When you are bedridden for an extended period of time in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, whether because of an operation or other medical concern, the risk of developing bedsores, also known as decubitus ulcers, can be great. Though some people may be more inclined to develop bedsores, hospitals and nursing homes have a duty to take reasonable measures to minimize the risk. Patients should be turned or moved on a regular basis. Proper nutrition, hydration, and regular bathing have also been shown to reduce the risk of bedsores.
How can a medical malpractice lawyer help you to receive compensation for bedsores?
If you or a loved one has contracted bedsores while in the care of a hospital or nursing home, you want an experienced Long Island bedsore attorney to protect your interests.
At Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP, in Holtsville, we have focused our practice exclusively on personal injury claims for more than 28 years. Since 1983, our medical malpractice lawyers have helped thousands of people recover full and fair compensation for losses caused by the careless or negligent acts of others. We bring a comprehensive understanding of personal injury law and procedures to every case we handle and use our experience, skill, and knowledge to help you get the results you seek.
To set up a free initial consultation, call us at (631) 451-7900.
What Are The Stages Of Bedsores?
Bedsores can progress from slight discoloration of the skin to a serious medical condition in a matter of hours. Medical professionals organize bedsores into different degrees of severity. The purpose of these categories is to determine the breadth of damage and possible types of treatment. Each stage of a bedsore is recognizable by its typical characteristics on the scale bedsore injuries.
Stage I bedsores are the beginning. There won’t be any breaks in the skin yet. Instead, the skin will begin showing signs of discoloration. For light-skinned patients, the sore will be a red color; in darker-skinned patients, the skin may become purple or will have an ashen hue. In some people, discoloration won’t be visible to a non-professional.
It is also possible to distinguish bedsores from slight skin irritation by pressing on the discolored area. If it is a bedsore, then the skin will remain red and not show a white coloring. Beyond discoloration, bedsores cause mild pain, itchiness, and general irritation. If touched, a Stage I bedsore may feel warm or spongey. In some cases, the skin may also feel cooler than the surrounding area, and contact may cause pain.
A Stage I bedsore will heal once the pressure causing the sore has been relieved.
Stage II bedsores resemble abrasions or blisters. At this point, non-movement has caused damage to the skin. Some sores will remain intact but still cause pain. A Stage II bedsore is typically wider than it is long, and it will still be a shallow wound in comparison to later stages.
Despite being shallow, bedsores at this stage are open wounds and thus prone to infection. Damage has occurred to either the dermis or the epidermis – the top two layers of skin. In some wounds, both upper layers of skin have sustained damage. The skin surrounding the bedsore may appear discolored, displaying either red or purplish hues.
Stage II bedsores can still heal quickly if caretakers administer prompt treatment.
A Stage III bedsore has developed beyond an open wound and has become a deep wound. It can resemble a deep crater in the skin. Fat tissue may show, and slough – a dead, yellowish tissue – may be present at the bottom of the wound.
The harm of a Stage III bedsore tissue is much more severe than Stage II, reaching deeper than the top two layers of skin. Muscle and fat tissues may have sustained damage at this point, and some may even have been destroyed. These sores present much more significant damage and a greatly increased risk of infection.
Treatment for Stage III bedsores focuses on preventing infection and advancement to Stage IV. These sores do not heal as well as those from Stages I and II and are a great risk to the patient’s health.
The most severe stage, a Stage IV bedsore is recognizable by significant tissue loss. It may be possible to see bones, tendons, and muscles at this stage. Instead of slough, dead, crusty-looking tissue may rest at the bottom of the sore.
Damage can affect not just the skin, but other significant supporting structures. Even areas beyond the immediate area of the sore face harm. Infection is once again a major risk, and at this stage can have lethal consequences.
Due to the extensive area of damage in a Stage IV bedsore, treatment is very difficult. The high risk for infection makes both Stage III and Stage IV bedsores life-threatening. Beyond infection, these bedsores may also lead to cases of sepsis, cellulitis, cancer, and permanent bone and muscle damage.
For some bedsores, medical staff may deem the wound “uncategorizable” if it involves extreme levels of advanced harm to muscle, skin, and bone.
What causes bedsores?
- limited mobility
- stationary positions
- posture misalignment
- improper hydration
Bedsores result when an area of skin experiences a great amount of pressure, especially when next to a bone or other hard surface. For most people, bedsores are avoidable because the human body automatically adjusts itself to avoid uncomfortable positions, even if the person does not notice. These movements are often subconscious and can even occur when the person is asleep. At night, a human can adjust up to twenty times to avoid potential bedsores, either in small or large movements and even more if sleeping on an uncomfortable surface.
