What Every Caregiver Should Know About Bedsores
by HGD Staff
If you have made the difficult decision to place a loved one in a nursing home, you may be concerned about the quality of care and medical treatment he or she will receive. Perhaps you have heard horror stories about abuse or neglect around the country and want to make sure your elderly loved one is protected.
Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC helps families deal with the terrible consequences of nursing home abuse throughout Alabama and Georgia. We routinely help our clients secure financial compensation when these facilities and their owners put money before residents, and we know what it takes to get justice for seniors.
Perhaps the most common injuries suffered by elderly nursing home residents, bedsores are serious wounds that can be life-threatening. The medical term for a bedsore is a “decubitus ulcer” or “pressure ulcer.” A bedsore is caused when the skin above a bony prominence, such as a tailbone, elbow, or hip bone, is exposed to pressure for an extended period of time. When a person is left in one position with weight is on his or her tailbone, eventually even a healthy person can develop a bruise in that area. Deep beneath the skin, the tissue begins to break down, and ultimately, if not properly treated, the skin will open, exposing a wound.
What are the Main Causes of Bedsores?
While there are rare situations in which pressure ulcers are due to trauma – falls, etc. – in most cases the cause is poor care. The risks go up when the patient has other risk factors. Major risk factors include:
- Poor nutrition
- Certain medical conditions
- Being bed-bound
- Dementia (may forget to move around)
- Certain cancers
Here are a few scenarios that often lead to the development of pressure ulcers in nursing homes:
- Failure to reposition the resident
- Leaving a resident in wet and damp clothing or diapers
- Leaving dirty or soiled linens exposed to a wound
- Improper lifting and moving (friction injuries)
- Failing to use appropriate prevention methods
- Failing to use appropriate beds or tools to help alleviate wounds
What can be Done to Prevent Bedsores?
As a family member, it is important to remember that you should never try to lift, reposition, or move your loved one in a nursing home. You should always ask the staff to assist with these things. However, if you find that your loved one is soiled frequently or left in dirty clothing, you should address this, as it means two things – the wet clothing could make wounds develop faster and lead to infections and it could be a sign or poor staffing levels, as staff do not have time to get to all the patients during their shifts.
Here are some simple steps that nursing homes can and should use to help avoid pressure ulcers:
- Low air-loss mattresses. These help to prevent pressure from building up in one part of the body.
- Proper lifting and moving techniques
- Frequent and regular repositioning schedules
- Ensuring proper hydration
- Ensuring proper nutrition
Checking for Bedsores
As a family member, you have an opportunity to make a difference. If you visit your loved one often, you may notice certain red flags that serve as warning signs for bedsores. These include:
- A smell of meat or rotten flesh. This is a common scent when an open wound is untreated
- Bandages or coverings that hide the tailbone, collar bone, elbows, knees and hips, or heels.
- Heel protectors being used
- Signs of wound dressings in trash
- Other residents or their families discussing bedsores
What to do if You See or Suspect Bedsores
First and foremost, never try to render medical care unless you are licensed to do so. More importantly, you should take your concerns directly to the administrator of the facility. Make them aware of the problem and find out what they plan to do to correct the problem. Give the facility a chance to address the problem and hopefully implement strategies to fix it. If nothing changes, you may need to look at getting a transfer to a different facility.
Are Bedsores Preventable?
Absolutely. In the vast majority of cases, they are preventable. In fact, the federal government acknowledges this. Under Medicare rules, there are certain healthcare acquired conditions that are generally regarded as “never events.” This means that unless completely unpreventable, these events should never occur in a nursing home or healthcare environment. Bedsores are on the list. If a patient or nursing home resident acquires a preventable bedsore, then Medicare will generally decline to pay for the charges associated with correcting it or healing it. Therefore, nursing homes will often go to great lengths to make it look like they followed all the right procedures to prevent the wound. Sometimes this even means falsifying medical records.
If your loved one is suffering from painful wounds or has died due to a sepsis infection or some other related condition, contact Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC to discuss your options. You and your family may be entitled to significant compensation. The call is free, but do not wait too long. Time is limited for pursuing justice.