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Elderly people are especially prone to suffering from bedsores, which are areas of damaged skin caused by prolonged pressure. This is because elderly people are more likely to be bedridden or wheelchair-bound and are more likely to have medical conditions that affect blood flow, such as diabetes or vascular disease. If left untreated, bedsores can lead to deadly infections and amputations. Nursing home neglect lawsuits often address bedsores. (Bedsores are also commonly referred to as “pressure ulcers.”)

Bedsores typically occur in areas of the body where the bones are close to the skin and pressure is not well-distributed, such as the hips, heels, ankles, and tailbone. Elders who use oxygen therapy might develop pressure ulcers in areas where equipment touches their skin, such as the backs of their heads. The constant pressure causes reduced blood flow and dead skin tissue, leading to the development of an open wound. Bedsores can range in severity from mild skin irritation to deep, infected wounds that extend into muscle and bone.

Can Bedsores Be Prevented? 

Bedsores are preventable with proper care, such as frequent repositioning, good nutrition, and careful measures to keep the skin clean and dry. If a bedsore does develop, it should be treated promptly to prevent infection and further tissue damage.

What Causes Nursing Home Bedsores? 

Bedsores in nursing home patients may be a symptom of neglect. 

  • Nursing home staff should regularly move residents in order to prevent bed sores. 
  • Staff should also take steps to make sure the elderly person’s skin remains clean and dry. 
  • Dehydration and malnutrition can worsen bedsores. 
  • If a bedsore does develop, the nursing home staff should immediately take steps to heal the bedsore and prevent it from progressing. 

Nursing Home Neglect Settlement 

Nursing home bedsore lawsuits have settled for millions of dollars. In February 2023, an Arkansas court awarded a $15.7 million judgment against a nursing home following allegations that a woman had died from a bedsore infection. Infections can lead to fatal cases of sepsis, which is an inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection. 

Bedsore Stages 

There are four stages of bedsore infections. Bedsore symptoms present differently at each stage. 

Stage 1 Bedsore 

  • When a bedsore first develops, the skin may look red and feel warm. The elderly person may also complain of a burning or itching sensation. At this stage, nursing home staff may be able to address the wounds by washing the area, moving the patient, and possibly applying a bandage. 

Stage 2 Bedsore

  • A stage 2 bedsore is a partial-thickness wound that affects the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) and the dermis (the underlying layer of skin). The wound may appear as a shallow open sore or a blister, and the surrounding skin may be red or discolored.
  • Stage 2 bedsores typically develop within a few days to a week after the pressure or friction on the skin begins. It may be painful or tender to the touch, and the patient may feel burning or itching in the affected area.
  • Treatment for a stage 2 bedsore typically involves relieving pressure on the affected area, keeping the wound clean and moist, and protecting the surrounding skin from further damage. This may involve using special cushions or mattresses, changing the person’s position frequently, and applying dressings or ointments to the wound.

It is important to monitor the wound closely and seek medical attention if it does not show signs of improvement, if it becomes more painful or inflamed, or if signs of infection develop, such as fever or drainage from the wound.

Stage 3 Bedsore 

  • Stage 3 and Stage 4 bedsores are potentially life-threatening. A stage 3 bedsore is a full-thickness wound that extends through the fatty layer of tissue beneath the skin. The wound may appear as a deep, crater-like ulcer, and the surrounding skin may be discolored, swollen, or tender to the touch.
  • At this stage, the damage to the skin and tissue is more severe, and there may be a significant risk of infection. As with previous stages, nurses should ensure the wound stays clean and protected. 

The underlying medical conditions should also be addressed. This may involve optimizing nutrition and managing pain.

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove dead tissue, promote healing, or prevent further damage.

Stage 4 Bedsores 

  • In Stage 4 bedsores, the damage spreads from the fat layer beneath the skin to the bones and the muscles. To treat a stage 4 bedsore, doctors need to “debride” the wound, meaning removing any dead tissue. In severe cases, treatment of a stage 4 pressure ulcer might include a skin graft to close the hole in the layers of tissue. 
  • Bedsore symptoms at this stage may include a foul odor as well as drainage and infection. The patient may take antibiotics and/or anti-inflammatory drugs. At this advanced stage, it might take months for the wound to heal. 

What Can I Do About Nursing Home Bedsores? 

If you suspect your loved one is suffering from bedsores due to nursing home neglect, report to the nursing home ombudsman and adult protective services. These officials can help ensure that the elderly person receives the medical care they need. You may also need to speak with a nursing home neglect lawyer to initiate a neglect lawsuit.