However, the elderly and the ill don’t have the same mobility and may not be able to move to avoid bedsores. Because of this, bedsores are often the result of improper care in nursing homes. For any patient with limited mobility, it is important for the responsible caregivers to determine the patient’s risks of bedsores and act accordingly. People in both sitting and lying positions are at risk of bedsores, and any existing injuries can worsen over time if caregivers don’t treat them properly. If you or a loved one developed bedsores in a nursing home because of negligence, speak with a Long Island nursing home abuse lawyer.
While the human body will move as necessary to prevent bedsores, doing so when you are infirm or frail is not always easy. Any person with limited movement is at a much higher risk for bedsores. The elderly have some of the greatest risks for bedsores, as aging reduces energy and mobility. It can be difficult for anyone who is in poor medical condition to move on his or her own to prevent bedsores, even if the body recognizes discomfort.
Beyond just limited mobility, anyone who spends most of their time in a bed or a wheelchair is at a risk for bedsores. The constant position without any movement irritates the skin, giving rise to bedsores. Some medical facilities also lack soft enough beds, which increases risk. Even a short amount of time in the same position can cause bedsore damage, so it is critical to be aware of such risks.
Patients who spend most of their time sitting or lying down or are older should receive help with moving into different positions. The failure to do so by those around the patient, be it medical staff or those who share the same home, is the most common cause of bedsores. The use of support devices, such as pillows and padding, can also help ease the pressure and give positioning alternatives.
Though remaining stationary brings some of the biggest risks for bedsores, repositioning of patients cannot just be done thoughtlessly. Placing a patient in an incorrect position can put further pressure on an already susceptible area. Caregivers need to pay attention to balance, stability, and weight distribution whenever repositioning a patient. Otherwise, the new position may cause a bedsore instead of preventing it.
Positioning is also important for wheelchair users. When helping a patient at risk for bedsores into a wheelchair, the caregiver must help find a position that reduces pain. If a position feels uncomfortable, then those parts of the body already feel irritated and need repositioning.
Another contributing factor to bedsores is improper skin hydration. Areas exposed to high levels of moisture in addition to pressure are at a higher risk for developing bedsores. While a wet bed sheet or piece of clothing may not cause immediate discomfort, it can exacerbate the development of bedsores. Proper changing of clothing and bedsheets for bedbound patients helps reduce the risks. Caregivers should also regularly change any bandages.
The right nutritional balance is necessary for healthy skin. A proper diet can help the body stand up to pressures that lead to bedsores. Improper nutrition prevents the skin from producing the correct level of internal moisture, which helps it resist damage.
If any of the above factors caused you or a loved one to develop bedsores, speak with a compassionate Long Island bedsore lawyer today to learn more about your legal options.
How to Prevent Bedsores
It is possible to avoid bedsores by taking preventive action. One of the first ways to help prevent bedsores is for caretakers to be aware of the causes of bedsore so that they can avoid any aggravating situations for the patient.
For any type of patient with restricted movement, repositioning is key. A bedsore can develop after two hours of pressure in the same position, so movement should happen at a minimum of once every two hours. More frequent repositioning is even more helpful in preventing irritation and damage. Any repositioning should be done carefully, as some positions can increase the risk of damage due to weight distribution and pinching.
For patients with restricted movement, physical rehabilitation can help enhance mobility. Doing so makes it easier for a patient to adjust on their own whenever they start to feel uncomfortable while sitting or lying down.
Tending to other risk factors such as nutrition, hydration, and frequent changing of bedclothes, clothing, and bandages all can create the best conditions for avoiding bedsores.
Bedsore Prevention for Bedridden Patients
Many medical conditions leave patients bedridden. Frequent movement, as often as every one to two hours, eliminates much of the risk of bedsores, regardless of whether the patient can move on his or her own or requires assistance. Other ways to prevent bedsores for bedridden patients include:
- Frequent repositioning – caretakers should help reposition the patient at least once every two hours.
- Specialized mattresses – the type of mattress can go a long way to provide comfort and reduce pressure on the body. Water and foam are common materials in such mattresses. If a patient is staying at home, a doctor can write a prescription for a specialized mattress.
- Available medical devices – many medical devices can help with repositioning of the patient’s body, such as slide sheets and trapeze bars. Easing the pressure of movement minimizes the risk of shearing and putting additional pressure on the skin, reducing the chances of both bedsores and tears in the tissue.
