When to Consult a Bedsores Lawyer: Signs of Neglect in Healthcare

When to Consult a Bedsores Lawyer

An estimated 2.5 million Americans suffer from bedsores annually. Most bedsores are preventable. If you or a loved one developed bedsores while in a hospital, nursing home, or other healthcare facility, you may be able to recover compensation.

What Are Bedsores?

Bedsores are areas of damaged skin and tissue. When the skin experiences pressure or friction from clothing, lying in a bed, wearing a cast or prosthetic device, or sitting in a wheelchair, bedsores may develop. Medical professionals may refer to bedsores as pressure sores, pressure injuries, decubitus ulcers or pressure ulcers.

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Who Is At Risk of Bedsores?

Anyone can develop bedsores. However, people who have difficulty moving are at the highest risk. You or your loved one may be at risk of developing bedsores if you:

  • Have mobility issues
  • Have had a bedsore before
  • Are underweight
  • Have swollen, broken or sweaty skin
  • Have fragile skin or poor circulation

Additionally, people who have difficulty feeling pain or sensation or have diabetes or reduced blood flow are at a higher risk. People over the age of 70 are the highest risk group because they often have fragile skin and mobility issues.

What Causes Bedsores?

Applying a large amount of pressure to the skin over a short period or applying a lesser amount of pressure over a long period can cause bedsores because the pressure prevents the skin from receiving oxygen and nutrients. Skin that does not get enough oxygen and nutrients begins to break down causing an ulcer to form.

Where Do Bedsores Usually Occur?

Bedsores can develop anywhere on the body, but body parts not covered by protective layers of muscle and fat are the most susceptible. Some of the most commonly affected body parts include the head, ears, elbows, shoulder blades, hip bones, tailbone and heels.

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What Are the Symptoms of Bedsores?

Bedsores often appear as discolored patches of skin that do not change color when you press on them. These patches may appear red on white skin or purple, black, or blue on brown skin.

Bedsores may feel spongy, warm or hard. They may be itchy or painful. Bedsores usually develop gradually but can develop in as little as two hours.

As bedsores get worse, they may blister or form an open wound. More advanced bedsores can affect deeper layers of skin, bone and muscle.

Stages of Bedsores

Medical providers classify bedsores into four stages, depending on how severe they are:

  1. Stage 1 bedsores may look red and feel warm to the touch. They may also have a purple or blue tint. The affected person may indicate that the sore itches or hurts.
  2. A stage 2 sore has a more damaged appearance. There may be an open sore or blister and the affected person may experience significant pain. The skin around the sore may also have a discolored appearance.
  3. A stage 3 bedsore has a crater-like appearance caused by damaged skin below the surface.
  4. Stage 4 bedsores severely damage the skin. There may be a large wound that could also affect bones, tendons, and joints. 

Medical providers can’t stage some bedsores because layers of dead skin and tissue damage obscure the underlying damage, making it impossible to measure.

What Kinds of Complications Can Bedsores Cause?

Bedsores can take days, months, or years to heal. The wounds may become infected and the infection can spread to other parts of the body, affecting the brain, heart, bones, joints, and other systems.

Severe complications from bedsores can include:

  • Cellulitis
  • Bone and joint infections
  • Cancer
  • Sepsis
  • Death

About 24,000 people die from complications caused by bedsores every year.

Are Bedsores a Sign of Neglect?

Healthcare providers can prevent most bedsores by properly positioning and repositioning patients who can’t reposition themselves while spending an extended time in a bed or a wheelchair. Bedsores may also develop when patients do not receive adequate water and nutrition because sores can’t heal without enough energy, hydration and nutrients.

Neglect can also cause bedsores when providers:

  • Allow patients’ skin to remain wet from urine, sweat or stool for too long
  • Move patients improperly, resulting in skin damage caused by friction between the skin and the bed or wheelchair
  • Fail to provide appropriate wound care

Neglect often happens when facilities do not have enough staff to properly care for patients or do not properly train the staff they do have.

What Are the Warning Signs of Neglect That Could Lead to Bedsores?

Understaffing is the number one cause of neglect that leads to bedsores. If the facility that you or your loved one is in does not have enough staff to reposition immobile patients at least once every two hours, this could be a sign of potential neglect.

Healthcare providers should always document bedsores when they discover them or a patient or loved one reports them. If you or your loved one reports a bedsore and there is no documentation, that could be a warning sign.

Disorganization that leads to providers misplacing important medical information also frequently causes errors in care. If your facility frequently can’t find requested records or documentation, this can be a sign of potential neglect.

How Can Healthcare Providers Prevent Bedsores?

To prevent bedsores, your healthcare provider should:

  • Turn and reposition patients every two hours
  • Provide soft padding in beds and wheelchairs
  • Keep skin clean and dry
  • Provide good nutrition and hydration
  • Use moisture barrier creams to protect the skin

Additionally, if patients must sit in a wheelchair for an extended time, providers should ensure that they sit in an upright and straight position and change positions every 15 minutes.

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When Should You Consult With a Lawyer?

Patients should not experience bedsores in healthcare facilities when receiving appropriate care. Because healthcare providers must provide appropriate care, patients with bedsores or their loved ones may be able to seek compensation when bedsores occur.

You should always immediately report any bedsores when you discover them. Take photos and document when you discovered the injury and who you reported it to.

Stage 1 and 2 bedsores do not usually result in litigation because the damage is not severe and will usually resolve with treatment. However, stage 3 and 4 wounds can have serious long-term consequences, even with treatment.

If you or your loved one has a stage 3 or 4 bedsore or an unstageable bedsore, you may benefit from contacting an attorney to discuss your options. You should also ask your healthcare provider for a care plan and review that plan with your regular doctor or a wound care specialist.

Neglect and abuse in healthcare facilities often go unreported. Filing a lawsuit because of neglect or abuse that leads to bedsores can not only help you recover the financial and emotional costs of dealing with these serious injuries but can improve the care other patients receive, possibly preventing future injuries, deaths, and suffering.

Where Can You Get Help With Your Bedsore Case?

The team at Gordon & Partners commits itself to protecting the rights of patients and their families. We will work with you to uncover neglect or abuse that led to your or your loved one’s injuries or death and recover the compensation you deserve. We don’t get paid if you don’t obtain a recovery. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Call 1 (855) 722-2552 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form today.

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