Bed Sores

Bed sores result when the weight of the person’s body presses against a firm surface such as a bed mattress or a chair. Or put another way, the bed sores develop due to the pressure exerted by the bed or chair on the person’s body. In understanding just how such pressure causes bed sores, remember that the skin contains hundreds of blood vessels. Bed sore-inducing pressure cuts off the skin’s blood supply to the pressure area. This area of damaged skin will become more susceptible to pressure-induced damage if steps are not taken to relieve/reduce pressure on the now-compromised skin.

Bed Sore Stages

Once a bed sore has developed, it should be treated rapidly to prevent progression from a superficial bed sore characterized as an itchy or slightly painful area of red skin (Stage 1 bed sore) to a more serious condition in which the wound becomes an open sore. This Stage 2 sore looks like a blister or abrasion but is still susceptible to quick healing if the treatment is prompt. If the bed sores were not properly treated at the hospital prior to transfer, they can become worse, possibly becoming crater like wounds below the skin (Stage 3) or even deteriorating further into a Stage 4 bed sore, which involves large scale loss of skin along with the possibilities of muscle, bone, tendon or joint damage. These wounds are extremely difficult to heal and can lead to infection and even death.

Causes of Bed Sores

It should not be surprising that the elderly, who are often frail due to poor bone and skin integrity, are particularly susceptible to pressure sores because of their lower tissue tolerance for pressure. Old age is thus a “no brainer” risk factor for developing bed sores. Yet, many other well-known risk factors are associated with the development of pressure stores, and bed sores can occur in any person, whether young or elderly, under certain conditions. The greater the number of risk factors specific to the person – even a relatively young person – the greater the likelihood that the person will develop bed sores. Besides old age, the following factors are known to increase the risk for developing pressure sores:

  • Being bedridden whether at a nursing home or at a hospital.
  • Spending considerable time in a wheelchair.
  • Diabetes or vascular disease that prevents areas of the body from receiving proper blood flow.
  • Spinal cord injury (paralysis), brain injury, or other physical condition which prevents the person from moving parts of his/her body without assistance.
  • Malnourishment.
  • Mental disability such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia which may prevent the patient from moving parts of his/her body without assistance; not necessarily because they are unable to do so, but because they are not aware that they need to do so.
  • Urinary incontinence or bowel incontinence.

Bed sores, if caught early and treated, can generally be cured. The failure of nursing home/hospital staff members and administrators to seriously take measures to minimize the onset of bed sores and/or initiate prompt medical intervention can result in dire consequences for the bed sore patient. Obviously, nursing home patients or hospital patients confined to their beds should be turned frequently to spread out the pressure from the hard surface across a large area of the person’s body. The medical literature suggests that turning should occur every two hours. Nor should residents/patients be allowed to sit for hours on end in a wheel chair without pillows or other means to reduce pressure points between their skin and the chair itself.

Pressure sores may also result if the bed-ridden person is dragged or slid across bed sheets, thereby creating potentially harmful frictional forces between the person’s skin and the bed sheet. It is also conceivable that dragging an elderly frail person may result in injuries to muscles or bones quite apart from bed sores. Such treatment may also constitute abuse. Nursing home residents and hospital patients are entitled to respectful, gentle treatment to prevent injuries, and it is up to the administrators to ensure that the residents are treated appropriately.

Bed sore victims have legal rights, and the attorneys at Troy and Schwartz are here to help you exercise those legal rights on behalf of the bed sore victim.

If you or a loved one has suffered from bed sores, call us at (305) 279-4740 or contact us online for a FREE consultation to discuss your legal options.