Nursing home neglect is a major problem throughout the United States. While these type of mistreatment can lead to any number of issues, one major condition that is often caused by neglect and maltreatment are bedsores—also known as a pressure sore or decubitus ulcers.

With proper care and monitoring, these sores should either be prevented or timely diagnosed, so that prompt treatment can be given. Too often, however, it is the family members of a care facility resident that first see a sore and alert the staff. Unfortunately, if this is done too late, an infection might not be able to be controlled, which could lead to severe and even life-threatening complications.

If you believe your loved one was injured while under the care of nursing facility staff, reach out to a Michigan nursing home bedsores lawyer for help. A compassionate attorney could work to gather evidence and determine if a staff member was negligent in order to file a claim.

What are Pressure Sores and Bedsores?

Bedsores, also known as pressure ulcers or pressure sores, often occur in people who cannot easily move around on their own. Essentially, the skin and tissue underneath break down from continued pressure and poor circulation. When the skin breaks down, it becomes red. Open sores develop after the skin changes. In severe cases, the pressure ulcer causes destruction of muscle or even bone underneath the skin, called osteomyelitis.

These sores usually occur in persons who have predisposing risk factors, such as poor nutrition, continued moisture—especially from urine or feces—confinement to a bed or wheelchair, and other medical problems, such as spinal cord injuries, hip fractures, or dementia.

The most important step to prevent pressure sores and bedsores is to avoid prolonged pressure on one part of the body, especially the pressure points. To avoid this, frequent repositioning of the resident by the nursing home staff is necessary. Foam wedges and cushions are also used as positioning devices to relieve pressure. A qualified Michigan nursing home bedsores lawyer could investigate the conditions of a resident and try to determine if maltreatment led to their condition.

The Effects of Sores

The effects of a sore can be serious and even deadly. A resident with an advanced sore, such as a Stage 4 bedsore, may require flap surgery and additional treatment. Residents might also develop osteomyelitis, an infection that goes down to the bone beneath the sore. Many residents develop sepsis, an infection of the blood that affects other organs and can lead to death.

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) created a process for evaluating pressure sores based on a system that spans from Stage I (earliest signs) to Stage IV (most advanced):

  • Stage I—a reddened area on the skin that when pressed is “non-blanchable,” meaning it does not turn white. This indicates that a sore is starting to develop
  • Stage II—the skin blisters or forms an open sore, the area around the sore may be red and irritated
  • Stage III—the skin breakdown now looks like a crater, where there is damage to the tissue below the skin
  • Stage IV—the pressure ulcer has become so deep that there is damage to the muscle and bone, and sometimes tendons and joints

The Myth of Kennedy Terminal Ulcers

The notion that some bedsores are “unavoidable” is largely false. Indeed, almost all pressure ulcers and sores are avoidable with proper observation, care, and treatment. When medical facilities fail to provide required care that results in a resident developing a sore, they often look for ways to avoid a potential lawsuit.  The result was the creation of the term “Kennedy Terminal Ulcer” to describe a sore that develops while a person is dying, in an attempt to remove the burden of blame.

This pressure ulcer classification is not medically based and was instead created by the care community and its attorneys. It is simply their attempt to avoid liability and responsibility for their neglect of a patient or resident. Most interesting is that a Kennedy Terminal Ulcer is said to develop on the coccyx, sacrum, and heels. These are the same places where most sores or pressure ulcers occur when the negligence of a nursing home facility leads to these issues. As a result, anyone who has been told a nursing home resident suffered from these types of bedsores should consider reaching out to an experienced lawyer for help.

How Sores Actually Happen in Michigan Care Facilities

When a resident is admitted to a nursing home, the staff is required to assess the resident’s risk of skin breakdown and for developing bed sores. Numerous factors go into determining whether a particular patient is a risk. These include the mobility and nutrition of the patient, as well as whether they are incontinent.

If this assessment determines that the resident is a risk for sores, the nursing staff is required to develop and implement a plan to prevent the sore from occurring—and to treat it at the initial stages. Many times, this is the case. However, it is unfortunately common that this procedure is not followed by a nursing home staff.

This neglect may include the failure to turn and reposition the patient every two hours, the failure to properly clean the patient and timely change diapers, and the failure to inspect the skin on a daily basis to note any evidence of skin breakdown. The neglect and disregard of these duties may, therefore, be clear grounds for a legal claim.

The Duty to Prevent and Treat Bedsores

In nursing home residents with significant predisposing factors, it is important to assess the resident’s risk for sores, and develop a prevention plan. The most widely used plan by medical providers for predicting a patient’s likelihood to develop these sores is the Braden Scale. This scale scores various factors to determine the risk of the resident for bedsores, which includes the patient’s mobility, ability to sense pain, nutritional status, and mental status.

Nursing facilities are negligent if they do not properly assess the resident for the likelihood of developing any type of sore. For example, if it can be shown that staff do not turn the patient on a regular schedule or do not bathe the patient on a regular schedule, they could be considered liable in a civil lawsuit. Furthermore, the nursing staff is required to regularly assess the resident’s skin condition to find any areas of skin breakdown, as well as to notify a physician of any skin tears or sores. Lastly, they might also be negligent if they do not properly treat the patient after the diagnosis of a bedsore. A committed nursing home bedsores attorney in Michigan could help to launch an investigation to determine whether a facility’s staff were, in fact, negligent in their care.

Seek the Services of a Michigan Nursing Home Bedsores Attorney

Due to the potential severity of sores, it is essential that nursing home residents receive proper care and treatment. Unfortunately, neglect and maltreatment is often the cause of worsened conditions for many elder residents.

If your loved one has suffered sores as the result of a nursing home’s neglect, you may benefit from the counsel of a dedicated Michigan nursing home bedsores lawyer. The process of determining whether a care facility’s staff has been neglectful—as well as proving this negligence—is often nuanced and complex. To speak to a legal professional for help with a claim, call an attorney at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. today.

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