- Adjusting the bed – hospital beds are adjustable and can provide different positions for support. Elevating the head and positioning the body at a new angle both prevent shearing and distribute pressure differently. The automated functions of these beds can allow even low mobility patients to adjust themselves without assistance.
Bedsore Prevention for Wheelchair Users
Despite their name, bedsores pose risks for wheelchair users as well. Consistently sitting in one position can create sores on the back, buttocks, ankles, legs, tailbone, toes, or bottoms of the feet. The maximum time before adjustment for someone in a wheelchair is shorter than for bedridden patients.
Nursing homes should engage in best practices toward their clients and enact these actions to prevent bedsores for wheelchair users include:
- Frequent shifting of weight – for those who require help repositioning, weight should shift at least once an hour. Those who can move on their own should try to adjust every fifteen to twenty minutes.
- Specialty wheelchairs – some companies produce wheelchairs that can tilt, allowing for the alleviation of pressure.
- Raise up from the seat – for patients who have the strength to do so, they should attempt to lift themselves from the seat of the wheelchair. This can help with both repositioning and regular alleviation of pressure. Wheelchair pushups can also reduce pressure from the thighs and buttocks.
- Pressure relieving cushions – like specialty mattresses, cushions can give a more comforting surface to a wheelchair and ensure proper positioning. Such cushions come in air-filled, water-filled, gel, and foam varieties.
Bedsores can still develop even when caretakers exercise the proper precautions. However, being alert for the warning signs greatly reduces those risks and is a much easier process than treating a developed bedsore. If you or a loved one suffered bedsores and believe them to be caused by negligence, a Long Island bedsore attorney at Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP can help.
How to Treat Bedsores
Prompt treatment is necessary for a swift recovery and can keep the bedsore from developing to a more severe stage. The exact treatment necessary will depend on the stage of the bedsore, as determined by medical caretakers.
Treatment of a bedsore may require multiple kinds of care. Depending on where and how a patient developed a bedsore, the treatment team may include:
- A primary care physician to oversee the treatment plan
- A wound care specialist
- A dermatologist
- A medical professional specializing in wound care
- A dietitian who helps with nutritional needs
- A physical therapist to assist with improving patient mobility
- A social worker to help the patient’s family access resources and address emotional concerns
- A surgeon for more severe sores
- An occupational therapist to ensure proper seating and bed surfaces
- Medical assistants who provide education and care for managing wounds
The stage of a bedsore will also affect the members of the care team. For example, a Stage I bedsore will not require surgery, while Stage III and IV sores may require surgical intervention.
As pressure is the primary cause of bedsores, reducing the pressure on the affected area is the first step in any treatment plan. Support surfaces like cushions and mattresses can reduce the overall pressure. Frequent repositioning, either on the patient’s own or with caretaker assistance, keeps the sore from further irritation and reduces the risk of additional sores developing.
Cleaning and Dressing Wounds
Proper cleaning of a bedsore at any stage helps prevent irritation from dressings and lowers the risks of infection in open wounds. Caretakers should clean a bedsore with the appropriate level of disinfectants every time they change the dressings.
Beyond preventing infections, dressings prevent a bedsore from drying out. Keeping in moisture helps the wound heal and lowers the risk of additional sores in the same area. More severe wounds may require a combination of dressings. Possible options are bandages, gauze, films, gels, foams, and treated coverings.
Removing Damaged Tissue
Open wounds may contain damaged skin tissues, especially in higher stage bedsores. Stage III bedsores are at a risk for slough, while Stage IV sores may have black tissue in the wound. Injuries cannot heal with dead tissue in the way, so removal is necessary for proper recovery. This process can occur through gently flushing out tissues or surgical procedures.
Negative Pressure Therapy
Sometimes referred to as vacuum-assisted therapy, negative pressure therapy works by attaching a suction tube to the bedsore. The tube then sucks out moisture from the bedsore, as well as providing a cleaning of the injury. Wounds treated with negative pressure therapy can heal within six weeks. The procedure is less expensive than surgery.
More severe bedsores may require surgical intervention. Surgeries aim to clean the wound, treat or prevent infections, reduce fluid loss, and lower risks of further complications. Medical professionals will often perform surgery for a bedsore if the wound does not heal on its own.
In some cases, surgery will cover the wound or cushion exposed bone with a pad of the patient’s own muscle, skin, or other tissues. This procedure is known as flap reconstruction.
In addition to the methods described above, additional interventions can include:
- Drugs to regulate pain during wound care
- Drugs to fight infection, if other treatments are not working
- Adjustments to the patient’s diet to promote wound healing
If caretakers administer treatment early, most Stage I and II bedsores can make a simple recovery. Higher stage bedsores require more in-depth methods and are a matter of much greater risk for the patient if left unattended.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Bedsores?
