Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers

Bedsore and Pressure Ulcers

The grainy images of elderly nursing home patients being slapped, shoved, punched, and kicked are impossible to avoid or to forget. We’ve all seen footage showing horrific physical abuse of these vulnerable members of our society as public consciousness has been raised regarding the frequency and severity of nursing home abuse and neglect in this country. While bedsores may seem far less critical in comparison, they actually are quite dangerous – and quite prevalent. Far beyond mere discomfort, bedsores greatly effect a resident’s way of life and pose serious risks for infection, inflammation, and even death. It’s important to understand that a patient who has multiple bedsores at once or recurrent bedsore episodes is more than likely not receiving proper care – and may be being abused or neglected.

If you have a loved one in a healthcare facility who has suffered from this highly preventable condition, contact an experienced bedsore lawyer who can help you understand your rights. For almost 40 years, the bedsore attorneys at Wapner Newman have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. We encourage you to call us today at 1-800-529-6600 or fill out this free case evaluation form.

According to the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, bedsores kill 60,000 people and wound 2.5 million more every year. Also referred to as pressure sores, pressure ulcers, and decubitus ulcers, bedsores are painful and hard to treat. They occur when there has been too much pressure on the skin, which is why they are so prevalent in elderly people who spend long periods in bed or in a wheelchair. When blood flow circulation has been restricted for an extended time, the localized affected area can develop significant skin damage where the necrotic tissue creates an open wound that extends to bone, ligaments, and muscle. Infections are common once bedsores advance and often effect tissue (cellulitis), bone (osteomyelitis), blood (sepsis), and joints (septic arthritis).

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel divides the progression of a bedsore into four stages:

Stage I

  • The skin is not broken.
  • The affected skin is red (on lighter skin) or discolored (on darker skin).
  • The affected skin does not blanch.
  • The site may be tender, painful, firm, soft, warm or cool compared with the surrounding skin.

Stage II

  • The outer layer of skin is damaged or completely breaks away.
  • The wound may begin to look less like a sore and more like a fluid-filled blister. The blister may even rupture.
  • The wound is typically shallow at this point, with a pink or red color. 

Stage III

  • The wound becomes much deeper, taking on a crater-like appearance.
  • Fat is exposed beneath the missing skin.
  • Dead tissue, which typically has a yellowish color, may be visible inside the wound.

Stage IV

  • Dead tissue is more likely to become apparent at this stage. It may begin to turn from yellow to a dark color, and it may also crust over.
  • Muscle tissue, tendons, or bone may be visible inside the wound.

Bedsores most often develop on body areas that contain little muscle and fat such as:

  • Along the spine and the lower back
  • Ankles
  • Back and sides of the head
  • Backs of arms and legs
  • Buttocks
  • Elbows
  • Heels
  • Hips
  • Shoulder blades
  • Skin behind the knees
  • Tailbone

Although bedsores are preventable, they can develop quickly in the wrong conditions. Almost 30 years ago, two Nebraska nurses created a tool for predicting the development of bedsores. The Braden Scale is widely used to assess six risk areas: sensory perception, skin moisture, activity, mobility, nutrition, and friction/shear. Each risk area is assigned a score and the lower the score, the higher the risk. When used correctly and consistently by nursing home staff, this scale can help identify elder abuse in nursing homes and bedsore risk so that appropriate preventive measures can be taken. At a minimum, patients should be getting some exercise (physical conditioning or rehabilitation program), be getting enough food and water, and should be kept clean and dry (though skin should be well-moisturized). Patients with limited mobility or a decreased mental state should be repositioned at least every few hours and be given devices to relive pressure such as special bedding and padding.

At Wapner Newman, we understand how serious the pressure sore problem is in nursing homes. When a patient acquires frequent or multiple bedsores while staying at a long-term care facility, it is often an early warning sign of neglect. If you believe that your loved one is in a facility that is failing to abide by the proper standards of care, speak with a Philadelphia decubitus ulcer attorney who can review the case and advise as to whether there are grounds to seek financial compensation. Serving communities throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, our Eastern PA pressure ulcer lawyers believe in holding nursing homes and assisted living facilities accountable for their negligent actions. We invite you to discuss your unique situation by calling us at 1-800-529-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.