In 2011, a federal watchdog group known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identified several Chicago area nursing homes whose level of care was deemed inadequate. A rating of inadequate means that patients at these facilities are being subjected to conditions that can cause injuries, suffering, and even death.
Warning Signs and Causes for Bedsores
One sign that a patient may be receiving substandard or negligent care is the appearance of bedsore injuries. Bedsores are also known as decubitus ulcers or pressure sores. They occur when a patient’s skin has been subjected to unrelieved pressure from laying in the same position. The weight of the body on the same spot creates reduced blood flow, which, in turn, causes skin and tissue death.
In some health care facilities, bedsores may be ignored even though the facilities’ standards clearly state that bedsores are preventable. Neglect and negligence in nursing homes is a legally actionable offense. Under Illinois law, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living care facilities are legally responsible for the health of patients who are under their care, and patients and their families can file suit to hold these facilities responsible for permitting a culture of neglect and allowing harm to befall patients.
Preventing Nursing Home Injuries
Nursing home and hospital bed sore injuries are highly preventable. Health care facilities always have rules in place that are intended to prevent the development of bedsores among patients whose mobility is limited. Prevention measures should include regular changes of position, daily skin inspections for signs of pressure damage, and appropriate, timely care to keep patients’ skin clean and dry. In some cases, the facility needs to provide special mattresses or pads to prevent too much pressure being placed on the bony parts of the body.
Many factors may put patients at a higher risk for nursing home and hospital bed sore injuries. Patients who are experiencing poor nutrition or a generally run-down condition will not have resilient skin. Incontinent patients will be at a higher risk, as extended contact with urine or feces damages the skin. It is the responsibility of the nursing staff to be aware of increased risk factors in their patients, and to respond appropriately to minimize the potential for bedsores.
Many of the issues that put a patient at increased risk for bedsore injuries are due directly to negligence or neglect. Patients in a nursing home or hospital rely entirely on the nursing staff to prevent bedsores from occurring. Even short delays in providing clean linens or changing positions can result in damage to delicate skin tissue. If a stage 1 bedsore does occur, it is the nursing staff’s responsibility to note the position and condition of the sore, and take decisive action to prevent the sore from developing further.
Legal Action After Injuries
Although nursing home and hospital bedsore injuries are nearly always preventable, bedsore injuries do occur frequently. Sometimes, the cause is a facility that has inadequate staff to meet patient needs. Other times, the problem lies in a failure to document the patient’s skin condition so that other staff is aware of a particular situation. Whatever the reason, if a bedsore injury has occurred, the facility may deny liability for an injury. In cases where pressure sores have caused injury, suffering, or even death, a patient or their family may want to consult a lawyer who can advise them of their legal rights.