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Are pressure sores a sign of nursing home neglect?

Pressure sores, also known as pressure ulcers or bed sores, are often a sign of nursing home neglect and abuse. They're a serious medical condition that can often be prevented in the first place. Once identified, they require a significant amount of care and a lot of attention in order for the patient to recover—and all too frequently patients are left to suffer instead.

Those with very low mobility are essentially the most prone to the problem, but around 11 percent of nursing home residents suffer from them. The sores usually develop over the bony areas of the body, particularly on elbows, hip, heels, shoulders, tail bones and the back of the head.

Pressure sores are typically classified from Stage 1, which is an area of painful skin that's reddened and warm, but not broken or torn. Stage 2 pressure sores have an open area where the skin has actually worn away and may form a blister around the wound. By Stage 3, the pressure sore has eaten into the subcutaneous layers of skin, and the layer of fat underneath the skin is exposed. By Stage 4, muscle and bone may be exposed, and damage to joints and tendons may be irreversible

Ironically, patients may be less aware of the pressure sores as they advance, because the tissue damage is so extensive that the area around the sore dies. However, bone infections and blood infections can start, eventually leading to amputations (if the sore is on a limb) or death.

During the early, more painful stages of the pressure sore, the patient may complain. However, if those complaints are dismissed, the pressure sores will continue to develop. If the patient is non-vocal, due to a stroke or another disorder, pressure sores are usually a clear indication that they've been left in the same position, unattended, for an unacceptable length of time.

Doctors and nurses have long known that pressure sores are preventable. By making sure that the immobile patient is regularly turned and adjusted so that delicate parts of his or her body aren't under constant stress. Regular skin checks should also be performed on patients when they are bathed and any changes in skin should be noted and treated immediately.

If your loved one has suffered painful, long-lasting complications from pressure sores or has died as a result of sepsis that started with pressure sores in a nursing home, consider contacting an attorney for advice.

Source: WebMD, "Stages of Pressure Sores," accessed Dec. 20, 2016

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