Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, are as dangerous as they are unsightly. They develop on bony areas of the body, and threaten the lives of people who, because of age or medical condition, are less mobile than the average person. For example, bed sores may appear near a senior citizen’s heels or tailbone if the elderly person spends most of his time immobilized.
Neglect is often one of the causes behind pressure ulcers at South Carolina nursing homes.
Insurance companies and senior care centers generally claim that no amount of treatment could have prevented a horrendous ulcer on the back of an elderly patient. They blame the senior citizen’s preexisting medical condition or age for a Stage IV wound the size of a fist. Rarely does a nursing facility simply admit that they broke safety rules, neglected their duties, or caused harm. While many of these senior care homes claim they did everything possible, I believe the public should know of at least three things nursing homes in South Carolina must do to prevent bed sores. These prevention methods are based on Mayo Clinic literature, and are as follows:
1. Reposition the patient with adequate cushioning
Whether the patient spends most of the day in bed or a wheelchair, it is critical that the nursing home staff frequently moves the person. Wheelchair patients should be repositioned every 15 minutes. Patients should be repositioned in their beds every 2 hours. In terms of cushioning, soft surfaces can reduce the amount of friction and wear on the skin. There are a wide variety of wheelchair cushions, in addition to special mattresses, that can relieve pressure and reduce the likelihood of a bed sore.
2. Care for the patient’s skin as if her life depended on it – because it does
A nursing patient’s skin must be properly protected and monitored. Though patients ought to be bathed with mild soap, they should also be guarded from excess moisture in their beds or wheelchairs. Therefore, if a patient struggles with incontinence (i.e. uncontrolled urination or bowel movements), special care must be taken to keep the skin dry and free of infection.
Just as a senior’s skin ought to be cared for every day, so too must it be inspected. If an elderly patient is allowed to develop a Stage II bed sore because his nurse never checked his backside, it is true that no amount of care may be able to prevent the sore from worsening. However, proper monitoring may very well have stopped the sore from ever developing. Negligent monitoring is no different than negligent treatment – in the end it is still negligence.
3. Ensure the patient receives proper daily nutrition
Before becoming an attorney, I never understood the relationship between nutrition and skin health. However, after witnessing senior citizens experience the terrible repercussions associated with malnourishment, I quickly recognized that our elderly must maintain a proper diet. When our seniors are placed in nursing care, the facility becomes responsible for the patient’s caloric, vitamin, mineral, and fluid intake. If one of our loved ones does not receive enough food, nutrients, or fluids, the skin can quickly breakdown. Therefore, ask lots of questions about what your loved one is being fed, how often, and with what frequency his mineral levels are being checked.
Speak With a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney
I hope this information benefits you and your family. If you have any questions about South Carolina nursing home law, or believe your loved one has developed bed sores due to neglect, call me for a free consultation at (803) 790-2800.