Nursing Home Neglect and Bed Sores
Nursing home abuse and neglect is far more common than any of us would think—or want to believe. In fact, as many as five million elders suffer some level of abuse or neglect each year, although only about one in 14 incidents of elder abuse are ever actually reported. While all forms of elder abuse—physical, emotional, and financial—are traumatic for the elderly person, physical abuse and neglect may truly be the most heartbreaking. When an elderly person is placed in a care facility like a nursing home, he or she is usually totally dependent on the nursing home staff for the most basic necessities of life—food, water, shelter, medical care and basic hygiene needs.
Unfortunately, our current society appears to have a less-than-respectful attitude toward the elderly and aging, and many nursing homes facilitate environments which actually create a higher risk of elder abuse. Nursing homes may be woefully understaffed, or could fail to properly train their staff to take care of the residents. There may be ineffective administration involved, or ineffective policies in place, which allow abuse to go unreported.
Neglect of the Elderly
While physical abuse of the elderly can include hitting, slapping, pushing or striking, it can also include improper use of physical or chemical restraints or even nonconsensual sexual involvement of any kind. Rough handling, pulling too hard on an elderly patient, or any type of physical aggressiveness can cause injury and harm to the elderly patient. What may be less talked about is neglect of the elderly, and, according to a 1999 study, “definitions of neglect are probably the most disputed of any category” when talking about mistreatment of the elderly.
Neglect can be the refusal or failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her obligations to an elderly person. This could be the refusal to provide food and proper nutrition as well as the refusal to provide water, clothing, medical care, necessary medicines, shelter or supervision to elderly residents. CNAs who participated in focus groups were clear about examples of neglect in nursing homes, with a list which included:
- Ignoring bedfast residents, specifically refusing to offer appropriate activities to these residents, as well as refusing to ensure the residents were moved often enough to prevent bedsores, or properly treating bedsores which occurred;
- Refusing to provide proper oral or dental care;
- Failing to provide range-of-motion exercises with elderly patients;
- Failing to change residents who had bladder or bowel problems;
- Failing to provide regular baths to residents, as well as other basic hygiene needs;
- Failing to assist residents who need toileting help, or failing to provide scheduled toileting;
- Failing to provide sufficient hydration to residents, and
- Failing to help residents eat, and failing to provide the proper food and nutrition.
Bedsores as a Form of Nursing Home Neglect
Bedsores are the result of prolonged pressure on one part of the body, and are often the result of patient neglect. When an elderly patient has limited mobility, he or she may not be able to feel when excess pressure is placed on a specific part of the body. The patient could be unable to adjust on their own to relieve the pressure. Caretakers must take special care with at-risk patients to help prevent bedsores, which can occur from the following:
- Pressure is the number one cause of bedsores. Those with limited mobility could be forced to sit or lie in one position for long periods of time, causing lack of circulation to the body parts which are experiencing the pressure. Tissues are compressed between the bone and the surface of the wheelchair, chair or bed, causing blood flow to stop or slow, thus depriving those tissues of necessary nutrients and oxygen. Skin can actually die within 12 hours due to lack of circulation, then the damage can quickly spread to deeper layers of tissue and fat. Body parts which typically have less “cushion” in the form of fat, are more likely to develop bedsores. Theses body parts include hips, the tailbone, the spine and the shoulder blades.
- “Shear” is the movement of two surfaces in opposite directions, which, on an elderly person’s body, means the skin is moving in one direction, and the bones in another. When an elderly person is repositioned or moved carelessly from a wheelchair to a bed (or vice-versa), this moving process can lead to bedsores, or can exacerbate existing bedsores. Although elevated beds can, in some instances, help prevent pressure bedsores, shearing can occur when the patient slides down on the bed.
- Friction can occur when the patient’s skin rubs against bedding or clothing. Since the skin of an elderly person is typically much more fragile, it is subsequently more vulnerable to injury from friction. While elderly patients must be repositioned on a regular basis to avoid pressure bedsores, this must be done very carefully to avoid harming the skin. Additionally, the skin of an elderly nursing home patient must be kept clean and dry, and, while the skin should be moisturized, excess moisture actually increases the risk of friction bedsores.
Perhaps most importantly, nursing home employees should be well-educated regarding the potential for bedsores, which are almost always preventable. Elderly patients who are non-mobile on their own should have their position changed frequently, and should always receive proper assessments, readjustments, nutrition and hydration to ensure bedsores are both prevented, and treated when they do occur. Head-to-toe skin assessments should be done at least once per day, preferably more often. If reddish or discolored skin, blisters, open wounds or painful or irritated skin is found during these assessments, treatment should commence immediately.
Getting the Help You Need for Nursing Home Neglect and Bedsores
When you place your elderly loved one in a nursing home, you are trusting that the staff will provide proper care and safety. When your trust is breached, the nursing home should be held liable, not only for you and your loved one, but to deter such behavior in the future. The attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Office want to be a strong advocate for your elderly loved one. We fight for the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect with a goal of bringing justice and compensation to theses vulnerable victims.
We are proud to provide equal access to the court system in cases like this, regardless of the elderly victim’s location, income or race. We understand the shock and heartbreak you are likely feeling after discovering your elderly loved one has suffered nursing home abuse or neglect. We want to help you through this difficult time, and will use every resource at our disposal to do so. Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices today by email or by phone at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422.
When you need a team of experienced Pennsylvania nursing home neglect and injury lawyers, Contact the Ciccarelli Law Offices by email or phone at (610) 692-8700 or (877) 529-2422. We represent nursing home injury clients throughout the greater Philadelphia area including Chester County, Bucks County, Delaware County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County. We offer multiple office meeting locations, home visits and hospital visits and serve clients in many locations including Philadelphia, Lancaster, West Chester, Reading, Downingtown, Coatesville, Kennett Square, Exton, Honey Brook, and Oxford.