Bedsores – whether a patient is bedridden or wheelchair-bound – are preventable. Though some patients may not be able to move their own body, when a caregiver gives adequate attention to changing a patient’s position, bedsores won’t occur. Caregivers are responsible for awareness of bedsore risks and assisting with prevention. Considering the ease of preventing a bedsore, usually someone is at fault.
Medical malpractice claims may arise when medical professionals fail to give a proper diagnosis or give incompetent treatment. Cases of medical neglect also qualify as medical malpractice. As bedsores arise from a failure to follow preventive measures and provide proper treatment, they can be a form of medical malpractice, and the law treats them as such. Many nursing homes employ physicians and nurses to check on their residents. If a medical professional ignores or misses clear signs of bedsores, he or she may be liable for the injury the resident suffers as a result.
Medical professionals owe patients the standard of care equal to their level of expertise. Failure to do so can qualify as medical malpractice. Given the high risk of bedsores for low mobility and bedridden patients in hospitals and nursing homes, very few situations exist where a fully licensed professional would not be aware of preventive measures and could be liable.
Though a neglectful medical professional is liable for bedsores, hospital policies may affect the direction of the lawsuit. Hospitals and medical corporations are responsible for the actions of their staff. If a staff member failed to prevent the bedsore, the law makes the health care facility who employed that person liable as well.
The hospital or nursing home may also face liability depending on its staffing arrangements. Healthcare facilities must have enough staff present to properly care for all patients. If a case of understaffing prevented there being enough nurses and support staff available to tend to all patient needs, the hospital could also be liable for the bedsores.
When Can You Sue for a Bedsore?
Thanks to many advances in technology even patients with limited mobility are at less risk for bedsores. Patients may adjust their beds to allow for variety in positioning, and some beds are even programmable to move at regular intervals. If a bedsore does arise for a patient that cannot move on his or her own, the question then becomes what actions the staff failed to take that allowed the bedsore to form.
Not all bedsores Are the result of medical negligence. If a patient can move on their own and still develops a bedsore, the liability of the staff may be less. Stage I bedsores are easily treatable and can even form when caretakers follow preventive measures.
However, even where a bedsore emerges without medical negligence there may be a case if it is not promptly recognized and treated. A more advanced bedsore arises from the failure to treat a Stage I bedsore and can even have lethal consequences in the most advanced stages. These serious consequences can become grounds for a case of medical malpractice. For additional information regarding liability, talk to a reliable bedsore lawyer in Long Island.
Compensation for Victims of Bedsores
As an act of medical malpractice and damage to the patient, victims of bedsores are entitled to receive compensation. Money awarded to the patient can pay for financial, physical, and emotional damages and, in rare cases, a court will impose punitive damages against the defendant to discourage repeated negligence.
The exact worth of a bedsore claim depends on many factors, most importantly the long-term damage and emotional suffering the victims endured. The exact cause of the bedsore, the extent of the sore, and the consequences of any damage all play a part in determining how much compensation a victim can receive. A court will consider all these elements before deciding on the compensation amount.
A court will only award compensation to the victim if the fault lies with the nursing home, hospital, or other medical staff. As with any personal injury case, evidence must prove that the bedsore is the result of negligent care.
To prove fault, a Long Island bedsore attorney will enlist the help of a medical professional (or professionals) with a specialty in the relevant injuries. Their role is to provide a medical opinion on how a “reasonable” person would have acted. The court then uses this example of conduct as a point of comparison for the actions taken by the medical facility.
The four critical points of proving fault in a medical malpractice case include:
- Proving that the medical facility owed the victim a duty to avoid causing harm
- Showing that the facility breached that duty by taking actions that caused harm
- Showing that the harmful actions resulted in medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damages, death, or other losses for the victim
- Determining the specific damages suffered by the victim to calculate the compensation amount
What damages could I recover for my bedsore claim?
Many types of damages can be part of a bedsore claim. Only after the injured party has proven that the defendant was at fault will the court assess the damages. The factors for which a victim may receive compensation include:
- Medical bills – a victim may recover the value of any past and future medical expenses related to the bedsore injury. Potential costs can include rehabilitation, medication, past or future surgery, specialized medical equipment, physical therapy, and visits with physician specialists.
- Pain and suffering – compensation determination includes both past and future pain and suffering damages.
- Disfigurement – a bedsore can result in physical damages such as scars that remain after healing.
