Protecting Our Seniors – Bedsores Are a Major Indicator of Neglect

Bedsores – also known as pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers – are extremely painful.  They can lead to death.  A bedsore is an injury to the skin and tissue caused by prolonged pressure on the skin.  To people without medical training the name may seem benign.  They are not.  A Stage 4 bedsore can be an open wound that extends to the bone.

Nursing home residents who are mobility impaired, especially those confined to their bed are at a high risk for bedsores.  Family members are often unaware of the development of bedsores because they may develop in areas that are covered in clothing and gowns (tailbone or coccyx, hips, ankles and heels are common areas).  Even when a nursing home reports the development of a bedsore to a family, it is common for the family not to understand how serious the situation can be, sometimes because the severity or importance of potential danger is downplayed.  

Bedsores are often a sign of neglect.  Understaffing of nursing homes (skilled nursing facilities) is rampant in California.  Bedbound residents require much hands-on care.  Too often undertrained and overworked staff cut corners.  Bedsores can develop or progress under the following conditions:

  • The patient was not repositioned (or turned) regularly – at a minimum every two hours. This is especially crucial if the resident is in a wheelchair or bed.
  • The resident’s skin was not kept clean, free of excrement and dry.
  • Specialized supplies were not provided including a pressure-reducing mattress, and pillows to relieve pressure.
  • The resident did not receive adequate liquids, vitamins and minerals, and a protein rich diet so that their body could fight skin breakdown.
  • The resident’s skin was not closely monitored.
  • Staff did not properly track and chart the worsening of a pressure sore.
  • Staff did not inform the resident’s physician.
  • Wound care specialists were not brought in.
  • The facility kept the nursing home resident even though the wound was beyond their expertise.

In an already fragile senior, a bedsore can be the tipping point leading to a downward spiral and death.  Bedsores are assigned designations as Stage 1 through Stage 4.  Stage 4 bedsores are the most developed.  All are of concern.  It is not uncommon for bedsores to go unreported or to be improperly staged. 

If you are concerned that your family member has experienced neglect at a nursing home and you would like to have the case evaluated you can contact our firm at (650) 697-6000 or you can contact us. Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP has a long tradition of fighting against elder abuse and neglect. Click here to view our background.