might be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for medical costs and funeral expenses, loss of future income, and pain and suffering.
No amount of money can ever fully compensate you for the loss of someone you loved. Still, it may be possible to recover damages that at least partially cover your financial expenses.
We are here to help guide you through this process with compassionate legal counsel, understanding, and personalized attention every step of the way. In addition, we will provide you with information on your legal options and help determine if filing a wrongful death claim is right for your particular situation.
Please contact our firm today to learn more about how we can assist you during this difficult time. Our attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations to all potential clients, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Hiring a Chicago Nursing Home Neglect Attorneys Now
Contact our law office at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with your lawyer will remain private through an attorney-client relationship.
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