- Disability – more serious bedsores can lead to muscle and bone damage. Any activities the victim can no longer perform due to the bedsore are eligible for compensation.
Since bedsores are often present in patients recovering or suffering from other medical conditions, it can be difficult to determine which damages are the result of bedsores and which come from other illnesses. When seeking compensation for bedsore damages, the victim’s attorney must take care to determine the cause of certain injuries and relate them to the bedsore when applicable. Other damages belong to a different claim if those are also the result of medical malpractice.
If the medical facility engaged in reckless conduct during the bedsore case, a court may impose punitive damages.
A judge, jury, mediator, or lawyer negotiating with the medical facility’s insurance company will use the above factors to determine the exact damages awarded.
Some medical facilities incorporate policies to discourage victims from pursuing lawsuits. The Long Island bedsore attorneys at Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP do not hesitate to file cases against such facilities and will provide victims with guidance to navigate complex cases and fight for rightful compensation for our clients.
How a Bedsore Lawyer Can Help
Because of all the preventive measures, potential injuries and damages, and required evidence for proving medical malpractice, cases of bedsores can quickly become complex. Families may not understand what needs to happen to pursue a case and receive compensation, or they worry about potential consequences for opening a lawsuit against their loved one’s care facility.
If you or a loved one has suffered bedsores and suspects medical negligence, do not hesitate to contact our team of personal injury lawyers. Personal injury cases have a three-year maximum statute of limitations – and cases against a medical professional or institution for malpractice have only a two-and-a-half-year time limit. If you don’t file a claim within this time frame you will lose the right to compensation.
Personal injury cases can require a lot of investigation to establish the facts. So that you don’t miss out on your time frame to file, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP for a consultation as soon as possible after you notice a bedsore injury.
Determining If There Is a Problem
Before bringing a lawsuit, it is critical to be sure of the exact causes of the bedsores. Discussing your case with an attorney can help determine if you have a case of medical or nursing home negligence and if the extent of the injuries warrants a lawsuit. If the bedsores have progressed to later stages, leaving the victim at risk for infection, dead tissue, and even permanent harm, your personal injury lawyers can advise you to pursue a claim and help determine your best course of action to receive just compensation.
A Long Island bedsore attorney can also help you if you are uncertain that neglect is taking place. Victims or families of victims may not have experience in understanding what qualifies as neglect and medical or nursing home malpractice. However, dealing with bedsores is part of the essential care for bedridden and nursing home patients, and you should not ignore a medical facility’s failure to perform this care.
When determining the extent of a problem, it can be helpful to have your loved one’s medical records. An attorney can use these to determine if the damages are the result of neglect or a side effect of the patient’s degrading condition, which is essential in filing a case.
Taking Your Case to Court
Any trial can be a complicated process of investigations, filing a claim, gathering evidence, and then proceeding to court. Winning a case without experienced legal counsel would be very difficult. Our team of personal injury lawyers are here to help you through the entire claims process and we will work with you so that you and your loved ones can focus on recovery instead of medical bills.
Bedsore prevention is one of the fundamental responsibilities of hospitals and nursing homes. Do not allow damages to go unpunished and negligent treatment to continue. We at Rosenberg & Gluck, LLC have a combined experience of over 100 years in personal injury law. Allow us to put our dedication and experience to work for you in your bedsore lawsuit.
Types of Bedsore Cases We Handle
Bedsores, also referred to as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, are skin lesions that customarily develop when there is constant or continual pressure again your bones from lying in the same position for extended periods of time. Bedsores occur most frequently in the tailbone area and can be little more than redness on your skin or can result in blisters or abrasions, or they can lead to full skin loss or necrosis of your underlying tissue.
We provide comprehensive counsel to individuals suffering bedsores from a nursing home or medical facility negligence, seeking full damages for all your losses, as well as remedial procedures to reduce the risk.
We handle all types of claims involving bedsores or decubitus ulcers, including cases involving:
- failure to provide adequate bedding, mattresses, heel protectors or other devices to minimize risk
- failure to reposition you or your loved one to avoid potential bedsores, whether because of neglect, abandonment or any other reason
- failure to take into consideration vascular disease, diabetes or other health conditions that increase the risk of bedsores / Decubitus Ulcers
We handle all bedsore injury claims on a contingency basis. We charge attorney fees only if we recover compensation for your injuries.
Contact Rosenberg & Gluck, LLP for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one has suffered health consequences because of bedsores, contact our Long Island bedsore attorneys by submitting an online form or call us at (631) 451-7900 to set up an appointment. We will meet with you at a location that is convenient for you, including your home or the hospital, if necessary.