According to a recent study by the UCLA School of Nursing, there is a direct correlation between pressure ulcers (commonly called bedsores) and patient deaths or increases in the length of hospitalization.

During the study, researchers tracked approximately 51,000 hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries across the nation who were randomly selected. The study found that about 4.5 per cent of the patients developed a bedsore during their stay in the hospital. Most of the bedsores developed on the sacrum or tailbone, but a high number of bedsores appeared on the buttocks, heels and hips of the patients.

Shockingly, the study found that among the 3,000 patients who already had a bedsore when they began hospitalization, 16.7 per cent of them developed an additional bedsore during their hospital stay-often on another area of the body. The study concluded that patients who developed bedsores were significantly more likely to require a longer length of hospitalization, to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge or to die while hospitalized.

Bedsore symptoms

Bedsores are skin lesions that are most commonly caused by constant pressure on the skin’s surface for a long period. Although they mainly afflict the elderly, bedsores can occur among patients of any age who have a medical condition that confines them to a bed or wheelchair.

Sustained pressure on the skin’s surface can, over time, stop blood from flowing to the tissues beneath the surface. If deprived of blood, the skin and tissue cells eventually die. If left untreated, the tissue and skin cells peel away, forming an open wound. Without treatment, the wound can deepen to expose the tendons, muscles and bones that are underneath the dead tissue. If the wound is not aggressively treated, it can become infected, cause sepsis or gangrene, eventually leading to death.

Protecting your loved one

If caught early, bedsores are easily treated. In addition, bedsores can be prevented by regularly changing the patient’s provisions. Besides hospitals, bedsores are common in nursing homes. Despite the relative ease of prevention and treatment, it is an unfortunate fact that many nursing homes fail to provide a minimum standard of care to detect or prevent bedsores. In fact, the presence of bedsores themselves can be a strong indicator of nursing home negligence (or medical malpractice if in a hospital). Other signs include:

  • A strong odor of urine, waste or chemicals in a nursing home
  • Poor cleanliness of the facility
  • A lack of fall prevention measures such as: anti-slip socks, bed and wheelchairs straps, grab bars or assistance with ambulation.
  • The presence of welts, bruises, or cuts on residents
  • A low level of attentiveness and respect given by staff to residents or to you
  • Few clean, groomed and dressed residents
  • A lack of assistance with eating or the presence of malnutrition/dehydration (i.e. loss of weight, coloration, etc.)
  • Residents are not referred to by name
  • The presence of a language barrier between staff and residents
  • Large difference between the furnishings of common areas when compared to residents’ rooms
  • Residents left unattended in the hallways, common areas or entertainment areas
  • Overmedication
  • Lack of access to emergency call buttons
  • Hesitation to talk when staff is present
  • Frequent infections or illnesses
  • Unusual or sudden change in a resident’s behavior or personality
  • Low staff to resident ratio
  • Few long-time staff members or a high staff turnover rate
  • Staff refuses to allow at all or delays visitors in seeing the resident, or staff does not allow one to be alone with the resident

In addition to looking out for the signs of nursing home neglect or abuse, individuals can do adequate research on nursing home facilities when deciding on a facility for their loved one. There are government websites that rate, compare and contrast nursing homes, hospitals and home health agencies.

Consult an attorney

If your loved one has developed bedsores while as a patient in a nursing home or hospital, contact a knowledgeable nursing home neglect or medical malpractice attorney to learn about your family’s rights.