Pressure Ulcers in Nursing Homes

Each year, thousands of nursing home residents needlessly suffer from pressure ulcers. A pressure ulcer is an injury to the skin caused by unrelieved pressure that results in damage to the underlying tissue. They are often referred to as bedsores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure sores. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 10 nursing home residents are battling pressure sores on any given day. In 1993, pressure ulcers were noted in 280,000 hospital stays and 11 years later the number of ulcers was 455,000. This was a 63% increase in pressure ulcers, but the total number of hospitalizations during this time period had only increased by only 11%. The vast majority of these pressure ulcers or bedsores could have been prevented with the proper care giving and medical care.

If your loved one is suffering or has suffered from the painful experience of a pressure ulcer because of the medical negligence of nursing home caregivers, physicians and/or medical staff, you have a legal right to seek damages. You will need an experienced pressure ulcer/bedsore attorney to help you through these trying times to ensure they give you the best success in proving your case.

The federal government issues rules that facilities must follow to prevent patients from developing bedsores/pressure ulcers. The federal rules require that the nursing home complete a comprehensive assessment of the resident’s skin when they first arrive at the facility and throughout their stay. Moreover, the federal rules state that a patient arriving in a nursing home without pressure sore must not develop pressure sores. Patients who do arrive with pressure sores must receive the necessary treatment and services to promote healing prevent infection and prevent new sores from developing. 42 CFR 483.25 Quality of Care. This is also found in F-Tag 314.


When people live in a nursing home, it is typically because they need assistance with daily living tasks as well as medical care. Many nursing home residents are immobile and rely on the nursing home caregivers to help them get up, move around, lie down and more. Your loved one has paid for these services. If your loved one is neglected or left lying or sitting in the same position for too long, pressure begins to build up under the skin. If a nursing home resident is left lying on a bed too long, the lower back area, tailbone, back of head, heels, shoulders and feet may develop pressure ulcers. Pressure ulcers are rated from Stage 1 – Stage 4, depending on the depth of the wound, with Stage 4 being the worst. This is a wound that has been allowed to develop to the point that it exposes bone. The sores are not just simple open wounds. They can lead to infection and even bedsore/pressure sore death.

If your loved one suffers from incontinence as well as immobility, their risk of bedsores double if they are not monitored carefully by the medical staff and taken care of properly. A wet or damp area that is being compressed deteriorates even more rapidly than a dry, clean skin. Undergarments soiled by urine or feces can cause open wounds. This can not only lead to pressure ulcers/ bedsores, but a host of other medical issues including infections, sepsis and fever.

Once pressure ulcers develop, it is imperative that the caregivers follow regular and proper treatment procedures for the pressure ulcers. Depending on the severity of the pressure ulcer, this can include regular changing of bandages and apply a topical antibiotic ointment to the affected area. Since pressure ulcers vary by the Stages of 1 – 4, it is important that the nurses and medical staff are proactive during the early stages when the ulcers are still small, closed and easier to treat.

Stage 1 involves irritation of the surface of the skin.

Stage 2 involves blisters or shallow craters where the outer layer of the skin dies.

Stage 3 involves the deeper layers of the skin and often appears as open and bleeding wounds.

Stage 4 is the most severe stage where the pressure ulcer has gone through all layers of the skin, exposing muscle and bone.

If a pressure ulcer develops into a Stage 3 or Stage 4, it may be necessary for a surgeon to cut away the dead tissue. All of this can easily be avoided by the aides and nurses moving the resident frequently, keeping the patient clean and regularly changing bandages and dressings. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect is a serious problem in nursing homes across the nation.

Elderly, ill individuals who are confined to a hospital bed in a nursing home may not be able to reposition themselves. They rely on the nurses, aides and medical staff to prevent them from being kept in the same position for hours on end. The nurses and other staff should examine the body carefully for signs of bedsores. Medical research has established that through the use of consistent, multidisciplinary team network, the instances of that pressure sores, ulcers, decubitus ulcers or bedsores can be reduced substantially. Medicare has recognized this medical literature. Medicare has determined that bedsores, pressure ulcers, decubitus ulcers and bedsores are “never events.” This means that if someone allows them to happen, they will not be paid for taking care of these conditions. The reason for this is that Medicare has determined that they should never occur.

Pressure ulcers are not only painful and debilitating; they can have a devastating long-term impact on the health and quality of life of the patient. Complications from pressure sores can be life threatening and can result in death. The most common causes of bedsore deaths stem from renal failure and amyloidosis. A very good resource for learning more about pressure ulcers is the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel.

The experienced nursing home lawyers and hospital bedsore lawyers at The O’Keefe Firm have years of experience in handling complicated and complex hospital and nursing home negligence lawsuits. There are no fees or expenses, unless we obtain a recovery.

This entry was posted in: Blog, Nursing Home Negligence, Uncategorized

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