Pressure ulcers are common signs of abuse in nursing homes that are preventable when nursing home staff perform their duties properly. The CDC estimates that as many as one in every ten nursing home residents suffers from pressure ulcers. The presence of pressure ulcers indicates that patients are not being properly cared for and the consequences can be downright lethal.
The Stages and Dangers of Pressure Ulcer Formation
Pressure ulcers are the result of patient immobility. Stage 1 pressure ulcers resembling a rash can form over a period of hours and are not as serious, typically causing only discomfort in the form of itchiness. However, Stage 2 sores are open wounds that can allow bacteria to enter the victim’s body, often leading to infection. Stage 3 and Stage 4 sores are more serious. These pressure ulcers are invasive, open wounds that can penetrate deep beneath layers of muscle tissue to reach the tendons and bones.
Pressure ulcers are entirely preventable signs of abuse. Moving patients regularly and providing proper treatment of Stage 1 pressure ulcers are enough to prevent sores from forming or worsening. Pain and discomfort become progressively worse as the sore enlarges, however, the greatest risk patients face is the introduction of fecal matter, urine, and other debris into the wound. These can cause lethal infections including sepsis and gangrene. This can increase patient mortality for patients whose immune systems are weakened by age and other medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.
Pressure Ulcers and Patient Mortality
UCLA conducted a study in 2012 that showed patients with hospital acquired pressure sores had mortality rates that were 2.8 times higher than patients without sores. The study returned similar results to those of a 1997 study from Massachusetts that showed 92% of patients admitted to nursing homes with existing pressure ulcers died within 12 weeks of admission. These mortality rates highlight the mortal dangers that pressure ulcers caused by nursing home neglect facilitate.
Nursing home neglect lawyers can help patients and their family members pursue claims for damages against neglectful nursing homes. Compensatory damages can be sought for pain and suffering, medical care, loss of earnings, and impact to quality of life. Elder abuse statutes in Illinois allow patients and their families to also seek civil penalties and punitive damages for their injuries. Should the patient die, survivors may pursue wrongful death claims for loss of compassion and care as well as loss of economic benefit to heirs.