The Stark & Stark Nursing Home Litigation Group represents families and vulnerable individuals injured and killed in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehabs, hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, and group homes. The terrible irony of these cases is that a sick, old, or weak person went somewhere for help, and got seriously hurt or died as a result. Many of our cases involve pressure ulcers.

Pressure ulcers, also called bed sores or decubitus ulcers, are wounds that develop in areas where there is restricted blood flow due to pressure. When skin and the tissue below it do not get adequate blood flow, the skin and tissue begin to die. Pressure ulcers occur in areas where the body might be in contact with a bed or chair for too long without being moved, such as the buttocks, small of the back, elbows, and heels.

The nursing standard is that bed bound residents in nursing homes and hospital patients must be moved every two hours at a minimum. In wheelchairs, it should be more frequent.

Pressure ulcers are categorized Stage I through Stage IV. Stage I ulcers are a skin redness that when you push against the skin, it does not turn white. Stage II ulcers are like a diaper rash – a blistering of the skin. Stage III ulcers are when the tissue just below the skin is visible. Stage IV ulcers can go right to the bone.

These wounds can be lethal. They are large holes in the skin which can become infected. If a person is incontinent and the wound is on the buttocks or lower back, this becomes a serious problem. Wounds complicate other treatments. Even when wounds heal a person’s skin is scarred. Scarred skin never regains its full integrity, and a person is more susceptible to wounds in the future.

Pressure ulcers are evidence of neglect. In fact, Medicare will not pay for pressure wounds a patient develops in the hospital if the wound goes past Stage III – Medicare believes these should never happen absent neglect.

In nursing homes, we see facilities staffed to the state minimum levels in order to make the most money. Unfortunately, in these scenarios there is insufficient staff to make sure residents are appropriately repositioned and kept clean and dry. The terrible outcome is pressure ulcers.

Make sure your loved ones are being attended to correctly. If pressure ulcers form, ask what is being done to heal them. Aggressive care planning and appropriate treatment, like keeping clean and dry, a special mattress, getting adequate nutrition, and repositioning, should heal the ulcer. Knowing the facts can help you be the best possible advocate for someone.

Michael A. Brusca is a litigation attorney with the Nursing Home Litigation Group of Stark & Stark. www.stark-stark.com.

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