For many families, placing an elderly parent or grandparent into an assisted living facility has become much more commonplace. And while advances in medical science have helped to increase longevity, the sad truth is that as many people age, they can become increasingly frail and less independent. When an aging parent or elderly grandparent can no longer perform the bulk of his or her daily activities, it may signal the need for a transition to one of the many skilled nursing facilities located throughout Maryland.
Although nursing homes are meant to help the elderly to function in controlled and supposedly safe environments, there are risks associated with this type of eldercare. One of the more common and life-threatening conditions that affect weak or infirm residents of nursing homes is the development of bedsores (also referred to as pressure sores, or by medical professionals as decubitus ulcers). This dangerous condition often affects those residents in eldercare facilities who are either bedridden or who sit in a wheelchair for extended periods throughout the day.
As experts in eldercare abuse and nursing home neglect, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understands the importance of proper nursing care for individuals who have limited mobility. But, without making allowances for proper blood circulation, a nursing home can end up causing serious harm to an individual with potentially deadly consequences.
Our firm has been assisting victims and their families recover monetary compensation in cases of eldercare neglect and medical malpractice. We have been fighting for victim’s rights for many years and our skilled Maryland personal injury attorneys have a wide range of experience in pursuing nursing home negligence and elder abuse lawsuits throughout the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area.
Sadly, some caregivers do not take the time to help nursing home residents avoid developing bedsores. Yet, it is a legal requirement that those individuals who are at risk of suffering from decubitus ulcers must be tended to frequently during the day in order to prevent injury, and even death. These at-risk patients should receive assistance in changing their position, whether lying down or sitting, a minimum of once every two hours, or when they become uncomfortable and need to shift position with the help of a caregiver.
It is recommended that some kind of support device, such as a pad, pillow and/or special mattress be provided for those nursing home and eldercare residents who are immobile. Using such devices allows the elderly individual to be positioned in such a way that it relieves pressure on their skin, thereby resulting in better blood circulation around the area of greatest contact. Other actions that can reduce the danger of developing a bedsore can include the following:
- Monitoring of skin condition
- Keeping skin dry
- Infection control measures
Despite efforts to reduce the occurrence of pressure ulcers, they do happen with alarming frequency. The legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understands all too well that even when proper measures are taken to avoid pressure sores, there is always a chance that an elderly or immobile nursing home patient may still develop these potentially life-threatening decubitus ulcers. In situations where a pressure sore does present itself, no matter what the reason, it is critical that the eldercare resident receive medical treatment immediately in order for the sores to heal, and especially to prevent a potentially deadly bodily infection.
As personal injury attorneys handling Maryland nursing home negligence cases, we know that this kind of condition, which is caused by a lack of proper blood circulation to an area of skin, can quickly become a dangerous medical issue. Families who have never experienced this situation in a loved one are often shocked at the speed with which the situation can worsen, sometimes beyond hope for physical recovery.
The seriousness of treating a bedsore becomes clear when one realizes that without proper care and immediate treatment, the victim’s skin and other tissues can start to breakdown at a surprisingly fast rate. This degradation of viable tissue frequently leads to large and often painful wounds susceptible to bacterial infection, which can spread to the rest of the body. In serious cases, amputation of the affected limb or appendage is often required to avoid further loss of healthy tissue.
Like most any medical conditions, the development of a pressure ulcer is progressive. When the condition is first detected, it should be “staged” by the nursing home staff. This means that the nursing staff must assign a rating that corresponds to the severity of the condition. Depending on how severe a pressure sore is, corresponding treatment will need to begin immediately. The following is a list of the four stages of bedsores:
- Stage I — Itchy skin; warm to the touch and slightly red in color
- Stage II — Initial breaking open of the skin; reddish discoloration is more pronounced
- Stage III — Sore appears as an open crater; damage to underlying tissue is evident
- Stage IV — Hole in the skin is large and gaping; bone may also be seen due to severely degraded skin and underlying tissue. Decubitus ulcers at this stage can become easily infected
Once a bedsore has developed, it must be treated immediately. The nursing home staff should alert the resident’s physician, who should then work up a care plan. Nursing staff should then document the care provided, which often includes continuously cleansing of the wound and changing bandages frequently. Debridement and antibiotics may also be employed in an effort to treat pressure ulcers. With proper care, many bedsores can heal within the span of several weeks. However, keep in mind that once a pressure sore reaches Stage III or Stage IV, it becomes more difficult and costly to treat.
Pressure sores not receiving timely medical attention can lead to sepsis, which causes inflammation throughout the patient’s body. This can result in the formation of blood clots that act to prevent needed nutrients and oxygen from reaching other critical organs. In the worst cases, victims will experience complete organ shutdown. Some victims succumb to sepsis by what doctors refer to as septic shock, which can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure and possibly the patient’s death.
If you or your family’s suspicions are raised regarding the quality of care that an elderly loved one has been receiving, speak with the nurses and staff to understand the situation and to get medical attention for your loved one, if necessary. If you believe that your parent or grandparent is a victim of elder abuse or nursing home neglect, contact a skilled Maryland personal injury lawyer for advice.
At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we can provide you and your loved one with legal guidance following an instance of nursing home abuse or neglect. Contact us today for a free no-obligation initial consultation. Our experienced attorneys are ready, willing and able to offer legal assistance so that you and your family can make informed decisions based on Maryland law. And, again, we remind you to please act quickly whenever you see evidence of bedsores or decubitus ulcers; without immediate medical attention this serious condition can often be life threatening.