Bed sores, (also known as pressure sores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers) affect between one and three million Americans annually. The vast majority of those affected are elderly living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or receiving some other form of long-term care. Bed sores can lead to serious infections and other complications, some of which can turn fatal. Sores and infections happen typically to patients who are bedridden, in a wheel chair, or are unable to change positions regularly. Remaining in the same position for several hours at a time can lead to certain areas of the skin becoming damaged, and if not treated immediately the condition can worsen.
Contractures of the muscles can result from prolonged periods of inactivity and immobility, oftentimes in a nursing home setting. Contractures are a common but preventable source of excess disability among nursing home residents. Negative consequences of contractures include pain, increased fall risk, and weakened functional ability.
In a nursing home setting, bed or pressure sores, contractures, and infections often develop because of neglect; too many of these institutions are severely understaffed and unable to give their patients/residents the quality of care they deserve. If you or an elderly loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect, you should speak with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer with the commitment and resources to hold the responsible parties accountable for the results of their negligence.
What Contributes to the Development of Bed Sores, Contractures, and Infections?
Although the primary cause of pressure sores and contractures is lack of regular movement or adjustment in positioning, other adverse conditions in a hospital or nursing home can also contribute to the development of sores, contractures, and infections and make them worse. These include:
- Hygiene Care Neglect
- Overall Heath of the Patient
Bed sores most often develop on bony areas of the skin; such as the head, back, buttocks and heals.
Infections and Complications of Bed Sores
The immediate effect of pressure sores is pain and discomfort for the patient or resident. But over time, severe (and sometimes deadly) complications can develop. These include:
- Cellulitus: This is a soft tissue skin infection that often causes pain and swelling. However, patients with nerve damage may not feel the pain, potentially causing the condition to go undetected for an extended period of time and leading to further complications.
- Bone/Joint Infections: Bed sores can infect the bones and joints, leading to certain forms of arthritis and reduced function in the joints and limbs.
- Sepsis: When the skin is broken because of an unattended pressure sore, it provides an opening for bacteria to get into the bloodstream, causing a condition known as sepsis. The bacteria can spread rapidly throughout the system, causing organs to fail and threatening the life of the patient.
- Cancer: Squamous cell cancer is a form of skin cancer that can develop from pressure sores. This type of cancer can spread fast and if not detected and treated early can be life threatening.
When you place an elderly loved one in a nursing home, you are trusting that this institution will provide the level of care they deserve to maintain a decent quality of life. But when nursing homes fail in their duties to properly care for our elderly parents and grandparents, they must be held accountable. At Hurley McKenna & Mertz, P.C., we have over two decades of experience representing victims of nursing home neglect in Chicago, Cook County and throughout the country. We have established a strong track record of success for our clients in these types of cases. If you have an aging loved one that you suspect has been the victim of neglect or abuse in a nursing home, contact a Chicago medical malpractice attorney at HM&M today for a free consultation.