Why Did My Loved One Develop a Bed Sore While in a Nursing Home?

Close-up of hands of senior woman lying in hospital ward - Develop a Bed Sore in Nursing Home concept

At The Dickson Firm, we have handled hundreds of cases involving residents who have developed skin breakdown while in a nursing home. Often, these residents develop bed sores or pressure sores, also called decubitus ulcers. What leads these residents to develop bed sores while in a nursing home and how can they be prevented?

What is a Bed Sore?

Bed sores or pressure sores are caused by unrelieved pressure. If someone does not move, or they are not moved, for an extended period of time it restricts the blood flow to various areas of their body and can lead to bedsores. We typically see bed sores in areas of the body where it makes contact with either a chair or a bed. The buttocks and the sacral area are common locations for bed sores. Often there is pressure on the buttocks when a person is sitting, and also when they are laying down, assuming they are on their back.

Bed sores, or skin breakdown, are extremely dangerous. The skin is intended to protect us from infection. Once there is an open sore, a bed sore or pressure sore, the resident's risk of infection increases significantly. This is particularly true if the sore is in the buttock area or sacral area. We see many residents who have tragically died due to a bed sore.

Who is at Risk for Bed Sores?

When a person is able to move around on their own, they typically are not at risk for bed sores. So, if your loved one is able to get up, walk, and move on their own they are unlikely to develop skin breakdown. Even if they cannot walk on their own but they are able to turn and reposition themselves without assistance, they are probably not at risk.

Often, we see cases involving bed sores where residents have a fall at home and suffer a fracture or break. They are then taken to the hospital where they have surgery. As they are recovering from surgery, they're unable to move on their own.

We also see cases involving residents who have Alzheimer's Disease or are suffering from dementia. As a result of this dementia, they don't move on their own as they should and sit or lay in the same position for an extended period of time.

Another common affliction that residents suffer from which can lead to developing bed sores in nursing homes is spinal stenosis. This happens when the space inside the backbone is too small. This can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine and cause these individuals to suffer from numbness. Therefore, they may be unaware of unrelieved pressure on their backside, which can lead to skin breakdown.

How Should the Nursing Home Be Preventing Residents from Developing Bed Sores?

Nursing homes are required to turn and reposition residents who cannot turn or reposition themselves every two hours, or more often if needed. If a person is in bed, they should be rolled from side to side. If they are in a chair, they should be repositioned to offload pressure. The staff at the nursing home should also get the residents up and moving around frequently.

Often when nursing homes are understaffed, residents are not turned and repositioned as often as they should be. Nursing homes are legally obligated to employ a sufficient number of qualified staff to provide adequate care to their residents to prevent such circumstances. However, in an effort to increase profit, many owners and operators of nursing homes may intentionally understaff their nursing homes. As a result, residents who need to be attended to on a regular basis are not turned and repositioned as they should be.

How Should the Nursing Home Treat a Bed Sore?

Once a resident has a bed sore or skin breakdown, it is imperative that the nursing home offload the pressure to that particular area. If pressure is not offloaded, then there is no chance for that area to heal.

Adequate nutrition and adequate hydration are also critical factors in both the healing and prevention of bed sores. If someone is malnourished and/or dehydrated, it increases the risk of skin breakdown and makes it very hard to heal any bed sores that have already developed in the nursing home.

How Can I Help Prevent My Loved One From Developing a Bed Sore?

If your loved one is able to communicate with you, check in with them often. Make sure they are not having pain anywhere and make sure their skin is intact. If you are comfortable doing so, you should check their skin from head to toe on a regular basis. If you are not comfortable performing this check yourself, you should ask the staff on a regular basis if they have any skin breakdown.

Nursing homes have a legal obligation to immediately notify a resident's family any time there is a significant change in the resident's condition. Unfortunately, they don't always abide by this. As a result, it is important for the family to check on their loved one and specifically ask the caregivers about the condition of their loved one. When inquiring about your loved one’s condition, don't just ask the Director of Nursing or the Administrator. Talk to the aides and nurses working directly with your loved one, and be sure to ask them direct questions. Do they have any skin breakdown? Do they have any bed sores? You can also check with the doctor who is seeing your loved one and ask him or her if the resident has any skin breakdown. It is important to note that though nursing homes are legally required to immediately notify a resident's doctor any time they have a significant change in condition, they do not always keep the doctor informed.

My Loved One Has Developed a Bed Sore While in the Nursing Home. Now What?

If you found out this information on your own and were not properly notified, ask the nursing home why they neglected to notify you of the change in your loved one’s condition. Make sure that you insist on being notified in the future. It is also important to ask the nursing home what their treatment plan for your loved one is. If their skin breakdown continues to get worse, insist that your loved one is transferred to a hospital where they can get appropriate care to properly heal.

The worse a bed sore gets, the harder it is to heal. We see many residents who have bed sores that pass the point of no return, meaning that they don't ever heal. Once the bed sore is open, as indicated above, there's a much greater risk of infection. Infections can threaten a resident's life. Further, if your loved one is on blood thinners for other conditions, this can pose a very challenging issue because the blood thinners make it even more difficult for the wound to heal.

Contact an Experienced and Compassionate Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorney

If someone you love has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, please call the attorneys at The Dickson Firm at 1-800-OHIO-LAW. We would be happy to talk with you about the details of your case and help you in any way that we can.