Articles Posted in Bed Sores

The New York Times has a story today about the dramatic increase in hospital patients with bedsores over the last 14 years. A report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality finds that over 500,000 patients admitted to U.S. hospitals in 2006 suffered from a bedsore that was developed either before or during their hospital stay. That represents a whopping 78.9 percent increase over a previous study performed in 1993.

The failure to prevent or treat bedsores has been the basis of several cases here at Walton Law Firm LLP. Most legal claims arising from bedsores (frequently called “pressure ulcers” or “decubitus ulcers”) occur in the nursing home or hospital setting, and involve a bed sore that became a Stage III or Stage IV before appropriate treatment was obtained. Sores that severe can often lead to secondary problems such as infection, and usually require painful treatment.

“Bedsores are preventable, but it’s not easy,” said William Spector, an agency researcher. “It’s not like you just get a prescription and one physician can take care of it. It’s a major team effort that requires a multidisciplinary team of dietary aides, nurses aides, physical therapists and physicians all playing a role.”

The New York Times is reporting this morning that 90% of all nursing homes were cited for violations of federal health and safety standards. Approximately 17% of U.S. nursing homes had deficiencies that caused actual harm. As mentioned in this blog previously, nursing facilities that operate “for-profit” were more likely to have problems than non-profit homes.

Federal inspectors received 37,150 complaints in 2007 about nursing home conditions, the bulk of which involved bed sores, abuse and neglect of residents, medication errors, and nutritional issues. Failure to sufficiently staff was noted as a particular concern in the report, including the allegation that nursing homes “have systematically failed to provide staff in sufficient numbers and with appropriate clinical expertise to serve their residents.” Not surprisingly, researchers learned that elderly patients receive better care at homes with a higher ratio of nursing staff members to patients.

The U.S. has approximately 15,000 nursing homes, housing nearly 2 million people. Under the laws of most states, including California, these homes are inspected once a year.

A Laguna Hills nursing home faces its second lawsuit for elder abuse in three years for the neglect of one of its residents. In both cases the resident died.

Theresa Sperry died in July 2007 after a short stay a Villa Valencia skilled nursing facility. The lawsuit alleges that with two weeks of admission, Sperry developed pressure ulcers on both of her heels that were left untreated, and worsened to the point of spreading to her muscles and exposing bone. The complaint also alleges that Villa Valencia was not adequately staffed to care for its residents.

Pressure ulcers (also called decubitus ulcers or bed sores) are a big problem in nursing homes. The Orange County nursing home neglect lawyers at Walton Law Firm LLP have represented numerous nursing home residents who have developed very serious ulcers while under nursing home care. Most sores are a result of a combination of factors: poor nutrition, immobility, and neglectful treatment.

A jury in Santa Ana awarded the family of Mary Adams $2 million after the 104-year-old was neglected in a Laguna Hills nursing home. The jury awarded $1 million for the Villa Valencia Health Care’s negligence, and another $1 million in punitive damages.

Juror Rory Paster, a 41-year-old engineering analyst who lives in Huntington Beach, said the jury wanted to “send a message that the company should do a better job of treating patients.”

According to reports, Adams admitted herself into the nursing home after suffering a fractured leg. Shortly after admission, Adams developed pressure sores on her heels, which were ignored, and not adequately treated. As a result, she contracted sepsis, and died about two months after her admission.

Studies show that almost 50% of California nursing homes do not meet federal standards in preventing pressure ulcers. The problems are so widespread that the treatment of these ulcers – also called bed sores – will no longer be covered by Medicare if the sore was acquired after admission into a nursing home.

Family members should be aware that a bed sore can develop in only a few hours if an area of the skin is subjected to enough pressure that cuts off blood flow to that area. The skin will initially appear red and will be painful, slowing appearing to have a purple color. This is the best time prevent the sore from advancing to something more serious.

Nursing home and assisted living residents are at high risk for developing pressure ulcers, and those residents that are bedridden, wheelchair bound, or those will limited mobility must be examined frequently for the development of bedsores. A small bedsore can quickly become a large sore if treatment is not promptly provided.

When there is sustained pressure in an area of skin that cuts off circulation to that area, the skin will start to breakdown creating what is common called a bedsore or pressure ulcer. If you’ve never seen one, consider yourself lucky. Not properly cared for, these sores and develop into wounds so deep that muscle and bone can sometimes be exposed.

It has been reported that two million Americans experienced pressure ulcers every year, usually the result of a combination of poor nutrition, dehydration, and immobility. Recent studies, however, suggest that fighting bedsores requires a team approach, enlisting not just the bedside caregivers, but many other nursing home employees.

A study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society involving 52 nursing homes around the United States reported a reduction of almost 70% of serious bedsores acquired in the facilities after utilizing a team approach to the prevention and treatment of sores.

The National Pressure Advisory Panel updated its definition of the four “stages” used to diagnose pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers (often referred to as bed sores). It also added two new stages on deep-tissue injury and ulcers that cannot be staged. The updated stages of pressure ulcers were released at the conclusion of its 2007 annual conference held in San Antonio, Texas.

A pressure ulcer or bed sore is a localized injury to the skin and/or underlying tissue, usually over a bony prominence as a result of pressure, or pressure in combination with shear and/or friction. In elderly or disabled patients, sores can begin on the skin of the tailbone, back, buttocks, heels, back of the head, or elbows. Poor nutrition or dehydration can weaken the skin and make it more vulnerable.

The new staging definitions are as follows:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced last month that, it will no longer reimburse hospitals for treating eight “reasonably preventable” conditions as of October 2008 the Wall Street Journal reports. Pressure ulcers are among the most prevalent, costly and dangerous on the list. In addition to interfering with recovery, lengthening hospital stays and causing extreme pain and discomfort, pressure ulcers can increase the risk of infection, with nearly 60,000 deaths annually from hospital-acquired pressure ulcers.

Nursing homes and long-term-care facilities have made strides of their own in prevention, motivated in part by the costs of lawsuits for failure to prevent bed sores. Prevention methods can include using ultrasound to identify skin breakdown before a pressure sore forms, special pressure reducing mattresses and ensuring that residents are turned at least every two hours.

Despite the availability of these, and other, prevention techniques, nursing homes have long failed to do much to prevent pressure ulcers as they had no real incentive to do so (other than the fear of lawsuits). Most commonly, nursing homes save money by not having enough staff on hand to ensure that residents receive the treatments required. They are then “rewarded” for this behavior by Medicare paying them extra money per patient to treat the decubitus ulcers. As of October of 2008, nursing homes will instead have to “pay” to treat pressure ulcers which they cause. Hopefully this disincentive will result in better care for all nursing home residents.

An elderly woman developed a large bed sore while residing in a residential care facility. Because of inadequate treatment, the skin wound worsened and the elderly resident died only 10 days after being sent to a hospital for proper wound care. Walton Law Firm represents the woman’s family in prosecuting the assisted living facility for failure to provide adequate wound care and treatment.